Have you ever heard of the legendary “Sea to Skye” road trip in Scotland? It’s a 120-mile drive from Loch Ness/Inverness to the Isle of Skye, and it’s a must-do for any road tripper visiting Scotland.
As you drive from Inverness to the mystical island of Skye, you’ll encounter some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world including majestic mountains, lochs, and picturesque castles like Eilean Donan Castle.
Despite some rain in the forecast, we were lucky to catch some pockets of nice weather along the way over the sea to skye. And even when the weather wasn’t great, the clouds only added to the dramatic and mystical landscape of Skye.
Overall, the Sea to Skye road trip is an unforgettable adventure that should be on everyone’s bucket list. So pack your bags, hop in your car, and get ready for the journey of a lifetime! Let me share more about our experience driving to the Isle of Skye.
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Driving to Isle of Skye
Wow, I have to say, the Sea to Skye road trip was even more scenic than I imagined! Everywhere we turned, there seemed to be another waterfall cascading down a majestic mountain or a sparkling loch reflecting the clouds above.
The best part was, we didn’t have to share the road with too many other cars, so we were free to take our time and enjoy the views at our own pace. Of course, we couldn’t resist stopping several times to snap some photos and take in the stunning scenery.
Although there were a few times when we wanted to stop but just couldn’t find a safe spot to pull over, we were still able to soak up the beauty of the landscapes as we drove. And fortunately, we didn’t have too many run-ins with those pesky Scottish midges – although we did make sure to come prepared with bug spray, just in case!
To get to the Isle of Skye from the mainland, we went over the bridge but there is also the option to take a short ferry ride, which we did on the way back. All in all, it took us about 3 hours to drive from Inverness to Skye (excluding the time we spent at Eilean Donan Castle, of course) along the A82 and A87.
There is definitely a difference driving in the UK compared to the US, so you may not comfortable driving yourself. Luckily, there are plenty of tours that will take you along the same route and show you all the best sights. Check out the different options here.
Places to Stop Between Inverness and Isle of Skye
When you are planning a road trip from Inverness to the Isle of Skye, it’s a good idea to think about where you would like to stop along the way. Of course, you will probably want to take a few ad hoc photo breaks too.
Other than our random photo stops, we only broke at Eilean Donan Castle, which is often considered the most picturesque castle in Scotland. Situated on a small island at the meeting point of three lochs, this historic castle offers a stunning backdrop for photos and a fascinating glimpse into Scotland’s rich history.
You could also stop to see Urquhart Castle, which is located on the banks of Loch Ness. This ancient castle dates back to the 13th century and played a pivotal role in the Wars of Scottish Independence. We visited during our stay in the Loch Ness area and enjoyed exploring the ruins.
If you’re in the mood for a hike, be sure to check out the Falls of Foyers not too from Loch Ness. This beautiful waterfall cascades down a rocky gorge and offers a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the road trip.
Let me share a bit more about the options, so that you can plan your Isle of Skye driving itinerary.
Urquhart Castle is a must-see stop on your road trip from Inverness to the Isle of Skye. As you explore the castle ruins, you’ll be transported back in time and learn about the fascinating history of this iconic Scottish landmark.
Urquhart Castle first appears in the history books during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 13th & 14th centuries, when it changed hands between the Scottish and the English several times. It’s now all ruins, but still one of the most visited castles in Scotland.
Before exploring the stunning Urquhart Castle ruins, you will go through the Urquhart Castle gift shop where you will see a short film about the castle’s rich history. When the film concludes, the curtains dramatically rise to reveal the castle views through the large windows. It’s an unforgettable moment that sets the stage for a fantastic castle adventure.
Your admission includes an audio guide which will let you explore the castle at your own pace and learn about the various stages of its development over the centuries. It’s easily accessible on your mobile phone, making it convenient and user-friendly.
You will see the Trebuchet, Gatehouse, Grant’s Tower, and more. One of the things that makes the ruins of Urquhart Castle so special is its breathtaking location on the shores of Loch Ness. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of Nessie, the legendary Loch Ness Monster!
Read more about our visit to Urquhart Castle.
Falls of Foyers
As you make your way from Inverness to the Isle of Skye, you might want to stop to see the breathtaking Falls of Foyers. Located in the charming village of Foyers, on the south side of Loch Ness, these falls are a natural beauty spot that draws visitors from all over the world.
The water from the Falls of Foyers cascades down a 140 foot drop into a gorge surrounded by tall trees. As you make your way along the winding pathway, keep an eye out for the elusive red squirrels that are known to frequent the area. The walk takes you down some steep steps to the first of two viewpoints where you can snap some fantastic photos of the falls.
If you’re feeling energetic and have the time, you can venture further down the path to the lower viewpoint, or even follow the path all the way to the shores of Loch Ness. The flow of water from the falls changes throughout the year, depending on factors such as snow melt and rainfall, so no two visits are ever quite the same.
The Falls of Foyers are free to visit and are open all year round. You’ll find a car park conveniently located on the main road opposite the entrance to the falls walk, so it’s easy to stop and explore this stunning natural wonder on your road trip from Inverness to the Isle of Skye.
Eilean Donan Castle
As we approached Eilean Donan Castle, we could see it majestically perched on its own island, surrounded by three stunning lochs – Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh. Despite the rain, we were lucky that it stopped just as we got out of the car, giving us the perfect opportunity to capture some stunning photos.
After picking up our tickets, we crossed the bridge to the island and found ourselves in awe of the castle’s grandeur and setting. We walked around the outside first while the rain held off. The views of the landscape and the castle were simply breathtaking.
If you’re a movie buff, you might recognize the castle from films like Highlander and The World is Not Enough. It’s also a popular wedding venue, but with no large rooms, the castle can only accommodate up to 90 guests for an indoor ceremony. And here’s the best part: renting the castle for a wedding costs only £1500!
RELATED: Romantic Things to do in Scotland
Inside Eilean Donan Castle
Although we weren’t allowed take photos inside, we enjoyed learning about the history of Eilean Donan Castle. The castle’s construction dates back to the 12th or 13th century, and there are speculations that King Alexander II or III was behind it as a defense against the Danes.
The castle went through various battles and was captured by different groups, similar to what happened at Urquhart Castle. In 1719, during a battle between the Spanish and Jacobites, most of the castle was destroyed. The first few rooms of the castle are dedicated to telling its fascinating story.
As we walked through the castle, we learned that it had been in ruins and uninhabited for almost two centuries before John MacRae-Gilstrap purchased it. After 20 years of reconstruction, the castle was formally completed in 1932 and later opened to the public by John MacRae, the grandson of John MacRae-Gilstrap, in 1952. The reconstruction was done so that it truly feels like a medieval castle.
Each room is decorated to reflect how it might have looked when the castle was occupied, and they are filled with fascinating artifacts and mementos from the MacRae family. Make sure to take a look out the windows as well, as the views of the surrounding area are absolutely stunning. It’s truly a testament to the care and dedication of the MacRae family that this castle has been so beautifully restored for visitors to enjoy.
As I was exploring the rooms of the castle, a painting caught my attention. It was a depiction of Winston Churchill’s funeral painted by Terrence Cuneo, who was also the official artist of the coronation of Elizabeth II.
The painting was truly a who’s who of the time, with the royal family and other important figures included. Luckily, there was a helpful document nearby that identified all the people in the painting. I couldn’t help but wonder how the painting ended up in the castle, so I asked the friendly staff. To my surprise, I learned that the Lord Mayor James Miller of London was actually the grandfather of James Miller who married into the MacRae family.
But that wasn’t the only interesting thing I learned about Eilean Donan Castle. Did you know that it has the only working portcullis in the Highlands? A portcullis is a heavy gate that slides down to seal off an entrance, and it’s typically found in medieval fortifications. It was fascinating to see such a historic feature still in use today.
Getting to the Isle of Skye: Bridge or Ferry?
After about an hour of exploring the castle, it was time to continue on our journey to Skye. The island can be reached by either taking the ferry or driving over the bridge. On our way there, we decided to take the Isle of Skye bridge and on our return journey, we opted for the ferry.
Keep in mind you will still have to drive a bit to get to Portree as the island is bigger than you think and getting around Skye can often take longer than expected because of the narrow roads.
Isle of Skye Bridge
Driving over the Skye Bridge is a convenient way to get to the Isle of Skye without having to worry about ferry schedules or buying tickets. While there used to be a toll, now it’s free! After considering these factors, we decided to drive over the bridge to Skye.
The bridge connects the mainland village of Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin on Skye and spans 1.5 miles. Constructed in 1992 by Scottish company Miller, the bridge was designed by a German engineering firm DYWIDAG Systems International in collaboration with civil engineering company Arup.
The bridge’s main feature is a striking concrete arch supported by two piers, with the rest of the bridge being level across to the mainland. It stands about 115 feet high, with a clearance of almost 100 feet for boats during high tide. Beneath the arch, you’ll see a 21m high lighthouse on the small island of Eilean Bàn.
Isle of Skye Ferry
If you’re looking for a more unique way to travel to the Isle of Skye, taking the ferry is definitely worth considering! While there are a few different ferries that run between Skye and mainland Scotland, we opted for the old turntable ferry when it was time to go back. The ferry leaves from Kylerhea and goes to Glenelgs, and although it technically departs every 20 minutes, we had to wait a little longer than that.
Originally built in 1969, the old ferry is the only manual turntable ferry left in the world. I had never heard of such a thing before, but it was fascinating to watch the crew spin the “lazy susan” so that cars could drive on and off the boat. It’s a small ferry, with a maximum capacity of 6 cars, and they pack them in. The cost for the Isle of Skye ferry is £18 per vehicle, and it only runs from April to October.
The ride takes about five minutes to cross, and while the ferry was not full when we took it, we had to get out of our car for the brief crossing since Russell had to climb over and get out on the passenger side. You can also get out of your car for the crossing as long as you can open your door.
Although our ride was very calm, I read that during peak tides, it can be rough. Many people also spot wildlife on the crossing, but unfortunately, we didn’t see anything. However, the scenery is beautiful, not just on the ferry, but also on the road to Kylerhea and the road from Glenelgs.
You can get a sense of it from watching the video below.
The Journey From Sea to Skye
If you’re looking for an adventure, driving from Loch Ness to Isle of Skye is definitely worth considering. With so much beauty to explore along the way, you won’t be disappointed. You can visit Eilean Donan Castle and even take a turntable ferry.
Have you driven to Isle of Skye? Do you know the Bonnie Prince Charlie Song about his journey to Skye? I would love to hear about it or other scenic roads.
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Disclosure: No financial compensation was received, but Eilean Donan Castle provided us with complimentary tickets so we could share our experience with our readers. As always, opinions expressed here are my own.
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Last Updated on April 28, 2023