Review: Eilean Donan Castle and Isle of Skye Day Tour with Highland Experience
Backpax’s Becky Day hops on board with the award winning Highland Experience for their Eilean Donan Castle and Isle of Skye day tour… glorious sunshine, stunning scenes and a top-class tour guide were the ingredients for an epic highland adventure!
The Isle of Skye had been on my travel radar for some time. So, when I discovered that Highland Experience were offering day trips to this enchanting island, hidden off the coast of North West Scotland, I couldn’t resist booking a place for my boyfriend and I.
There was a slight chill in the air when we met in Inverness’ city centre around 9am. But grey skies didn’t damper the spirits of our tour leader, Gary – a buoyant Scotsman with an infectious laugh. He greeted us enthusiastically as we clambered aboard the tour bus. It wasn’t long until we became acquainted with Gary’s sense of fun as he referred to us as the ‘romantic couple’ at the back of the bus. All eyes were instantly on us… cheers, Gary! Our bus was filled with a hotchpotch of people from across the globe – America, South East Asia and Europe – all eager to see what Scotland’s rolling landscape had to offer.
First stop was Loch Ness. Whilst gazing across the vast open waters before us (keeping a beady eye out for old Nessie, of course!), Gary divulged lots of interesting facts about the Loch. Did you know that it contains more water than all of the rivers and lakes in England and Wales combined? I know, mind blowing! He also pointed out the iconic Urquhart Castle in the distance, but unfortunately couldn’t spot Nessie for us this time!
Where are you Nessie?!
Next up on the tour was viewing some of Scotland’s finest creatures – no, not men in kilts! – but hairy coos (highland cattle), and their calves … Cuteness overload! It was almost too much to handle as I fed them through a wired fence. I wondered whether anyone would notice if I squeezed one on the bus with us! Hands sanitised, we hopped back on board – sadly with no baby hairy coo in tow – and made our way west-bound towards Eilean Donan Castle, the setting for epic action fantasy film Highlander, and more recently the Scottish headquarters of MI6 in James Bond: The World Is Not Enough. Grey clouds were left far behind as we drove through stunning mountain ranges, backdropped by gorgeous blue skies. We couldn’t believe our luck with the weather!
The baby hairy coo and its mum … too much cuteness!
We rocked up to Eilean Donan Castle late morning, greeted by the atmospheric skirl of bagpipes being played at the entrance. It’s no surprise that this iconic monument has played such a prominent part in movies, and many lovers choose to tie the knot within its walls – it was seriously stunning. An hour was spent navigating the picture perfect castle, which is positioned on a small tidal island where Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh meet.
Eilean Donan Castle in all of its splendour!
Castled-out, we jumped back on the bus for the next leg of our journey – Isle of Skye! I couldn’t contain my excitement as we headed across Skye Bridge – the gateway to the island. Quite ravenous from our adventures so far, we stopped for a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant in Kyleakin. We chatted about our highlights of the day so far whilst refuelling with tasty fare.
The view of Skye Bridge from Kyleakin – the gateway to the island of dreams!
After lunch, it was time to explore Skye. The spectacular Cuillin mountain range, and its snow-covered peaks provided plenty of photo-snapping opportunities as we drove further inland towards Portree – Skye’s ‘capital’.
The Cuillin mountains – just beautiful!
Sauntering around the island’s ‘beating heart’, we stumbled across its postcard pretty harbour, hemmed with pastel coloured houses, and dotted with cute little fishing boats. The village itself was bustling, and laced with charming shops and cafes – an ice cream parlour enticed us in.
Portree’s marina, and its lovely little fishing boats
Time flew by and all too quickly we were back aboard the tour bus for the final leg of our trip. We waved cheerio to Skye (we will be back!) and followed the scenic Black Isle route back to Inverness. Gary kindly let us take a few pitstops en route home – one which particularly resonated was the view over Loch Carren. Azure waters, peeping out from behind luscious foliage, were framed by rolling mountains and blues skies – it was the perfect end to the trip.
Loch Carren – a perfect view to end a perfect tour!
Our tour bus rolled up to its final destination… Inverness. We bid farewell to our fellow tour-goers, and said our thanks to Gary for making the trip so memorable. He struck a brilliant balance between facts and tales of the Highlands, and his splattering of jokes went down a treat.
Our Highland Experience crew
For those on a tight schedule, this tour is great for the incredible views to and from Skye, and to get a flavour of the island itself. If you can spend longer on Skye, I’d definitely recommend Highland Experience’s extended two-day tour of Skye and Eilean Donan. Now, when can we go back… and can we pre-book in that unexpected sunshine too, please?