Visitors to the Isle of Skye from November to February could be forgiven for thinking they are the only tourists on the island. Roads are pleasantly empty, there is ample parking at favourite destinations such as Neist Point, normally full to brimming in high season, and there is less of a chance of bumping into your neighbour from your home town. Even the sheep seem surprised to see you. Tourists at this time of the year who brave the short days and long winter nights, howling wind and hail storms are rewarded in a very special way.
Firstly, on these winter days, the light is of a sharpness and precision that can take your breath away. Views to the Cuillin mountain range, the Small Isles and the Outer Isles reveal all the contours of their landscape, giving them a surreal quality and the feeling you could reach out and touch them. There are deep pink sunsets which begin at 3.30pm, perfect rainbows which appear, often in pairs, between the changes in weather and starry nights with meteor showers in which the entire galaxy seems to be within grasp. And then there are the northern lights, a spectacle which can leave you gasping in awe at the mischief our universe can conjure.
For those of you who are heading this way over the winter months, we’ve put together some useful information on where to eat and drink and what to do when you’re not gazing at nature or toasting your toes in front of an open fire with a dram.
Where to Eat & Drink
Scorrybreac Restaurant, Portree – 0pen till Christmas Eve. Closed on 25 and 26 December. Open 27, 28 and 29 December then closed till 2 January. It is advisable to contact the restaurant for their opening times in January.
Skeabost House Hotel, Skeabost Bridge – open till 4 January, then closed till 1 February.
Duisdale House Hotel, Isleornsay – open all year round.
Kinloch Lodge Hotel, Sleat – open all year round, but advisable to book in advance.
Ardvasar Hotel, Sleat – open all year round. Closed in the evening of 25 December.
Toravaig House Hotel & Restaurant, Sleat – open all year round.
Dulse & Brose, Bosville Hotel, Portree – open and serving Christmas menus until Christmas Eve. Closed on 25 and 26 December and 1 January. The bar is open on Boxing Day serving light meals and is open on Hogmanay till 11pm.
The Portree Hotel, Portree – open throughout the winter except Christmas Day. Live music on Hogmanay.
Eilean Iarmain, Isleornsay – open all year round but closed from 15 – 29 February.
The Old Inn, Carbost – open all year. Closed on 25 December. Live music on Hogmanay.
Stein Inn, Loch Bay – open all year. Closed on 25 December and 1 January.
Old School Restaurant, Dunvegan – closed from 20 December to 1 February.
Café Arriba, Portree – open Tuesday – Sunday from 8am – 5pm. Closed 25 and 26 December and 1 and 2 January. Closed from 10 – 24 January.
Café Sia, Broadford – open except on 25 December. Closed from 1 January to 12 February.
Jann’s Cakes, Dunvegan – open all year round but closed from 23 to 28 December and 1 and 2 January. Winter opening times 1-5pm, 7 days a week.
The Three Chimneys, Colbost – this renowned restaurant takes a break from 30th November 2015 and opens its doors again on 22nd January 2016.
Flodigarry Hotel, Flodigarry – open from 21 December to 2 January, then closed till 12 March.
Tongadale Hotel, Portree – open all year round. Closed on 25 and 26 December and 1 January. It is advisable to contact the restaurant for their opening times in January.
Where to Shop
Isle of Skye Baking Company, Portree – open till 31 December. Closed 24 and 25 December. Closed from 1 January – 1 February.
Glendale Shop and Post Office, Glendale – open Monday to Saturday from 11am-6pm. Closed 25 and 26 December and 1 and 2 January.
Oyster Shed, Carbost – open all year round. Winter opening times from November to February from 12 – 4pm.
Skye Farm Shop, Armadale – open all year round. Check website for exact opening times.
Where to Visit
Talisker Distillery, Carbost – open all year except 24 and 25 December and 1 January. Check websites for exact opening times.
Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie – open all year round except 19, 25, 26 and 31 December. The visitor centre is closed until 1 February. Check the Eilean Donan website for their winter opening times.
Aros Centre, Portree – venue for various cultural events. Open all year. Closed 25 and 26 December and 1 January.
Diana Mackie, artist, Dunvegan – Diana is happy to welcome visitors to the studio provided they arrange an appointment in advance.
Skye Weavers, Glendale – generally closed for winter but Andrea and Roger are happy to open their doors if arranged beforehand by phone or email.