Are you looking to travel from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye? You certainly won’t regret it! It’s a popular trip for a reason – and that reason is that it is impossibly gorgeous. Of course, to see it for yourself you’ll need to get there first. Here’s how.
As Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye is a well trodden route, there are a few options. Which one is best for you depends on your budget and timeframe – so let’s take a closer look at them all.
Where is the Isle of Skye?
The Isle of Skye is the largest of the Outer Hebrides islands. It is found off the northwestern coast of Scotland.
Along with the northern mainland, Skye is described as part of the Highlands and Islands. This is the “wildest” part of Scotland, with strong and distinct culture.
Although Skye is part of the more remote “islands and highlands”, it is still one of the most visited places in the UK. There’s plenty of space to go around, but you certainly won’t feel lonely or abandoned while you’re visiting! (If that’s what you’re after, I recommend nearby Rassie.)
The largest town on the Isle of Skye is Portree, with a population of about 2,300 (so not exactly a bustling metropolis). Here’s how far Portree is from some large Scottish cities:
- Edinburgh to Portree: 5.25 hours / 235 miles / 378 kilometres
- Inverness to Portree: 2.5 hours / 114 miles / 183 kilometres
- Glasgow to Portree: 5 hours / 215 miles / 346 kilometres
Since the Isle of Skye is an island, you will have to cross the sea to get there. Luckily, it’s super easy. There’s a large bridge, or you can get the ferry.
How to get from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye
So, now you know where the Isle of Skye is in relation to Edinburgh it’s time to decide how to get there.
Can you visit the Isle of Skye with public transport?
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you’ll know that I’m pretty keen on saving a buck. Incidentally, so are the Scottish! So I blame my Scottish heritage for my unbridled stingy-ness.
My love of a bargain means I am a big fan of catching public transport wherever I can. Plus, not only is it good for your wallet, but it’s also good for the environment! And we all love the environment, right?
Sadly, I must confess I did not catch public transport to the Isle of Skye. I was on a short timeframe, and while technically possibly – public transport to Skye from Edinburgh is not efficient.
It’s also not terribly cheap. In fact, it’s really expensive.
Edinburgh to Skye by bus
If you really are committed to travelling to Skye on public transport, then you’ll need to get a Citylink bus to either Glasgow or Inverness.
There are direct bus services from either Glasgow or Inverness, straight through to either Portree or, alternatively, Kyle of Lochalsh (the last stop before you leave the mainland).
The best resource for planning bus and train travel around Scotland is Traveline Scotland.
In total, the bus ride takes around 8 – 12 hours, depending on how many stops you need to make. The prices vary, but you’re looking in the region of £50 each way (OUCH!). You can save money, though, by booking in advance and holding out for a sale.
Getting around Skye on public transport
One thing to think about if you’re considering the bus from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye is how you’ll actually get around the island.
There are extremely limited public transport options on Skye, so you will need a vehicle of some description. You could hire a car in Portree, or you could go on a tour that will pick you up from your accommodation.
I’ve also heard you can hitch hike, but as an Australian who has watched the movie “Wolf Creek”, I do not recommend.
So, in a nutshell: Yes, you can technically get from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye by public transport. However, it is slow and expensive, and you’re likely to be pretty stuck in Portree.
Driving to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh
If you want to be independent on the Isle of Skye, then your best bet is to drive. If you have a car in the UK – well, that’s very convenient. Otherwise, you’ll obviously need to rent one. Personally I use rentalcars.com to find the best deals.
You might like to consider hiring a campervan for travelling around Scotland, especially if you’re on a budget. Admittedly, campervan hire is not particularly cheap in Scotland. That said, the fact that you are free to camp pretty much anywhere on Skye (FOR FREE) means you can make huge savings on accommodation.
Whatever vehicle you end up with, you’ll obviously need to drive it to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh! There are a few different routes available – personally I recommend this one, which takes you via Glencoe (AKA An Insanely Beautiful Place).
The early part of the drive is on a large motorway, however after about an hour or so the roads get much narrower. This can be a bit scary if you’re not used to it, but just take it slow and you’ll be fine.
The drive between Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye takes around five to five-and-a-half hours, but that assumes you’re driving the speed limit the whole way with no stops. To be comfortable with plenty of time to stop for photos (very important), I’d leave at least seven hours.
Tips for driving in Scotland
- Delays and queues are pretty much a way of life in much of the UK, including the drive between Edinburgh and Scotland. My top tips: check the traffic on Traffic Scotland (Google Maps is very unreliable in calculating distance), and load up some interesting podcasts for the drive!
- It’s fine to drive slow and you are unlikely to be the only one. That said, please be courteous and stick to the left – you can pull over where it is safe to let faster vehicles go past (and avoid any road rage incidents).
- In summer the roads can be really busy, especially with campervans and caravans. As above, a good Podcast is a life saver! Be sure to download it beforehand as reception is patchy.
Taking a tour from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye
The option that I personally chose to travel to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh was to get a tour. You can read about my three day tour to the Isle of Skye with Haggis Adventures here for more information about it. (Spoiler: it was totally amazing.)
At the risk of sounding like a bit of a tool, I’m not really a tour person usually. I’m quite introverted and very independent – which is not a great combination for tours. However, there are great options for short tours of the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh.
I like these tours because they allow you to really cram a lot in and make the most of your time. You don’t need to worry about navigating the roads or finding parking spaces (actually the bane of my life in the UK), someone else does it for you.
Plus, it’s very handy if you plan on visiting the Isle of Skye’s distilleries. Drink driving is super bad, folks!
If the idea of having a pre-planned itinerary doesn’t vibe with you, then a great option is a private tour – if you can afford it. This might be a more affordable option if you’re travelling with a group, and you can split the costs. The benefit here is that you get the best of both worlds – the independence, as well as someone else to worry about the logistics.
Some tour recommendations
I loved my tour with Haggis Adventures, however it is aimed at a fairly young, party hardy crowd. If that’s not really your vibe, you might prefer some of these other options instead.
What is the best option for travelling from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye?
In my view, the only real options for visiting the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh are either to drive yourself or join a tour.
If you are short on time and/or not confident about driving in Scotland (totally get both of those), then I really recommend a tour. It’s a cost effective way to see Skye and you might also meet some fabulous other travellers like I did.
If you’ve got plenty of time to explore the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh (luuuuucky!) then a car is great. Personally, if you can make the numbers work – I’d opt for a campervan, as camping on the Isle of Skye is basically what dreams are made of!