Although officially part of Scotland, the Isle of Skye is an island that very much stands on its own two feet. The most northern island of the Inner Hebrides is known primarily for its astounding natural beauty. The centre of the island is ruled by the rocky 'Cuillin' mountain range, which dissipates into sweeping peninsulas and bays. The Cuillin look majestically down over the island, tempting expert rock climbers to conquer their 914 metres of rock face. Whilst the Five Sisters, another range, are a famous destination for mountain walkers gutsy enough to take on their twenty mile and eleven mountain expanse of sky reaching ridges. The white sandy beaches offer a more romantic idea of paradise and often allow the lucky visitor a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Inhabited by man since the Mesolithic period, the Isle of Skye has a rich and rocky history for such a small island. Its resilience through years of war, mass emigration and threatening urbanisation is a true reflection of the inhabitants' hardiness and determination to preserve the Isle of Skye's enchanting identity. And it is not just the people; densely populated by an abundance of animal species, the Isle of Skye is a modern day Eden. It is hardly surprising it has been the film set for numerous blockbusters including 'Highlander' and 'Stardust.' The unearthly Hogwarts Lake from 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' is also just off the island. Year on year the Isle of Skye attracts engaged couples after a wedding location. It is hard to believe that this fantastical island is genuine, and still on British soil.
The Isle of Skye's iconic rocky mountain range, the Black Cuillin, is widely known for being Scotland's most testing mountain terrain. Ambitious mountaineers should journey to the island and take on the ragged giants; there is a choice of twelve mountains, the highest peak being at 992 metres. The rough basalt rock face makes for excellent grip, meaning that the Cuillin are ideal rock climbing terrain. Discover the Isle of Skye's dramatic Jurassic history. Staffin Bay on the northern coast of the island is the site of fossilised dinosaur footprints, possibly made by a Megalosaurus. Poignantly named, the Megalosaurus was a dramatic creature, whose 50 cm prints are astounding and are the youngest dinosaur remains to have been discovered in Scotland. Children with a taste for something wild will enjoy the island's dinosaur museum, which exhibits various Jurassic finds and also has a serpentarium crawling with living reptiles. And the prehistoric relics do not stop there; the countryside is dotted with chambered cairns and stone circles. It is difficult to comprehend that these ritualistic Neolithic burial monuments are a staggering twelve thousand years old.
Being an island, the Isle of Skye has a wide scope of seaborne activities to take advantage of. Whether you are an experienced sailor or a complete novice, you will find something suitable from sailing and kayaking to diving and caving. The marine environment is an inquisitive explorer's treasure chest. You will have hours of entertainment climbing the bays, which are decorated with arches, stacks and caves. There are also a number of small untainted beaches that are only accessible from the sea.
The pace of life on the Isle of Skye is refreshingly slow, almost unimaginably so in comparison to Scottish urban centres. The residents therefore can afford to indulge in pastimes such as pottery, jewellery making, painting, postcard making, photography, weaving and spinning, and they produce some intricate end products. See their work in one of the many studios and galleries across the island. Likewise, there are visitor centres where you can view potters at their wheels as well as stone carving and weaving of wool straight off the back of a local sheep. For a bit of island history, the Museum of Island Life at Kilmuir doesn't hold back when it comes to demonstrating the punitive living and working conditions that islanders have had to courageously endure in the past. Finally, a must see is Eilean Donan Castle. The ancient stronghold is situated on the point where three sea lochs meet and is an alluring sight known throughout the world. The castle is open daily from 1st March-31st October from 10am until 6pm and costs about £6 to enter.
Think about the Isle of Skye's folk tradition, which is most present in its music. For such a small island, there is notable musical talent. The Isle of Skye is conventionally known for its piping as well as its songs that reflect islanders' struggle against repression. Get to the heart of the tradition and go to a Ceilidh, a traditional Gaelic gathering where wine flows by the gallon and participants dance heartily until their legs ache! Rock and dance music have enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years and artists show off their roots by singing in Gaelic.
Avoid the rain. The Isle of Skye may be Scotland's tiny paradise, but the climate is far from tropical. The word 'Skye' originates from the Norweigan word 'skyen,' meaning cloud. Moreover, is has been called the 'Island of Mist,' which is a similar reflection of the island's drizzly weather. It has been known to rain consistently throughout the year so bring a waterproof and we do not advise camping!
Like any island, the Isle of Skye has first-class seafood, above all shellfish. In fact, its relative inaccessibility has forced the island to be self-sufficient meaning the majority of the ingredients on the menu are locally produced, and consequently are of a superior quality. Take your pick from highland meat and game, organic vegetables, salads, herbs, berries, cheeses, locally brewed ale, distilled whisky and even naturally filtered water drawn from the pits of the Cuillin.
Bring back a unique arts or crafts item. Perhaps a bar of soap handmade by the island's own soap maker, or treat yourself to some chocolate made by the Isle of Skye's chocolatier.