Elsa’s spent the past few years travelling around England and Wales so we decided that it was time to leave some paw-prints a little farther north and crossed the border to Scotland!
A very long journey...
The drive to Skye takes approximately 10 hours from our home in the Midlands so we broke the journey up with a stop at Loch Lomond where we stayed at a dog friendly cottage that we booked via Airbnb.
Before we settled in for the night we took Elsa to Balloch Country Park to stretch her legs after the long car journey. The next morning we went out in search of some breakfast and found that most of the shops at Loch Lomond Shores are dog friendly!
Our next stop was at Fort William where Elsa attracted lots of attention from the tourists in her Equafleece. A few more hours on the road and we arrived on the Isle of Skye, via the Skye Bridge.
We started our adventure with a trip to the north of Skye to see Mealt Waterfall and Kilt Rock - to say that it was a ‘wee bit windy’ would be an understatement!
The viewing point at the top of the cliff leaves you completely exposed to this powerful element and Elsa was completely bedraggled by the time we got back into the car! (Although it was worth the view of course.) We also got our first glimpse of just how many tourists there are on Skye, even at this time of year.
After shuffling around for a few photographs we headed to our next stop, Staffin Beach. It’s only a small beach but the area is very picturesque and at low tide you can search for the dinosaur footprints in the rocks!
We stopped for lunch at Columba 1400, a charitable organisation that focuses on improving the lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds through their leadership programmes. The restaurant is open to the public and dogs are very welcome to join you while you enjoy a home cooked meal.
On the way back to our holiday cottage we stopped in Portree, the largest town on Skye, where there are lots of little shops, cafés and restaurants, many of which are dog friendly including Café Arriba and a lovely gallery and gift shop called ÒR.
We managed to avoid the worst of the rain by heading straight to the ‘Gasta at Armadale Castle’ café. Even if you don’t go into the castle grounds we would recommend visiting this café because they serve yummy baked goods, both savoury and sweet, and they are dog friendly! [Incidentally, the main standalone branch of ‘Deli Gasta’ café is also dog friendly and can be found at Broadford on the Isle of Skye.]
If you do venture into the grounds then the Museum of the Isles is the only area where dogs aren't allowed, but it doesn’t take too long to look around so we took turns waiting with Elsa outside. They currently have the original sculpture of Greyfriars Bobby by William Bodie on display so that was a treat to see!
From there we drove towards the famous Fairy Ponds but found cars abandoned everywhere, swarms of tourists gearing up for the hike down to the pools and grey clouds gathering overhead so we decided to keep on driving… As much as we would have liked to explore this area, we didn’t pick the best time to visit! It wasn’t a completely wasted trip though because we found an amazing dog friendly coffee shop at the end of the road; The Glenbrittle campsite is home to Cullin Coffee Co. and they serve speciality coffee, freshly baked pastries, bread and cakes as well as herbal and fruit teas and artisan hot chocolate.
We stayed in a dog friendly holiday cottage that our family rented called ‘The Bothy’ in Braes, close to a small beach that we could see from the front window. Although it wasn’t as spectacular as the beaches on the Isle of Harris, Braes Beach was within walking distance and we had it all to ourselves, not counting the sheep!
The walk helped us work up quite an appetite, so we left Elsa with family in the cottage and headed to Portree with the intention of coming back with pizza for dinner… We ended up at the Italian restaurant called L'incontro and I was surprised to see a sticker on the door saying that it was dog friendly! After being told that we’d have to wait 45 minutes for a takeaway we opted to call for Elsa to be brought into town to join us so that we could all eat together. A lovely guy called Josh settled us at a table and when Elsa arrived he brought her a treat too. The pizzas are all made fresh and you can actually watch them being cooked in the oven on a TV screen. I would highly recommend eating here if you visit Portree with your dog!
On day six of our holiday we ventured out to another tourist hot-spot, the Fairy Glen, and hoped that it would be a bit quieter than the Fairy Pools! Thankfully, the roads are too narrow for coaches and we did manage to find a parking space this time. Even swarmed with tourists, this site still retains its charm and Elsa had lots of fun galloping around. We kept her on a lead because there was a lot of evidence of sheep in the glen, but I’m certain that if Elsa had been free to run off she would have just climbed to the top of the highest point that she could get to - she absolutely loves climbing up things - stairs, hills, you name it!
Getting out of the glen was much more difficult because the road trails off into a dead-end/ farm, so everyone (including cars, camper vans and minibuses) has to turn around and go back the same way that they came and this leads to absolute chaos as more and more people arrive, so be prepared to be very patient.
If you need something to soothe your nerves when you finally do get out, then the Uig Hotel is a great place to stop for a break. The bar area (to your left as you enter the hotel) is dog friendly and I believe that they do have dog friendly rooms at the hotel too.
After lunch we drove towards The Skye Museum of Island Life which is dog friendly, but was closed when we arrived which was a real shame because we didn’t get another chance to return here on this trip. The museum is just a stone’s throw away from Kilmuir Cemetery where one of Skye’s most famous residents, Flora MacDonald is buried. Flora is remembered for helping Bonnie Prince evade government troops after the Battle of Culloden in April 1746. As we were leaving I also noticed that there is a memorial stone and dedication to the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen in the same graveyard. He’s not buried there but his ancestors came from this area.
The next day we headed west towards Dunvegan Castle. Dogs are only allowed in the gardens but since the weather had taken a real turn for the worst and we didn’t fancy getting drenched, we decided to look for other things to do in the area and found the Giant Angus MacAskill Museum.
The museum is small but dogs are welcome inside and it’s a great place to visit, whatever the weather!
It was opened by one of Angus’s relatives, Peter MacAskill, in 1989 and pays homage to the man who is still considered to be the world’s tallest ‘true’ giant because he had no underlying medical conditions or notable deformities that caused him to grow to this size.
An impressive life-sized 7ft 9in replica of him looms over visitors, but despite his stature Angus is renowned for his kind and gentle nature.
Our next stop was Skyeskyns, a working traditional tannery with a shop selling sheepskin rugs, clothing and footwear. Dogs are not allowed inside the shop but they do sell pet mats which are smaller offcuts of sheepskin rugs. YURTea&coffee is also based at Skyeskyns. Well-behaved dogs are allowed inside the yurt but it was very busy when we visited and quite hot inside so we didn’t think that Elsa would be very settled in there, which is a shame because it did look and smell amazing!
Luckily we weren’t far from Stein Inn, the oldest inn on the Isle of Skye dating back to 1790. The interior of this pub is traditionally decorated and they serve hearty homemade meals. Dogs are welcome until 6pm every day and Elsa snuggled up under the table quite comfortably while we had lunch.
Homeward bound via Helensburgh
On the way home we stopped in Helensburgh for one night at another place that I found on Airbnb. The ground-floor annex was much bigger than I had expected and the hosts were so friendly, even recommending a dog friendly restaurant within walking distance in town called Sugar Boat. Although we were tempted to go we were also very tired from the journey and opted for a takeaway and a cosy night by the fire with Elsa instead.
The drive home felt like it took a lot longer than the outward journey, but that’s mostly due to the traffic when we hit the M6! Elsa was wonderfully patient in the car, but so happy to get home.
Holidays always come to an end too soon but The Isle of Skye was a great place to visit and it was wonderful to be able to share the experience with Elsa. The trip has really whet my appetite to explore more of Scotland, particularly The Hebridean Islands, so no doubt we will be back again!
Additional Info & Travel Tips for visiting the Isle of Skye
- Don't forget to pack waterproof clothing for you and your dog, it's guaranteed to rain!
- Be prepared to keep your dog on a lead wherever you go and respect the local wildlife, sheep and cattle. Click here to read more about the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and dogs.
- Be prepared for chaotic roads! You will encounter lots of other tourists, many of whom travel in coaches and campervans down the single track roads. The lack of car parking can be an issue around all of the areas of interest including the Old Man of Storr, Fairy Pools and the Fairy Glen.
- Petrol stations are few and far between so make sure to top-up regularly.
- Mobile reception (including 4G) is surprisingly good across the island!
- Food and drink is quite cheap! For example, a three course Sunday meal at the Uig Hotel costs approx £15 (food only).
Paws across Britain’s Scotland Travel Essentials
- Check out PaB Pack member Miss Darcy on the Oct 2018 cover of Dogs Monthly! -
As expected, the climate on Skye was very wet and windy so I was pleased that I’d decided to bring all of Elsa’s coats with us, along with her Equafleece! There are lots of free-roaming sheep and cattle on the islands, so I made sure that Elsa was up-to-date with all of her flea, tick and worming treatments before we left.
Elsa can be a bit picky when it comes to how and when she eats her food, (especially if we are away from home and her routine is disrupted) but if we give her a warm bowl of ORIJEN Freeze Dried food she will eat it without hesitation. It's also easy to carry and measure out so this is our number one choice when we travel!