We spent the entire month of August tent camping on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It was the second month of our Summer in Scotland, which we spent sleeping in tents and exploring nature with our two year old daughter, Lisa. That Summer was itself just the third season of our year of full time travel in Europe, during which we traveled slowly, spending a month in every destination before moving on. We mostly stayed in big cities in 2017, so a quarter-year of tent camping was a big switch for us. We were a little nervous, but we wanted a more rounded experience, so we went ahead and committed to three months in three Scotland campsites.
From the research we had done, it seemed that the Isle of Skye might be somewhat inhospitable. High winds, heavy rains, midges and narrow dirt roads were all on the list of concerns. We were still in the comparatively comfortable city of Venice, Italy when we made our reservations, so it felt a bit surreal. Indeed, when we told the hosts over the phone that we intended to stay for a month in a tent, the shocked tone in their voice was disconcerting. But we persisted, determined to push our limits and give our daughter an experience she would remember, even from such a young age.
Why We Chose The Skye Camping and Caravanning Club Site
As a family of photographers, it’s not hard to figure out why we chose the Isle of Skye as a backdrop. The scenery there is stunning – dramatic mountain ranges, quaint villages, and stoney cliffs rising up out of the turbulent seas. As for the campsite itself, we were a little unsure about how to make a decision. When we were doing our searches, we just narrowed our list down to the locations that had everything we needed (there weren’t many), and then read the reviews. So what were our requirements? We were camping for the first time with a toddler, so it had to be in a safe environment. We were there for a month, so there had to be good toilets and comfortable pitches so we wouldn’t go crazy. And we had to keep running our website while we were there, so the pitches had to have both electricity and wifi. And of course, the campsite had to have easy access to amazing scenery, which was what first attracted us to the Isle of Skye and Scotland.
Our Review of the Isle of Skye Camping and Caravanning Club Site
By the time we got to Skye, we had already been camping for a month in Dunbar, Scotland, so we had a slightly better idea about what our experience would be like. Some of our concerns were blown out of proportion (it wasn’t that hard to find vegetarian food). And others were justified (keeping a toddler in a sleeping bag isn’t easy). But regular camping issues aside, here’s how the Isle of Skye Camping and Caravanning Club Site stacked up against our expectations.
The campsite had pretty much everything we needed. It wasn’t as luxurious as the glamping we did in Italy, but it was less rustic than back when we used to go camping in Maine. In other words, it wasn’t perfect, but it had everything that a family of photographers and travel bloggers need to get by. Here’s a rundown of the facilities, where they excelled and where they fell short.
The Isle of Sky Camping and Caravanning club has dozens of pitches, but make sure you book in advance. We were there for the entire month of August, and there was seldom an empty pitch. I remember a number of occasions when I was hanging around the campground store and someone who rolled in without a reservation had to be turned away on a busy night.
As far as quality is concerned, the pitches were pretty nice. The tent pitches were grass and the caravan pitches were gravel. Everything drained pretty well so there were few puddles and little mud (though sometimes there was a little after a heavy rain, especially in places where cars drove frequently over the grass). Most (maybe all) of the pitches had electric, so our devices and our camera gear were well charged.
We stayed on two different pitches, because we had to move halfway through or stay to let the grass recover a little bit. Both of our tent pitches were nice and flat, and they were both next to a wooden fence, which helped with the occasional high winds. Our first pitch was on the farthest end of the campsite because, having learned that we were photographers, the staff wanted to give us the site with the best view. When it was time for us to move, though, we asked to be placed closer to the toilets and the wifi, since we had already taken all the photos we were going to get from that angle. Besides, we don’t mind hiking a little for a photo.
In addition to the regular pitches, there are also two wooden cylindrical pods that face the water, and two glamping tents. To make packing up easier, we spent our last night there in a glamping tent, which was a good deal more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. It was admittedly a little hard going back to the tent for another month after that!
Toilets and Washroom
The toilets and the washroom were both nice and clean. On the walls, were plaques, certifying that they had won various awards for quality and cleanliness, which seemed fair to us. All the campsites we stayed at in Scotland had good toilets, but there were a couple that we drove through, just to check them out, which left a lot to be desired. We felt like we had lucked out.
The only downside was that the dish sinks got a little crowded at busy hours, even though there were four of them. Also, two of them were kind of low and I had to bend over. The other two were a reasonable height though. The laundry room was also in high demand, but at least the prices weren’t too bad. We saved some money by hanging our clothes on a line instead of using the dryer.
The showers were plentiful and clean, and the water was nice and hot. One time I’m pretty sure I saw someone sneaking in to use the showers at night from a caravan parked down the road. I couldn’t blame them!
Internet access was definitely the most challenging part of our experience at the Skye campsite. They had wifi, but unfortunately it was the slowest and least reliable of all the campsites we stayed at in Scotland. I think the main problem was that they only had one hub, located by the bathroom, which was overworked and rather distant from many of the pitches. One of the staff members pointed out a pole where a new one was set to be installed, but they said it wouldn’t be ready for a while (but that was back in August 2017, so maybe it’s finished?).
The other downside is that they use a different service than most of the other Camping and Caravanning Club sites, so if you bought their yearly plan, you will still have to pay for wifi while you were there. We purchased a one month plan for each of us because we often both need to work at the same time. Unfortunately, because we got dropped so often and because it was slow, we often went to the Aros Cafe (Google Maps: UK Postal Code IV51 9EU) in nearby Portree to use the public wifi there. Wireless data is nonexistent throughout the Isle of Skye.
By the way, whether you are using the campsite wifi or the wifi at a cafe or hotel, make sure you are using a VPN for security, especially while traveling.
There is a stone shelter with two rooms that could be used in an emergency (like if your tent blew away). One room has picnic tables, the other is full of brochures and guides to the nearby attractions. We never had an emergency, but we made use of the picnic table room once on our last day to celebrate Lisa’s second birthday! It was warm and dry inside, and it would be a good place to eat a meal on a miserable, rainy day.
The store was small, but it was stocked with the kinds of things that campers are likely to forget they need. We bought some extra spikes for our tent and some insect repellant for our hikes. We also borrowed an extension cord for our tent because ours wasn’t quite long enough. They didn’t charge us for it, though we put down a deposit that was returned before we left.
In addition to the essentials, the campground store had various candy bars, snacks and some canned food (though we bought most of our food from Portree). There were a few souvenirs, including Scotland themed children’s books, which Lisa really enjoyed. Finally, because the campsite is also an active farm, you can buy fresh eggs when the chickens are feeling productive.
From the campsite, there was an excellent view of Loch Greshornish to the West. The water was accessible from the grounds, and though we didn’t have any kind of vessel, we did see a few people put boats in the water and go for a paddle. To the west, a hill rose up covered in sheep and a couple highland cows. There is a small farm on the premises where Lisa got to meet some chickens and even bring home a fresh egg. For a really dramatic landscape, there are a number of beautiful sites that can be reached with a relatively short drive (see below).
The staff were a little shorthanded during our stay, but they made up for it by working incredibly hard. We got to know a few of the employees and the owners during our stay, and they were nothing but caring and helpful all throughout. Of all the campsites we enjoyed in Scotland, this was the one where the staff made the biggest difference. I saw them working from dawn to dusk, never grumbling and bending over backwards to make our stay enjoyable. Lisa loved the whole team, especially Duncan who showed her how to act like a bird.
On Lisa’s second birthday, which happened to fall on the last day of our visit, we purchased a cake in Portree to throw her a little birthday party in the emergency shelter. We invited the whole staff to join us, and it turned out they had already made her a cake! Luckily, we had a long drive ahead of us, so a little leftover chocolate cake was no problem.
The Isle of Skye Camping and Caravanning Club Site (Google Maps: UK Postal Code IV51 9PS) is located on the side of Loch Greshornish in Edinbane. The postal code is IV51 9PS. If you are not from the UK, I’ll just explain that the postal code is different from ZIP codes in the U.S., and it will pretty much take you directly to the right address. I can confirm that the Google Maps link above will take you to the correct location.
It’s worth noting that because there is no wireless data on Skye, and because the wifi is spotty at best, it is often better to use a dedicated GPS device with a downloaded map than it is to use a cell phone for navigation.
Terrain and Climate
The Isle of Skye is definitely cold, rainy and windy, just as advertised. Sometimes, when the sun comes out, it warms up a little, but during our stay in August, we were usually wearing at least a light jacket. The wind was tolerable most of the time, but there were three nights when it was downright scary, with wind gusts over 40 mph. On those nights we sort of felt like our tent was going to blow away, but even though it wobbled back and forth, sometimes bending over almost half way, the big metal spikes we bought held it down tight, and it kept us safe and dry.
We had sleeping bags designed for temperatures as low as 0C (32F), but it only got below 10C a few nights. According to holidayweather.com, the average high temperature on the Isle of Skye in August is 16C (61F) and the average low is 11C (52F). We actually experienced much lower temperatures next month in Glencoe.
The wind was an inconvenience sometimes, but it did have a couple upsides. First, when it wasn’t raining, we could hang our laundry up, and the wind helped dry it out. Second, because the campsite was exposed with few trees, and the wind came in off the loch, there were seldom many midges to speak of. On the rare occasions when there was no wind or rain to keep them down, they would come out, but not nearly as bad as elsewhere on Skye. When we went to visit the fairy pools (which were themselves rife with midges), we stopped in a roadside campground by accident, thinking we had found the parking lot. I stepped out of the car there, and I was engulfed in a literal cloud of the biting insects. So I can at least tell you that you are better off here than in a wooded campsite.
We saw a lot of camper vans on the Isle of Skye, but we didn’t envy them. Once you are outside of the towns, the roads get very narrow, to the point where they are only wide enough for one car. There are pullovers for letting people pass, but during the busy times of day it wasn’t uncommon to encounter a traffic jam where a dozen or more cars were forced to back up on a winding mountain road in order to unclog the traffic. Driving here isn’t for the feint of heart.
Our idea of attractions mostly revolves around scenery that we can photograph. Here are some of the places we visited that we thought were really beautiful. If you are in a camper van, you can probably drive that to most locations, though some of them have pretty scary roads. If you are tent camping, you will need a car to get there anyway, unless you are really hardcore and you are doing the whole thing on foot (we did see a few people doing this). I wouldn’t bother trying to call a taxi or anything.
Neist Point (Google Maps: UK Postal Code IV55 8WT) is a lighthouse on a peninsula that juts out from the Isle of Skye. We visited a couple of times to photograph the famous cliffs that surround it. Even though the lighthouse is supposedly the main attraction here, we actually never went down to the building itself, mostly because the descent involves going down a steep staircase with a dizzying drop on one side. Dannie is a little nervous around heights, and this was a little bit too much, especially considering that we’d have to carry a toddler and the wind was blowing powerfully in the direction of the precipice.
It was however the perfect conditions for kite flying, so we purchased one and flew it with the cliffs in the background. Lisa thought it was the best thing ever! If you try this yourself, just be aware that there are some power lines in the area, so you need to keep your distance. Check back in the future because we are planning another post about Neist Point.
Portree (Google Maps: UK Postal Code IV51 9HQ) is a quaint little town that also happens to be the biggest town on the Isle of Skye. It’s your place to go for grocery shopping, about 15 minutes from the Isle of Skye campsite. It also has restaurants, and a whole bunch of Scotland focused souvenir shops. If you’d like to read more about Portree and what you can do there, check out this post in which we talk about spending a day in Portree shopping and enjoying a picnic (of sorts). The Google Maps link above is for the Co-op grocery store, because that is the place you are most likely to need while you are camping.
Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr is probably the most famous landmark on the Isle of Skye. It’s jagged rocks are visible from the road just south of Portree, and it’s a fairly easy (if often muddy and crowded) hike from the trailhead (Google Maps: UK Postal Code IV51 9HX). If you’re interested in hiking this mountain, check out our post in which we hiked Storr for a photo shoot. The car park fills up, so get there early and beat the rush.
We liked Fairy Glen a lot. We even published an entire post about why Fairy Glen was our favorite family friendly attraction on the Isle of Skye. It’s safe compared to all those cliffs, and the Fairy Circles and cairns provide entertainment for the kids. There’s a lot to explore, and it looks like a scene out of a fantasy movie. If you are going there using a GPS, don’t bother searching for Fairy Glen, though. Castle Ewen (Google Maps: UK Postal Code IV51 9YG), a big column of rock, makes a more accurate landmark.
The Fairy Pools are a series of waterfalls and crystal clear pools of water that tumble down the slopes of a mountain. There is a path that follows the river uphill, and it is a pretty easy hike. Even though the scenery was beautiful, we hated our trip to the Fairy Pools because the midges were so intense. We were told that people sometimes go swimming there, but they must do it in the spring, because swimming in the Fairy Pools in August would be suicide by insect. Our GPS lead us to the wrong location for the parking lot (Google Maps: UK Postal Code IV47 8TA), but the correct location was just a little farther down the road on the right hand side. The stream and trail were clearly visible across the road.
Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle (Google Maps: UK Postal Code IV40 8DX) isn’t technically on the Isle of Skye, and it’s a bit of a drive from the campsite. It is however in the town of Dornie, not far from the Skye Bridge, and you pretty much can’t help but drive by it on your way to and from Skye. It’s one of the prettiest castles we’ve seen, and that’s even after touring the Loire Valley in France.
The Camping and Caravanning Club
The Camping and Caravanning Club is a chain of campsites and a membership organization that provides discounts to those who sign up. We stayed at two of their campsites (Skye and Dunbar), which had similar features and service, though they were in drastically different settings. Though it is nice to know that the campsites will be held to certain standards in order to be included in the club, our decision to join was primarily financial. It cost 39 pounds to join the club, but membership earned us a 30% discount. Since we stayed at club campsites for two months straight, that was a significant savings. Though the Isle of Skye site didn’t share the usual wifi contract, my understanding is that most of them do, so a longer term package could be beneficial since campground wifi tends to be pricey.
The downside of the Camping and Caravanning Club is similar to the upside: You know what you are going to get. It’s true that it results in at least a certain level of quality, but you do miss out on the possibility of an experience that might be more unique. I don’t know if we’ll ever go camping for months on end again, but if we do, maybe we’ll experiment a little more.
The Isle of Skye is a formidable but endurable place to go camping. If you are worried about safety and comfort, you should be relieved that we were able to do it in a small tent, with a toddler and a bunch of electronics. It wasn’t the easiest thing we ever did, but we survived and thrived. There are other campgrounds on the Isle of Skye that we didn’t try, but we can at least tell you that this one was conveniently located, had good facilities, and was home to fewer midges than a lot of other places we visited. If you are planning on tent camping on the Isle of Skye, we think the Skye Camping and Caravanning Club Site is a pretty good choice.
If you found this review helpful, or if you want to learn more about our Summer camping in Scotland, check out our pages about Dunbar, Skye and Glencoe. If you are interested in our efforts to support our travels by monetizing our blog, check out our monthly column, Operation Digital Nomad. Our stay on the Isle of Skye was in August of 2017, and we’ve come a long way since then.