Skye is quite rightly famous for its mountains, whisky and Michelin starred restaurants but delve a little deeper and you will find that there is a whole host of things to see and do just off the beaten path.
Claigan coral beach is a hidden gem on the west coast of Skye. The outer isles get all the attention from beach lovers but visit this lovely spot and you will have a great chance of having the place to yourself. The beach is actually made from crushed white coral like seaweed. This has the magical effect of making the water look tropical blue when the sun comes out. A great place for a family day out or bring a torch and you could also explore the nearby prehistoric souterrain or venture to the nearby island of Lampay when the tide is low and the coral causeway exposed. Saltwinds is only a short drive away.
Some of the most intriguing archaeological finds in recent years have been at the Viking canal at Loch na h-Airde on the Rubh an Dunain peninsula. The discovery of boat timbers, a stone-built quay and an artificially constructed channel connecting the loch with the sea has given credence to suggestions that this was in fact the site of a naval base or Viking boat building yard. The nearest road is at Glenbrittle so it’s only accessible by a scenic 2 hour walk along to the coastline, a fantastic alternative to a day out on the mountains.
The Eilean Iarmain Hotel on the Sleat peninsula has quietly been building on its reputation as one of Scotland’s best kept secrets. Located about half way between the Skye Bridge and the pier for the Mallaig ferry, the hotel has an idyllic setting, with spectacular views across the sound of Sleat to the Knoydart Hills. There has been a deliberate attempt to keep the old fashioned character intact, in order to retain its Highland charm and old world atmosphere the restaurant has two AA Rosettes and the Praban Bar one of the finest selections of malt whisky on the island. It was here last year that a visiting Gérard Depardieu declared the view as one of the most beautiful he had ever seen. His indulgence at the bar and subsequent absence at the following days Edinburgh Film Festival have now become the stuff of Skye legend. You don’t have to be a celebrity to appreciate the charms of this often forgotten about part of the island, Teangue House is just five minute drive away and easily accessible by a ferry from Mallaig for arrival in style.
Often described as one of the great natural wonders of Scotland, Spar cave near Elgol was a huge attraction in the Victorian era, partially due to its appearance in a poem by Sir Walter Scott. It has fallen out of fashion a bit since then and is not the most straightforward of places to visit but, with a little planning, (take a torch and wellies) it makes a fantastic day out. The cave itself is a majestic cathedral like structure with intricate sparkling flowstone formations which have built up over centuries and is accessed at low tide from the shoreline near Elgol. There are a number of chambers to explore and a crystal clear lake to cross but don’t tarry as the entrance is tidal.
Visiting a singletrack road that connects two small villages on the island of Raasay is probably not one of the most obvious attractions but since the publication of the bestselling book Calum’s Road it has become somewhat of an unlikely pilgrimage for curious visitors. The book tells the true story of how Calum Macleod, a local man, single-handedly built nearly 2 miles of road to connect his remote village to the outside world. This incredible feat took over 10 years and was completed using only the most basic of equipment. The road was eventually adopted by the local council in 1982 and tarmacked soon after and a cairn erected to Calum and his determined spirit. The island of Raasay dominates the view from the seclusion of The Beach House where you can also spot seals, otters and dolphins from the comfort of this nautical themed hideaway.
One of the best days out for kids on Skye is at the Museum at Staffin where they can explore the nearby beach and hunt for dinosaur footprints. There are a number of footprints to be found and yes, they are real and they are approximately 165 million years old. The museum is deliberately vague about their exact location to maintain a sense of fun for the little ones, our top tip is to check under the seaweed at low tide to try and avoid disappointment.