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How to Find Unique Things to Do in the Isle of Skye

Since we moved here, the number one question I’ve been asked is, “How do we find unusual things to do on the Isle of Skye?” or some variation of that. Where are the Skye hidden gems? What can I do in Skye off the beaten track?

The bad news is, I’m not going to tell you. And, to be honest, probably no one else who lives here is either.

The good news is, you can still find unique things to do in Skye, and I AM going to tell you how to do it for yourself!

Unusual Things to Do on SKye

When you’re looking at a list of things to do in Skye, you’ll find that it generally repeats the same few things. There are the five most popular things to do, and sometimes a few extras that make the list, but it’s generally all pretty similar.

You can read the top 13 things to do in Skye here.

I refer to these as the most popular things to do on the Isle of Skye, not necessarily the best, but the things that the majority of people will have seen and read about, and want to visit for themselves.

The thing is, Skye is a big island. And there’s a LOT of other things to do here too. But it’s also an island that is, I won’t say, “plagued by”, but definitely affected by, a huge amount of tourism and not necessarily the infrastructure to meet the level of it.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan a visit here.

But you should manage your expectations of the popularity of the island and those few places, and maybe seek to find some other spots that you might enjoy as well and just get a feel for what it’s like here and why so many feel it’s such a magical place to be. You probably won’t find that with a lot of other people in the car park at the Quiraing…

The problem is that those in the know aren’t going to open themselves up to be the person that lets out the location of the “next Fairy Pools” or makes some other place just as popular. And really, there’s no need for that either.

Visiting somewhere shouldn’t be a tick-box exercise. Sure, if there are things you really want to see, then go for it, but don’t feel like you HAVE to see certain things or you’ve not “done” Skye. I live here, and I’m definitely not done. I don’t think you ever can be!

Find what actually interests you. If it’s walking, great. If it’s history and museums, there are more than you might think. And if it’s food and drink or live music, we have you covered there, too.

Here are some of my favourite ways to find unusual things to do in Skye. These can obviously be applied to other places, too!

1. Engage with Locals

This sounds super cliche and possibly even cringy, but it’s one of your best options. Not everyone is going to want to chat all the time, as many people are busy and going about their daily lives, but there are definitely things you can do to put yourself in a situation where you can have a chat and maybe find out some more unique things to do.

Your first port of call should be your accommodation provider. If you have a local host then they’re often more than willing to have a chat about what things there are to do locally and help you with any special interests you might have. They may not share online, but in person is another thing!

Pubs and cafes are another option. Sometimes you can chat with the staff if it’s not too busy and ask for any recommendations. This is best if you have something specific you’re looking for like a walk or somewhere to go swimming, and in the vicinity of the place.

If you’re taking a local tour, don’t be afraid to ask questions and find out things you might be able to do that aren’t included in the tour itinerary.

Be curious, show an interest and ask questions when you have the opportunity and you’ll find many people are open and willing to speak with you.

Unusual Things to Do: Portree Isle of Skye

2. Use Niche Travel Guides and Blogs

Rather than just looking for things to do on Skye, narrow your search down. Look for beaches, waterfalls, walks, restaurants, etc. Read guidebooks other than the most popular ones or do searches for more obscure blogs.

I’m working on a post about alternative things to do in Skye, so keep this one in mind!

Unusual Things to Do on Skye

3. Visit Out of Season

There is something to be said for visiting Skye in the peak season (May-ish to September). Everything is open, from accommodation to eateries and attractions like museums and castles. But it is also the peak season for a reason.

The shoulder seasons are also getting busier, and I think they’ll continue to do so. On the other hand, you absolutely can visit in the off-season as long as you know what to expect. Days will be shorter, and some of the major indoor attractions will be closed. But the outdoors never is! And yes, it could be cold or raining, but there are clothes for that.

It also gives you an opportunity to attend more localised events, as craft markets are open in the lead-up to Christmas, for example.

Autumn in Isle of Skye

4. Study Maps & Apps

It sounds boring, but this is a great way to find lesser-known areas to explore.

You can literally look at something like Google Maps and zoom in and out to see what’s around different areas. Look at where the roads go, click on places and see what they’re like, look for beaches and how accessible they might be, then search for them and see if there’s a walk there.

Skye is made up of a series of peninsulas, and it’s easy to look at each one and see what’s there.

You can also use things like the AllTrails app or the WalkHighlands website and app to look for lesser-known walking routes. The thing is that many routes in Scotland are not waymarked or have clear paths, so a level of navigation is required, especially because the weather can change quickly, so you need to make sure your skill level is up to it.

Geocaching can be a fun way to find lesser-visited areas. It’s basically like a treasure hunt where you use coordinates or GPS to find a “cache” left by others.

5. Explore Niche Interests

Think about what you’re REALLY interested in. If you want to know more about the history of Skye, look beyond the famous castles and explore smaller, lesser-known historical ruins or ancient sites. You can find these on maps, by searching online or asking in museums.

On Skye, there is the Museum of the Isles at Armadale, the Giant Angus MacAskill Museum in Dunvegan, the Skye Museum of Island Life in Kilmuir, and the Dinosaur Museum at Staffin, all of which have staff willing to speak to you about the history of Skye.

If you’re interested in seeing wildlife, there are dedicated wildlife tours to see eagles, otters, and seals, as well as boat tours or birdwatching trips.

6. Use Social Media Strategically

Social Media definitely plays a part in the popularity of certain spots on Skye (hello, Fairy Pools) and can have a bad reputation for this reason.

However, it is still a useful tool for finding more unusual things to do. Check our hashtags related to the Isle of Skye on Instagram and Pinterest, and look for pictures of views you’ve not seen before. Photographers often tend to go to different places. Sometimes the location won’t be tagged but there’s no harm in asking, although not everyone will be willing to share.

Join a Facebook Group (like ours – Isle of Skye Travel Tips) where other people share about their trips or locals are willing to give advice, although not necessarily specific destinations, and see if you pick up any additional places to visit.

As an aside, absolutely know that people edit their photos. What you see is not necessarily what you will get. It’s always worth looking for more images to confirm what it’s like, or even Google Earth or Street View if possible. If I see one more oversaturated photo of the Fairy Pools on Skye, making it looks like huge waterfalls…

7. Stay in Unique Accommodation

Consider something in a more remote location. Look for nearby attractions or ask the accommodation provider, as mentioned above.

On our travels around Scotland, we’ve stayed in some amazing places. They were in totally random locations but often had beautiful views or beaches and walking paths nearby that wouldn’t have been mentioned anywhere on a list of things to do.

Staying at more remote and nature-focused accommodations like campsites can introduce you to new areas and activities, too.

8. Embrace Slow Travel

Instead of trying to see all the famous sites in a rush, spend more time in one area. This allows for deeper exploration and the chance to stumble upon hidden gems.

Several of the popular things to do on the Isle of Skye are located on the Trotternish Peninsula, but there’s even more to see there! This is also true of where the Fairy Pools are.

When you have kids, you’re often forced to slow down. We’ve had some amazing experiences when we just picked a beach to have a picnic on, or went for a short walk. It’s helped us see the value in travelling slowly!

Read More: 10 Tips for Visiting the Isle of Skye with Kids

9. Engage in Local Workshops and Tours

Look out for local craft workshops, such as pottery or weaving, like Skye Weavers, where you can watch them at work, or a more unique food tour, like the Isle of Skye Smokehouse. Fox’s Hollow is a blacksmith where you can even make your own Sgian Dubh (a small decorative knife).

Specialist tours are another great way to see a different side of the island and meet someone who lives locally you can learn from. Lots of people across Skye are doing really cool tours, including walking and climbing in the Cuillin Hills and beyond, foraging, paddleboarding, mountain biking, etc. These tours often venture off the main paths and are led by guides with in-depth local knowledge.

Unusual things to do Isle of Skye - Mountain Biking

10. Volunteer with Local Conservation Projects

This will be dependent on availability, but I have seen offers for people to help with local conservation projects as part of their stay in Skye. This could involve planting trees, helping with path construction and maintenance, or beach cleaning. It’s a great way to meet people and get a feel for life in Skye.

These can be a bit harder to find, but a search online or on Facebook can help.

Unusual Things to Do Isle of Skye

11. Explore Nearby

It may seem counterintuitive, but there are so many great places near Skye to visit as well. Take a ferry or a boat trip to smaller, nearby islands like Raasay or Rona. These islands offer beautiful landscapes, and a sense of seclusion, plus the views back to Skye are stunning.

There are also the Small Isles (Canna, Rum, and Eigg), which you can visit by boat from Skye or ferry from Mallaig and even stay on.

The Applecross Peninsula is another lovely area to explore, with views back to Skye.

Hopefully these tips will help you find more unusual things to do in Skye than the most popular sites! You can also join our Facebook Group for lots more tips like this.

Sonja x

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