A loop through the dramatic scenery of Skye's northern peninsula
There are no rail links on Skye, the nearest being at Kyle of Lochalsh or Mallaig. Buses may on occasions carry bikes. Bike hire is available in Portree. Portree is a bustling port and a thriving cultural centre. Among the attractions is the Aros Centre which incorporates a powerful exhibition capturing the drama of Skye's history, a cinema/theatre, a restaurant and a well-stocked gift shop.
Skye is a fairly hilly island and this route certainly takes in a number of these hills but none are particularly long or difficult. A shortcut can be made over the Quirang from staffing to Uig and this takes 7 miles or 12 km off the distance, but the climb up from Staffin to over 260m is more difficult than anything on the main route.
Much of the traffic on the A87 is going to and from the Outer Hebrides ferries at Uig, which only run a couple of times a day, so it is worth checking the ferry times and planning your day accordingly to give you a quiet run on the 10 mile section south from Uig.
The Quirang is characterised by screes, rock pinnacles and large boulders. Created by land slippage, this area lies in the Trotternish area of Skye, some 2 miles (3 km) north west of Staffin and 6 miles (9 km) south east of the headland of Rubha Hunish. This was the setting for Bonnie Prince Charlie's last days in Scotland,
In 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped from the Outer Hebrides to Skye with the help of Flora MacDonald. Hunted by Government troops, the Jacobite leader fled from Benbecula aboard Flora's boat. Disguised as 'Betty Burke'. he then made his way to Portree where he bade his farewell to Skye's heroine, presenting her with a locket as a sign of his gratitude. The room where they parted is now part of the Royal Hotel. When her role in the escape became known, Flora was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. Later released, she married and emigrated to America, but returned to Scotland in 1779. Flora's former cottage at Flodigarry is now restored and provides hotel accommodation. A large memorial marks her final resting place at Duntulm, where she was buried in 1790.
North of Portree you discover the spectacular scenery of the Trotternish Ridge - the longest land slip in the British Isles - where the contrasts in the landscape between the east and west sides of the Trotternish Peninsula reflect those found throughout Skye.
To the east, the road passes through wild country dominated by weird and wonderful rock formations such as the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock and the truly extraordinary pinnacles of the Quiraing (pronounced Coor-ang). Meanwhile to the west, around Kilmuir and Uig, you will find that the landscape resonates to the different rhythms of traditional crofting and the commercial ferries which ply between Uig and the Outer Hebrides. Noteworthy attractions to be found on the remarkable Trotternish peninsula include Flora MacDonald's Memorial, the Trotternish Art Gallery in Kilmaluag, the Skye Museum of Island Life at Kilmuir, and the ruins of Duntulm Castle.
This loop round the dramatic Trotternish Peninsula begins and ends in Portree, the 'capital' of the Isle of Skye. The route explores one of the most scenic parts of Skye, yet it is one that is rarely all that busy. Leave Portree, by the A855 which begins with a climb up out of the town before dropping slightly to the picturesque Storr lochs where there are excellent views north to the rock pinnacle of the Old Man of Storr. The route continues past the cliffs of Kilt rock to the village of Staffin, often with good views over the sea to the Torridon Mountains on the Scottish mainland. Near Staffin there is a possible short cut but this involves a climb from sea level of over 260 metres. This could also be the basis for a shorter (half day?) northern circular route. Beyond Staffin the road winds below the cliffs of the Quirang before turning west and then south down the other side of the peninsula giving good views to the Outer Hebrides. After passing the crofting communities around Kilmuir we drop down into the village of Uig which hugs the shore of a deep bay. The first section of the return to Portree follows the A87 trunk road. About 10 miles south of Uig, just beyond the village and white church at Kensaleyre turn right onto the B8036 which cuts across to the A850. On reaching the A850 turn left and after 1/2 a mile turn right onto the unclassified road to Benness. This road takes a quieter route back into Portree finishing on the B885.