Visit the Isle of Skye without a car in 5 easy steps!

Visiting the Isle of Skye without a car can be tricky. A place of outstanding beauty, the Isle of Skye is, without doubt, the most well-known isle out of all Scottish islands. Despite being so popular, public transport on the Isle of Skye can sometimes be a pain. Fortunately, there are solutions to enjoy the Isle of Skye without having to rent a car.

In this blog post, we will look at FIVE EASY STEPS you should consider if you intend to visit the Isle of Skye and do not have access to a car.

With an area of 1667 sq. km (643 sq. miles) and a population of 10,008 inhabitants, Skye is the largest and northernmost of the major islands in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.  

Skye is located on the West Coast of Scotland in the United Kingdom. The capital city of the island is the beautiful city of Portree. 

Travel to the Isle of Skye without a car

You can easily travel to the Isle of Skye without a car. People without a car can take a bus and a ferry to reach Skye. We took the steam train from Fort William to Mallaig and the ferry from Mallaig to Skye. If you travel from Inverness to Skye, the trip is much more straightforward as there is a direct bus to the island.

The Steam Train

The steam train you can book from Fort William to Mallaig is famous among Harry Potter fans. The scenery is quite impressive, so I strongly recommend this route. We were lucky to get our tickets due to some last-minute cancellations. Therefore, my advice is to purchase your train tickets well in advance (especially if you travel during peak season). The only inconvenience with the steam train is that you can only purchase return tickets. However, you can always opt to take the regular train. It’s much cheaper than the steam train

The Ferry to Skye

You can take the ferry from the Mallaig Ferry Terminal. The journey takes around 30 minutes. Once you reach the Skye Ferry Terminal, you have 2 options. You can either take a bus (buses only run Monday-Friday) or book a taxi to take you to Portree or any other bigger city on Skye.  

Below is a video I took during the ferry trip to Skye. The landscape is simply stunning on a fine day!

No railway/airport on Skye

It might be helpful to know that there are no airport and railway services on the Isle of Skye. So, you will need to travel to nearby cities (Inverness, Glasgow, Fort William, Mallaig, Edinburgh) to use railway services and/or fly in/out of Scotland. 

Tip on nearby airports: The closest airport to the Isle of Skye is Inverness Airport. However, the destinations you can fly to/from this airport are limited. It’s probably better to use any of the bigger airports in Glasgow or Edinburgh to fly in/out of the country.

Travel to the Isle of Skye from Glasgow/Edinburgh/Inverness/Fort William without a car

Travelling to the Isle of Skye from Glasgow/Edinburgh/Inverness/Fort William without a car is easier than you might think. Below, you have the best options to travel to Skye by public transport from major cities in Scotland.

Two major cities in Scotland are undoubtedly Edinburgh and Glasgow. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are served by trains and intercity buses. Therefore, it is pretty easy to travel to the Isle of Skye from either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Edinburgh/Glasgow to Skye

You can get the train from Edinburgh/Glasgow to Mallaig and then the ferry from Mallaig to Skye. A train journey from Glasgow to Mallaig takes about 5h while the same trip from Edinburgh is longer and takes around 6h. The ferry from Mallaig to Skye only takes 30 minutes. 

Travelling from other cities like Fort William or Inverness to the Isle of Skye is easy too. Both Fort William and Inverness also have good transport connections with the island.

Fort William to Skye

The same train that comes from Glasgow stops in Fort William too. Get the same train and get off in Mallaig. Once you arrive in Mallaig, take a ferry to Skye. The train journey from Fort William to Mallaig only takes 1h30. 

Inverness to Skye

Travelling from Inverness to Skye is easy too. There are intercity buses connecting Inverness to Skye. The bus stations in both Inverness and Skye are conveniently located in the city centre, making it easy for travellers to find them quickly. 

Is Mallaig worth a visit?

You can stop in Mallaig for a day or two if you wish so. Although Mallaig is not big, this coastal town is lovely for a 1-day stop. We have not stayed in Mallaig, but it looked touristy. A simple search on revealed plenty of accommodation options in Mallaig. There were also quite a few restaurants and souvenir shops to keep tourists busy while in Mallaig. If we had more time, we would have definitely stayed a night in Mallaig. 

5 steps to visit the Isle of Skye without a car

Visiting the Isle of Skye without a car is possible. Below is a list of the 5 steps you may want to consider if you visit Skye without a car. 

1. Do not travel to the island on weekend days

Buses do not run on the weekend, so the best is to avoid arriving on the Isle of Skye on weekend days. You won’t be able to do much, and you will waste your time. 

2. Book your accommodation in Portree

Portree is the capital city of the island and the place with the best bus connections on the island. Portree is where most buses leave and return. Choosing to stay somewhere else than Portree might require you to take more buses to get anywhere. Have this in mind when booking your accommodation on Skye. 

3. Allow plenty of time for your day trips

Buses do not run as frequent as they should. I still wonder why buses don’t come more often, considering the high demand in summer? So for any day trip you do on the island, allow plenty of time to get anywhere. 

Another thing about buses is that some of them are school buses and do not pick up regular travellers (even if they are empty). Before heading to the bus stop, make sure it is the right bus you are about to get on. It happened to us to be told we cannot take the bus because it was a school bus.

Finally, Skye seems to have multiple bus companies. Therefore, when you buy a day ticket, make sure you use the same company for all your trips on that day. 

For greater flexibility, we only bought one way tickets. We did not want to be forced to wait for one particular bus company to use a full-day ticket. 

If you stay in Portree, head to the main square, that’s where the bus station is too. It is here where you will find the bus timetables, although most of them are online as well.

4. Consider organised trips

A good company I recommend is WOW Scotland Tours. Their 1-day organised trip was perfect for visiting the most iconic places on the island. 

The tour guide took us to places which would have been very hard to reach by bus. Or worse, no public buses would have travelled to that part of the island. 

I really enjoyed how WoW Scotland Tours organised everything on the day for us. The tour guide even wore a Scottish quilt and played traditional Scottish music on the day. 

The tour guide was an excellent storyteller and managed to keep us entertained the entire day. 

Booking an organised trip proved to be perfect for us. We opted for The Ultimate Isle of Skye Tour from Kyle of Lochalsh, Kyleakin & BroadfordHowever, the company does offer a wider variety of trips one can choose from.

The communication with WOW Scotland Tours was very smooth. They replied to our emails and phone calls immediately. We arranged with them to be picked up from our hotel, which wasn’t even one of their regular stops. I appreciated their flexibility and the familiar atmosphere the tour had because the group we travelled with was not that big.

5. Consider booking taxis to take you to places

If you are not a fan of organised trips and cannot find a bus to take you around the island, then booking a taxi might be your last resort. 

Taxis are available on the island. However, I would book them in advance because taxis can get busy in the high season. Taxis can be a good alternative but be mindful that they can be quite pricey too.

In conclusion, the Isle of Skye is navigable without a car, although you will need to budget extra time and consider the limitations that come with it. 

Top 6 most iconic spots on the Isle of Skye

As you now have plenty of ideas about how to visit the Isle of Skye without a car, let’s have a look at the most emblematic places on the island you should definitely include on your list.

1. The Old Man of Storr

The Old Man of Storr is arguably the most photogenic place on the island. The uphill hike takes around 45 to 60 minutes to complete. You then have to get back to the car park. You can take a public bus from Portree to get to the Old Man of Storr. The bus journey takes about half an hour.  If you are based outside Portree, you need to consider the extra time to get to Portree first.

2. Kilt Rock

Kilt Rock is another breathtaking viewpoint on the island. We got there with WoW Scotland Tours. The place is also famous because dinosaur bones were discovered here. Except for taking pictures and admiring the massive rocks and stunning waterfall, there is not much to do. People stop here mainly to take pictures and then continue their journey.  

3. The Quiraing

The Quiraing is another beautiful spot on the island. The tour guide told us this place is very famous for weddings as people from all over the world come here to get married. The day the tour guide took us there, a couple was getting married. We got to visit this place thanks to the booked tour we purchased on our last day on the island.  

4. Portree

Portree is the capital city of the island and a lovely place to start exploring the Isle of Skye. You should be able to catch a public bus to Portree from pretty much anywhere on the island.

This pretty coastal town is famous for its coloured houses and lovely walks you can do around it. One such lovely walk is the Scorrybreac Circuit. This 3km long circular walk is perfect if you are looking for an easy walk outside Portree. The hike is very well marked, and it starts at the end of a road signposted for ‘Budhmor’, below the Cuillin Hills Hotel.

As the most important town on the island, there are good bus connections from Portree to pretty much anywhere on the island. 


The Scorrybreac Circuit

5. Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle is not exactly on the Isle of Skye. However, we visited the castle as part of the organised day trip on our way to Inverness. It can be a lovely 30-minute stop, especially when the weather is lovely, as it was on the day we visited the castle. The castle is a private property nowadays, and you can even rent out rooms if you fancy a more authentic stay near Skye. 

6. Fairy Pools

Fairy Pools is a lovely area, popular for hikers of all types. What attracts tourists is mainly the water which changes colour (at least, this is what they say). On a fine day, people even go for a swim. We visited the Fairy Pools with the organised tour because we could not find any buses going that way. The entire hiking trail is around 14km. However, the day we visited the Fairy Pools, we only had 1h20 to enjoy the place, so we could not walk as much as we wanted. Still, the area is lovely, and we were glad we could make it there. 

Fairy Pools

Tip on where to stay on the islandWe stayed in Broadford, the second biggest town on the island, for the entire time we were in Skye. However, I would advise against staying in Broadford because the bus connections are not excellent. On top of that, almost every trip we did by bus involved a bus change in Portree. Therefore, I would advise you to book your accommodation in Portree. Portee is much better suited for those who visit Skye without a car than Broadford is.

Tip on how much to stay on the Isle of Skye

Consider staying on the Isle of Skye for 3 up to 4 days to give yourself enough time to visit most tourist attractions.

Weather & Equipment

You will be surprised, but the weather in August was perfect. We have not experienced rain at all. Most of our days were filled with glorious sunshine and highs of well over 20 degrees Celsius. The highlight of my stay on Skye was getting sunburnt at the Old Man of Storr. Therefore, come prepared. Bring everything you need for sunny and rainy days. Good walking shoes are a must if you plan many hikes on Skye.   

Budget & Safety

A trip to Skye might not be as cheap as travelling to other parts of the world. That’s also because, in general, the UK is not a cheap travel destination. Nevertheless, you can make some twists to bring down the travel budget. For example, you can travel with a friend, and opt for cheaper, but STILL healthy meals (some homemade soup and bread with butter cost around £5 pretty much everywhere in the UK).

Safety-wise, it’s well known that the UK is generally a safe country to travel to. However, do not take anything for granted and make sure you keep an eye on your valuables all the time.  

If you are happy combining public transport with organised trips, visiting the Isle of Skye without a car is doable. The stunning scenery Skye has to offer makes it one of the best Scottish islands you can visit without a car.

The Isle of Skye is one of the most photogenic places in the world. Stories of fairies and giants made the Isle of Skye gain international recognition in the travel community. With so many fairytale-like spots across the island, Skye can charm anyone. Have you already been charmed by this unique Scottish isle? What’s the place which sparked your interest the most?  

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