Love the great outdoors and getting active amongst Scotland’s glorious sweep of scenery? Love Scotland’s islands, but just not sure which one out of the 800 or so to visit? Then join me now as I delve into the SYHA hostels on the Isle of Skye, the largest island in the Inner Hebrides. Here the ace youth hostels really open up this beguiling island and the bountiful outdoor charms that make it one of the most rewarding isles to visit.
I’m kicking off looking at basing yourself in Portree, not just as it is handily the island capital, but also because a brand new youth hostel has just opened in the centre. It has sprung to life in the old Bayfield Backpackers. The 18 rooms are flexibly laid out with shared accommodation and private rooms.
Portree itself is an ideal base with good transport connections and handy amenities like shops where you can pick up maps and outdoor gear, as well as, yes, plenty of characterful pubs for talking over your day when you get back here! You can also pick up boat tours and if you want to blow your budget a bit hop on a ride on the new sea plane service! I’m also a fan of Skye Ghillie, who take people out on walking trips that also include the chance to forage for food and enjoy lunch en route too.
There are loads of superb walks within easy reach of Portree. I’m a fan of the Scorrybreac circuit, a short two mile wander that breaks off north of Portree Bay, a great introduction to Skye with a sweep of hill and sea to admire along the way. Push further afield and the epic Trotternish Peninsula is within striking distance. The walking here is truly world class especially around the Quiraing. This Tolkien-esque netherworld is awash with gnarled rocks, striking stacs and looming rock faces. I recommend cycling up as you can leave your bike in the car park on the ridge.
Robin in the Skye Cuillin
Heading further south we come to the remote Glenbrittle Youth Hostel. This rustic hideaway is brilliant for those really looking to get stuck into the wilds of Skye. Walkers and climbers come here to use the multi-share accommodation and private rooms to tackle the famous Skye Cuillin on an island with a dozen Munros. Afterwards they can cook up a feast in the kitchen and share tall walking stories in the lounge, or maybe make use of the resident guitar. A small shop is on hand for long summer evenings when you can snare some ice cream in the gloaming as the guitar plays on.
The Munros are the main attraction at Glenbrittle and there is no better base for tackling them, but you don’t need to be a super fit mountaineer to enjoy in and around Glen Brittle. Glen Brittle Beach tempts with its sand and epic sea and mountain views, an ideal venue for a Hebridean picnic or one of the ales Skye is famous for. The legendary Fairy Pools are easily accessible too. On a sunny day there are few places I would rather be in the world than paddling or swimming in these crystal clear mountain pools and waterfalls.
Nipping over to the east of Skye we come to the youth hostel at Broadford. I’ve used Broadford as a base for a cycling trip and it worked really well as you can access so many parts of the island from here and it is easy to get to the Skye Bridge too for forays to the mainland. They’ve also got a bike shed. The hostel itself boasts great views of Broadford Bay with a laundry, drying room and kitchen on hand too, as well as a small shop.
Handily the International Otter Survival Fund is also based in Broadford and the hostel staff can help sort boat trips to Loch Coruisk too.
Enjoying the Skye Scenery
Last but not least we come to Ratagan. Ok so I am cheating here as this trim wee youth hostel is not actually on Skye, but it is so close that it makes for a handy base for exploring the island, with the bonus of opening up loads of places on the mainland too. They have private rooms and a bike shed too. On the mainland you can take a seal cruise in pretty Plockton or just take in the epic drama of Eilean Donan Castle, possibly the most photographed castle in the Highlands. One look at this fairytale charmer – set on a wee island with a little bridge connecting it – and you will understand why! There are great mountain views from the hostel too.
Whichever youth hostel you stay at on Skye – and I’d recommend staying at one or two if you really want discover the island – you can enjoy a handily located base that also saves you cash. You can spend the cash you save on walking guides, day tours or even the world class eating and drinking scene - but the latter is a blog for another day! Stay tuned for that and enjoy Skye’s glorious great outdoors in the meantime.
Sunset Skye Cuillin
Biography for Robin McKelvie
Robin McKelvie (www.robinmckelvie.com) is a Scottish travel writer, broadcaster and blogger who has been covering his native land since the 1990s. A member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Robin is the author of a number of guidebooks, including National Geographic’s Scotland guide. He regularly contributes to a variety of newspapers and magazines across five continents, such as the Times and the Scotsman, as well as doing travel slots for BBC radio. Robin can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robinmckelvie.