your first sight of the Cuillin mountains from the decks of the CalMac ferry en
route to the mystical Isle of Skye is one of Scottish travel’s most sublime
moments. I’ve enjoyed the experience many times, but for me it just gets better, as I know what adventurous thrills and spills lie in wait on this
rugged isle. And it's one you can share by entering our competition where the prize is two CalMac ferry vouchers to the value of £500.
Skye is the largest of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, a wild western gem wedged between the mainland and the sinewy Outer Hebridean archipelago. Its mountains are truly world class, with no fewer than a dozen Munros (peaks over 3000ft), most of them part of the Black Cuillin range. These for me are Scotland’s most dramatic mountains, a real challenge for even the most able and well-equipped climbers. A day or two spent ‘bagging’ a few of them is arguably the finest mountain experience in the UK.
Walking on Skye is not just all about bashing up mountains, though. Immediately below the Black Cuillin, Loch Coruisk offers a rough ramble around its shores, where the views of the peaks and the sense of being out in the wilds offers ample reward for part-time walkers, who can breathe in the unique atmosphere of this vast natural amphitheatre.
Skye generally has a cinematic quality, and numerous TV programmes and films have been shot here over the years, the latest of which – Michael Fassbender's Hollywood Macbeth – was filmed around the Tolkienesque rocks of the Quairang. To follow in Fassbender's footsteps you can drive or cycle up to a car park close by this distinctive ridge, from where a snake of walking trails break off on a long loop that takes you below the jagged pinnacles before circling back along the plateau above.
Cycling and mountain biking are also popular on Skye. Many of the island’s roads are blissfully quiet, and the sinewy tarmac strips that deter car drivers are ideal for slipping along on two wheels. You can cycle to pretty much all corners of the island, but my favourite routes are around the Waternish Peninsula and out to the epic lighthouse at Neist Point, where the reward for your considerable efforts is a grandstand view of the Outer Hebrides across The Minch. Rougher mountain bike adventures await on the island’s myriad tracks and trails.
More sedentary explorers can get active in their own way on a new seaplane service that launched last year. This offers the chance to literally enjoy a bird’s eye view of this deeply dramatic island, while on the water there are boat trips out towards Loch Coruisk and heart-pumping RIB rides that open up some remote areas.
Leaving Skye is one of Scotland’s toughest travel experiences. In these parts they like to say ‘Haste Ye Back’, and if like me you have got a taste for getting active in the great outdoors, then you'll soon be back on this heart-and-soul-snatching Hebridean isle!
Anyone getting active on Skye should be well equipped and have navigation gear when hiking; local advice on weather and conditions should also always be sought – and heeded. For all Cool Places entries on Skye click here; for our entry on walking on Skye click here; have a look also at Robin's blogs on Arran and Mull. CalMac run regular services to the Isle of Skye from the Scottish mainland, the Outer Hebrides and the small isle of Raasay - click here to win CalMac ferry vouchers so you can explore Skye and the Western Isles for yourself.