This post may contain affiliate links that I earn a small commission from at no cost to you. Please see my disclosure page for information.

Moving to the Isle of Skye – Things You Need to Know

Since we moved to the Isle of Skye I’ve been fielding lots of enquiries about how to do so!

Moving to Skye is a decision and process that’s unique for everyone, including us, but I’ve decided to write about the most common steps and what you can expect if you’re looking to make the move yourself.

To note, while Skye is one of the larger islands in Scotland, it’s a small space in the grand scheme of the UK; of course, it’s not possible for everyone who wants to move here to do so, and I’m not saying everyone should.

But if people are genuinely looking for information about moving here, then I’m happy to share a bit more about the “how” to do so. While it’s a small community, there are definitely a lot of opportunities for those who might be able to take advantage of them and benefit the community in doing so.

As I said in my post about why we moved to Skye, you won’t know if you don’t try! So, if everything aligns and you have the opportunity, why not give it a go?

Visa Requirements – Do you have the right to work?

This one doesn’t apply to everyone, so feel free to skip ahead if you already have the right to work in the UK!

There is no such thing as a “Scottish visa”. As part of the UK, visas are under the control of the UK government (Westminster), and therefore the conditions aren’t necessarily ideal for all countries within the UK, but that’s a chat for another time…

As a New Zealander, I initially moved to the UK on a working holiday visa, and spent two years living in Edinburgh. I wasn’t able to secure sponsorship through my job so when my visa ended I left the country. Eventually I came back on a fiance visa, and then a spouse visa.

In 2022 I took the Life in the UK test and gained permanent leave to remain (permanent residency) and in 2023 I finally became a UK Citizen!

The process took around 5 and a half years, with my first two years on a working holiday not counting, so in total I had spent almost 8 years in the UK before I became a citizen. The process was drawn out and EXPENSIVE, and it only continues to become more so.

I don’t say this to put people off but just to let you know the realities of moving to Scotland if you don’t have citizenship.

Youth Mobility Visa

If you’re under 30 and from certain countries (namely New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Monaco, Iceland, and San Marino) you can apply to come to the UK for two years on a working holiday visa called the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, as long as you satisfy other conditions like having sufficient funds in the bank.

This would mean you could come to Scotland, and Skye, to work. There’s plenty of seasonal work around, particularly from the end of March to October, so it would be a great way to work here and then do some travel in the off season months.

Ancestry Visa

This was the visa I wished I could have got! You need to be from a Commonwealth country (sorry US citizens), intend to seek work, and crucially have a GRANDPARENT born in the UK. My great-grandparents were born here, but moved to New Zealand before my grandfather was born. Its a 5 year visa that means you would have the ability to go straight onto permanent residency if you satisfied the requirements.

Skilled Worker Visa

This is the most likely way to get a visa for the UK if you have no families ties here or are older than 30. But even then, it’s not as easily as it sounds.

Firstly, a company must have a valid sponsorship licence, which means they can sponsor workers from outside the UK.

Then, the job must be on the elible occupations list. This does change, but currently includes various senior positions like directors and managers of companies, scientists, engineers, medical practitioners and healthcare workers, certain teaching positions, accountants, architects, social workers, trade workers, chefs… to be honest the list seems pretty extensive, as long as you have a “skilled” job.

However, the job needs to be of a certain salary level, which rules out many positions outside of cities where pay can be lower, unless the job is on the shortage list, then it can be 80% of the expected salary, and it’s also slightly different for education or healthcare positions.

Getting the visa relies a lot on your own skills, and the willingness of an employer to go through the process of sponsoring you. You’re also tied to that employer, unless you want to re-do the process with another. Once you’ve been working here 5 years and satisfy the criteria you could apply for permanent leave to remain.

The thing with Skye is that there aren’t a lot of big employers, so the chance of being sponsored is automatically lower. It’s not impossible, especially if you’re in healthcare as there is always a need for health workers and there are hospitals here.

Finding Work on the Isle of Skye

There are a few things to know about working on the Isle of Skye.

The main industries are tourism, fishing, forestry, and farming (agriculture). Within these, there arne’t necessarily a lot of large employers.

The public sector is the largest employer, in terms of health and education, and the administration of those services, so there is always that possibility for work.

Tourism rules the private sector, but also means there are lots of small businesses. There are some larger hotels and tourist attractions, but a lot of the work is also seasonal.

Lots of people are self employed or run their own small businesses, as there is opportunity to do so.

I would say, if you have any kind of trade then I doubt you’d be short of work as it’s well-known it’s difficult to find someone to come get things done around the house!

You should be prepared to have a job that’s seasonal, and be able to make up your income in a different way for the winter. Lots of people do multiple things for this reason.

Finding Accommodation

If you have the right to work here and even a job or idea of what you could do, the biggest hurdle facing most people wanting to move to the Isle of Skye is housing.

There is a distinct lack of a rental sector in Skye. People tend to own their houses, and you need to seriously consider buying if you want to move here. This is because houses are often used as holiday rentals, which generate a lot more income, rather than long term rentals.

There is some help for workers coming through the NHS, and there is the odd rental available, but you may need to be flexible about your location.

Most people who move here have to buy, which, of course, is not possible for everyone. Even then, house prices can vary wildly depending on location and outlook. Anything by the sea will probably cost more.

The best thing to do is set up alerts on something like Zoopla or Rightmove so you can get an idea of what becomes available.

It is possible to buy land and build a house of your own, which is something we would never have done in the Cental Belt of Scotland. However, you would need somewhere to live in the meantime, which is often why you’ll see caravans parked next to houses being built!

If you want to move to Skye, then investigating where you might live is one of the biggest issues, maybe even more so than where you’ll work, to be honest.

Childcare on Skye

If you have young children, or are planning to do so, then childcare is a huge issue on Skye.

Children aren’t eligible to start school nursery until after they turn 3, and exactly when they start depends on their birthday and the school terms.

Before that, the only childcare options are one nursery in Portree, and a Gaelic medium nursery in Sleat, called Fàs Mòr. You will need to pay for these services, and of course, it depends where you live as to whether they are viable options.

Unfortunately this means that many people have to take a career break in order to be able to look after their children until they’re eligible for school nursery, and this just isn’t possible for everyone.

Even once you have children in school, there is very little wrap-around care. This means your work may be limited to the hours of 9-3.30 Monday to Thursday and Friday morning. Which again, just isn’t possible for everyone.

Childcare is one of the reasons that we have seen for people to choose to move away from the island, so it’s definitely a consideration for families who want to move here.

The Weather

I couldn’t talk about moving to Skye without mentioning the weather.

The northwest of Scotland is generally known for being wetter than the east, and it’s location further north means short daylight hours in the winter too.

People also move away because they no longer want to deal with the Skye winters, so it is something to be taken seriously if you want to move to Skye.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with moving here and giving it a go, but being aware that winter on Skye is not going to be like your summer trip here is something to think about for sure. If you can visit in the winter we’d recommend it!

We hadn’t previously, but having already lived in Scotland for a long time means we are at least used to a general Scottish winter, so it was less of a difference to other places.

There is something to be said for the winter when everything quietens down and there can be some absolutely glorious (but chilly) days, but overall expect to be lashed by rain and wind for at least a couple of months.

Then in the summer there are the longer days, which are lovely, and it is warmer. But there are also midgies.

These tiny little flying insects love to bite and are a real pest. They hover around in literal swarms and you can be completely covered from head to toe. Thankfully they can’t stand wind, but if it’s a lovely calm day, the exact kind of day you’d want to be outside in summer, then you might find yourself being attacked by the little blighters.

Repellent and a headnet do help, but they are another thing to know about!

Healthcare on Skye

There are about 5 doctor’s surgeries on Skye and two hospitals, one in Portree and one in Broadford that has an accident and emergency department.

Despite this people often have to go to the mainland for specialist care, generally in Inverness.

Dentists are another issue, with just one surgery now in Portree to service the whole island and nearby area.

Isolation and Opportunities

Skye is around two hours drive from Inverness or Fort William, depending on where you live on the island.

In terms of accessibility, the island is well-connected thanks to the Bridge between Kyleakin and Kyle of Lochalsh. It also has the ferry to Mallaig on the mainland year-round and the old ferry to Glenelg through the tourist season.

There’s lots of opportunity here for starting your own business or doing something different, as long as you are able to handle the highs and lows in the number of people on the island throughout the year.

If you love the outdoors, you’ll never be bored, of course!

It’s also a great place for families, with plenty of outdoor things to do without the need to pay for many activities. However, it can be a struggle when the weather isn’t great and there aren’t many indoor options to keep kids entertained.

While there are several sports available for kids to play, and dance and performing arts classes, it really depends on what your family likes as to whether the isolation of Skye might be a factor.

For example, if you’re into tennis, there’s basically no tennis court on Skye, and mountain biking isn’t necessarily that easy either, despite what you might think. People often have to travel to Inverness or Fort William for opportunities not available on Skye, which is a fair distance.

There is a train service from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness, but it’s quite slow and takes longer than driving. You can take a bus to Glasgow or Edinburgh, but travel by train would require the train to Inverness, then down to Edinburgh, or a ferry to Mallaig and then the line to Glasgow, which also isn’t fast.

This was a huge consideration for us when we moved to Skye with young children. We previously had all of Edinburgh on our doorstep, and it was easy to get to other locations close by. While it obviously didn’t stop us, we’re aware we want to give them as many opportunities as possible growing up, so we will travel to different places to do that.

That’s all I can think about for now about the main points to consider when you’re looking at moving to the Isle of Skye. Feel free to ask me any questions!!!

If you’re looking to visit Skye then check out my top tips for visiting and join our Facebook Group.

Sonja x

More About Skye:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *