One of the many advantages of studying in Glasgow is having the whole of Scotland right on your doorstep. We get to put down our books and head to the hills whenever the weather (and the workload) allows it. Featuring jagged hills, breathtaking vistas, a plethora of lochs, abundant wildlife, Talisker whisky, a healthy dose of Scottish history and a remote but accessible location, Skye fits the bill for a weekend getaway.
The West Highland Line train journey alone makes the trip worthwhile. Regularly voted one of the world’s most scenic train rides, it links Glasgow Queen Street to Mallaig in a little over five hours for around £25 return with a student rail card. The train then connects with a ferry (£11 return), which crosses the strait to Armadale. Finally, a semi-regular bus service takes you to the main towns and villages of the island. If you’re feeling particularly flush, you can also go ‘full Harry Potter’ and switch to a steam train from Fort William. The experience is pricier at £30 each way, but does have that added ‘once in a lifetime’ value.
Like many of Scotland’s islands, Skye is a wildlife lover’s paradise. Look out for seals breaching in the sea lochs, otters gambolling in the shallows, and a multitude of seabirds littering the rocks. If you visit in spring or summer, there’s a chance you’ll spot some puffins, and if you’re lucky maybe even an eagle soaring overhead. The best bit about it? You don’t even have to go looking for them. If you want to get serious about your wildlife-watching, you can also go on whale, dolphin or seal watching boat tours (there’s no guarantee the whales will make an appearance though).
If hiking is your thing, there are several well-signposted routes around Skye, such as the Cleared Coasts Walk that takes in Suisnish and Boreraig. There’s an eerie ambience in these villages that previously teemed with life before being brutally cleared by the landowning Lord Macdonald in the 19th century to make way for sheep – perceived as being much more profitable tenants.
There are plenty of pubs, restaurants and fish-and-chip shops in towns such as Portree, Broadford and Carbost. If you’re staying self-catering, you can also pick up ingredients and prepare a budget-friendly feast. The Oyster Shed in Carbost is famed for its locally caught shellfish served in an informal setting, or you could go upmarket and treat yourself to a four course Michelin-starred lunch at Kinloch Lodge – the best local ingredients, given a highly creative modern twist.
When it comes to accommodation, there are hotels and B&Bs catering to every budget dotted all over the island. There are also numerous Airbnb options, which may work out the cheapest if you’re with a group of pals. In summertime, camping is an option – but only if you can handle the midges. However, if you are looking for something a little different, check out Skye Glamping Pods for a luxury ‘under the stars’ experience.