The seaport community of Kyleakin is the site of the old ferry terminal where the boats from the Scottish mainland used to arrive before Skye became linked by a bridge. Many visitors still prefer to stay here rather than on more remote, less convenient parts of the island.
Kyleakin opens onto a small bay and is dominated by a ruin, Castle Maol, on a jagged knoll. For a lovely walk, go from the town center up to this ruin, which dates from the 12th century, when it was a fortified stronghold of the Mackinnon clan.
The village of Sligachan sits at the head of a sea loch in a setting of scenic beauty with views of the Cuillin Hills (pronounced "Coo-lin"). It's one of the best bases for exploring Skye because of its central location. Visitors enjoy sea-trout fishing, with an occasional salmon caught on the Sligachan River. It's also possible to rent a boat from the Sligachan Hotel to explore the Storr Lochs, 24km (15 miles) from Sligachan, known for good brown-trout fishing from May to September.
A 10-minute drive directly west of Sligachan leads to the village of Carbost and the Talisker Distillery, along B8009 (tel. 01478/614-308), opening onto the shore of Loch Harport. A distillery since 1843, the plant was mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in his 1880 poem Scotsman's Return from Abroad. Today it offers a 40-minute tour that includes a wee dram and a discount voucher to purchase a bottle of single malt. Whisky lovers from all over the world flock here, meeting members of the MacLeod clan, who make up more than half of the factory's 14 employees. The center is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (off season by appointment only). Admission is £5. For more information, search www.scotchwhisky.com/focus/talisker.htm.
Skye's capital, Portree, is the port for steamers making trips around the island and linking Skye with the 24km-long (15-mile) island of Raasay. Sligachan, 14km (8 2/3 miles) south, and Glenbrittle, 11km (6 3/4 miles) farther southwest, are centers for climbing the Cuillin Hills.
The village of Uig is on Trotternish, the largest Skye peninsula. The ferry port for Harris and Uist in the Outer Hebrides, it's 24km (15 miles) north of Portree and 79km (49 miles) from the Kyle of Lochalsh. Many people like to anchor here because it's convenient for early departures. Uig is also one of the most beautiful places in Skye to spend the night, as it opens onto Uig Bay and is known for its sunrises and sunsets.
Once a virtual ruin and only of passing interest, the recently renovated Monkstadt House, 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) north, is where Flora MacDonald brought Bonnie Prince Charlie after their escape from Benbecula. This famous Scottish heroine was buried in Kilmuir churchyard, 8km (5 miles) north.
While on the Trotternish peninsula, you can also visit the Skye Museum of Island Life (tel. 01470/552-206; www.skyemuseum.co.uk), at Kilmuir. The old way of island life is preserved here, along with artifacts based on farming on the crofts. Some interiors from the 18th and 19th centuries have been reconstructed. Admission is £2.50 for adults, £2 for seniors and students, and 50p for children 5 to 16. From Easter to October, the museum is open Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 5pm.
The village of Dunvegan, northwest of Portree, grew up around Skye's principal sight: Dunvegan Castle (tel. 01470/521-206; www.dunvegancastle.com), the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod, who have lived here for 800 years. Standing on a rocky promontory and said to be Britain's oldest inhabited castle, it was once accessible only by boat, but now the moat is bridged and the castle open to the public. It contains many relics, such as a "fairy flag" believed to have been given to the MacLeods by woodland spirits and reputed to have brought good luck in battle. The castle is open daily: mid-March to October, from 10am to 5pm, and November to mid-March, from 11am to 4pm. Admission to the castle and gardens is £7.50 for adults, £6 for seniors, and £4 for children 3 to 15. A family ticket is £25. Admission to only the gardens is £5.50 for adults; £4.50 for seniors and £3 for children 5 to 16.
Eastward from Dunvegan, Skeabost Bridge has an island cemetery of great antiquity. The graves of four Crusaders are here.
A lot of Skye can look melancholy and forlorn, especially in misty weather. For a change of landscape, head for the Sleat Peninsula, the southeastern section of the island. Because of the lushness of its vegetation (the shores are washed by the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream), it has long been known as the "Garden of Skye." As you drive along, you notice the intense green of the landscape and the well-kept grounds of locals' homes.
A ruined stronghold of the MacDonalds, Knock Castle is off A851, some 19km (12 miles) south of Broadford. Another MacDonald stronghold, Dunsgiath Castle, has some well-preserved ruins open to view. They're found at Tokavaig on an unclassified road (watch for a sign) at a point 32km (20 miles) south and southwest of Broadford. You can visit both these evocative ruins for free, day or night. Inquire at the number given for the Armadale Castle Gardens & Museum of the Isles in the review.
Adjacent to Sleat Peninsula is the Isle of Ornsay, also called Eilean Iarmain in Gaelic. It is a lovely, remote islet in a small, rocky bay with mountains of Knoydart in the background. Its heyday as Skye's main fishing port is long gone. Today you'll find little whitewashed cottages around the small harbor. The island's landlord is Sir Iain Noble, who also owns the hotel reviewed.