How to travel to Skye? See the best views? This is my 2nd favourite route.
It starts from Glasgow via Glencoe – Fort William – Glenfinnan – Mallaig (242km or 145 miles.) With reasonably clear roads, 3.45hrs non stop but – you will want to stop, often! It’s about an hour longer if starting from Edinburgh via Stirling and Callander.
From Edinburgh, the route looks like this…
From my home in Glasgow, we drive this No 2 route on occasion as a change from our normal route to Skye via the Skye Bridge.It follows the same route until Fort William as per My No I TOP DRIVING ROUTES: TO SKYE (1)
The most scenic routes to Skye go through Glencoe and my No 1 and No 2 routes both do this.They then diverge at Fort William.
To me, No 2 route is one for a really bright sunny day when the highlights of it – around the Camusdarach beaches and the views from the ferry itself – are at their very best. If you want great mountain views for most of the way, do my NO 1 route; if you love the sea and beaches and want to go over the sea to Skye, this may be the one you prefer. They are both wonderful. Even better, go to Skye one way and come back the other! I also love landing at pretty Armadale itself, a very tiny, quiet corner of Skye with stunning views to the mainland mountains.
THE ROAD TO THE ISLES
The road from Fort William to Mallaig is signposted and is the famous Road to the Isles.In my opinion, it’s best driven from Mallaig TO Fort William (i.e the opposite direction) as the mountains make much more of an impression, as does the sight of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain, as you approach The Fort.
From Fort William, it is 69km (42 miles) and about 75 minutes to Mallaig, without stops and depending on traffic.
It’s 120km (72 miles)and 2 hours from Fort William to the Skye Bridge as per route No 1, but the journey to Skye takes the same time overall, as you have to check in for the ferry 20 mins before sailing then it’s a 35 – 45 minute crossing.
Always sign up for Calmac ferry alerts in case of cancellation; this ferry is off quite regularly. Or at least call them before you make the journey out.Keep an eye on the forecast a day or so out too. BOOK THIS FERRY WELL IN ADVANCE.
The first 20 minutes or so of this route after Fort William I find fairly uninteresting , given where I’ve just been. I’m not a big fan of An Gearasdan (FW’s Gaelic name, meaning The Fort) with its semi-industrial outskirts and 1960s architecture though the overall location on the loch is ok. That said, the town has plenty of cafes (Rain is excellent) and run of the mill places to eat.
Glenfinnan is where the landscape takes off again.There is the National Trust Visitor Centre and a chance to walk down to the fine Memorial to the Clans who rallied to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s cause during the ’45 Jacobite uprising.
I particularly like St Finnan’s and St Mary’s Church , sitting high above the loch and giving the best views of the wonderful mountains rising out of Loch Shiel.The Glenfinnan House Hotel is nice for lunch or tea.
A very famous Highland Games/Gathering takes place here in August.
There’s a nice boat trip on the Loch if time allows.Sea eagle and golden eagle country (as most of the Highlands are.)
It’s also possible to walk up towards the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, most recently of Harry Potter fame, for a view of the Jacobite Steam Train plying its way to Mallaig.
After Glenfinnan, the road winds and twists around wonderfully wild and very beautiful country with craggy mountains all around. This is the same route taken by the world famous Jacobite steam train from Fort William to Mallaig but in the car, you have the chance to really savour it with a great short detour as an option, not possible by rail.If the train still appeals, then the ordinary rail route between FW and Mallaig takes the same route but is a lot cheaper!
LOCH NAM UAMH
The sea, the sea! What I do love about this route is how quickly you reach the open ocean. Breath that air! The western seaboard opens up at this beautiful sea loch (pronounced loch nan uav – loch of the caves. Bonnie Prince Charlie hid in this area, amongst many and there is a memorial to him here at The Prince’s Cairn.)
A tiny village with a cafe which is just ok but it has a good restaurant, the Old Library Lodge.From here, there is an excellent day trip out to magical Eigg. But book in advance.This is one of the Small Isles (Rum, Canna, Eigg and Muck) which are now visible on the horizon south of Skye.More on a day trip to Eigg here: THE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND OF EIGG (BEACHES)
On a fine day, simply gorgeous. Certainly, some of the loveliest on the mainland.White sands, turquoise water, the ethereal islands of Rum and Eigg on the horizon and of course, Skye.
This is the major reason I would take this route to Skye; if it’s a lovely sunny day, a stroll on the beaches, backed by huge dunes, is a great way to while away an hour or so. Sea eagles patrol here also. It’s unlikely that you will have this spot all to yourself – there may be a dozen or so others. Busy for the Highlands! The first beach was used in the film ‘Local Hero.’ The area was also used in the filming of ‘Highlander.’
The beaches are most easily accessed by taking the B8008 signposted before Morar. There is good parking and a short flat walk to the sands.
SILVER SANDS OF MORAR
Another gorgeous spot just before Camusdarach. Beautiful, unusual white sands which border the river estuary. A truly delightful place to stroll for an hour or so.Peace perfect peace.
Our deepest inland loch, often said to have its own monster to rival Nessie! This is a beautiful, scenic stretch of water just a few minutes drive inland from the Silver Sands.Worth a look. I often think we need to take a cottage around Morar for a few days and explore a bit more as well as taking one of the boat trips out to the Small Isles. Eigg is lovely, Rum is almost as mountainous as Skye and Canna (which I haven’t been on except briefly) must give some of the finest views of all.
Many people don’t have anything great to say about this functional little port from which ferries ply to Skye, the Small Isles and the wilds of Knoydart. However, I like Mallaig. There isn’t a lot to it (a saving grace in itself), it has a fine seafood supplier, pleasant cafes/restaurants and big Atlantic Grey Seals off the pier. Ok, the sprawl of Council housing across the hillside and around the far end of the harbour wouldn’t win an award for prettiness but Skye sits serenely across the water and the wider countryside is ruggedly beautiful.The West Highland rail line terminates here too and this is the end of the road. Mallaig is ok in my book.It’s certainly a big improvement on Fort William.Seagulls cry overhead, there is the reek of seaweed in the air and it all looks very west coast. That, in my book, is a recipe for feeling happy! I wouldn’t spend an entire holiday here but an enforced overnight or a few hours to kill… fair enough.
It’s also possible to do a sail or day trip to some of the Small Isles from Mallaig using the Calmac ferries.Canna is an absolute gem on a sunny day but only works as a day trip on a Saturday with a very early start.More here:A Day Trip to Canna
We had a nice lunch at the Tea Garden Cafe sitting out on the terrace.But recently, it hasn’t been getting such great reviews so check – there are several eating options in the village, all within a few yards of each other.
It’s a lovely sail over to Skye on a fine day, with stunning views across the sea to the wilds of Knoydart on the mainland.Big empty country.
The tiny white croft houses and cottages on Skye below the Black Cuillin…
Rum looks magical on a fine day……
Then Armadale, a very pretty spot, appears on beautiful South Skye – and the rest of Skye awaits! So many people rush through Sleat or South Skye but it is a stunning peninsula in its own right and well worth an explore. Armadale comprises of a cafe, Grumpy George’s art/photography gallery (that’s what he calls it!) , a nice clothes shop, Ragamuffin……. and utter peace.A very gentle introduction to Skye. Portree is around 45mins -1 hour’s drive.