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Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye’s Best Waterfall Hike

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The Isle of Skye in Scotland is known for its dramatic landscapes, including jagged rock formations, rugged coastlines, and beautiful waterfalls. For one of the best hikes to immerse yourself in this ethereal scenery, head to the Fairy Pools, where you can explore a series of beautiful waterfalls that sit in the shadow of the Cuillin Mountains and even swim through its crystal clear, turquoise pools. So if you want to see this magical trail for yourself, here’s everything you need to know about the Fairy Pools, the Isle of Skye’s best waterfall hike. 

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Couple sitting at the Fairy Pools in the Isle of Skye, with waterfalls and wildflowers in the background
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About the Fairy Pools

Distance 

2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers)

Elevation gain

518 feet (158 meters)

Difficulty

Moderate

Woman floating in a Fairy Pool in the Isle of Skye in Scotland, with waterfalls behind her

Dog friendly?

Yes, you’re allowed to take your furry friends here on a leash.

Passes or permits?

No, you don’t need any kind of special pass or permit to hike here. 

Trail map

Why are they called the Fairy Pools?

Fairy myths are prevalent throughout Scotland, but the Isle of Skye seems to be especially steeped in folklore. 

Waterfall and the Cuillin Mountains in the Fairy Pools at the Isle of Skye in Scotland

It’s believed that the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye are associated with selkies, a mythical creature that look like seals during the day, but at night, they come ashore and turn into their human form. As the legend goes, whenever there’s a full moon, you can find them at the Fairy Pools, bathing in the clear water under the moonlight. Unfortunately, when my husband, Justin, and I visited the Fairy Pools, we didn’t spot any seal/human figures, but I guess we’ll have to return when there’s a full moon! 

How to Get to Fairy Pools

The Fairy Pools are located here in the remote town of Glenbrittle on the Isle of Skye, close to the southwest coast of the island, which is one of the Inner Hebrides on the northwestern corner of Scotland.

The trailhead is a little over five hours northwest of Glasgow and Edinburgh; two hours and 45 minutes west of Inverness, or 35 minutes southwest of Portree, the largest city on the Isle of Skye. The Isle of Skye is absolutely packed with incredible hikes, including the Quiraing Walk or the Old Man of Storr, so it’s definitely worth the journey from Scotland’s major cities!

Couple sitting along the Quiraing Loop in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

The easiest way to get here is with a rental car. The road leading to the Fairy Pools trailhead is well-maintained and drivable in any passenger vehicle. However, it’s also a single lane for the majority of the drive and quite windy, so please be sure to drive slowly and carefully (it’s not unusual to have a sheep pop out of nowhere)!

There’s a gravel parking lot with 120 parking spots right by the trailhead. The Fairy Pools are an extremely popular stop, including for tour buses, so parking can definitely get tight here. If you’re visiting during a super busy period, like a weekend during the summertime, I’d suggest showing up early to ensure that you can snag a spot. 

View of the Cuillin Mountains from the Fairy Pools parking lot in the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Parking costs £6 per day for cars. You can pay for parking near the bathroom, towards the front of the lot, which conveniently accepts both cash and card. Be sure to check out the epic views of the Cuillin Mountains from the parking lot—for example, even when the weather is cloudy, you can usually see the large triangular one, Sgùrr an Fheadain, which rises 2261 feet (689 meters) above the Fairy Pools.

Note: The bathrooms at the Fairy Pools car park are extremely well maintained and the only restroom you’ll find along the trail—so I’d recommend hitting them before going on your hike! They close promptly at 3 PM in the wintertime and 5 PM in the summertime. 

If you’re on a super tight budget, there’s also a free car park here, just up the road, that will add a 10-15 minute walk uphill to your hike along the Fairy Pools Trail.

Woman hiking along the Fairy Pools trail in Isle of Skye in Scotland

Alternatively, if driving on the opposite side of the road freaks you out, there are a few tours that head here from larger cities, such as this day tour from Inverness, this two-day tour from Inverness, or a three day tour from Edinburgh

Finally, if you’re visiting during the summertime, there is a bus, operated by Stagecoach, that comes here from Portree Monday through Friday.

What to Expect in Fairy Pools

The Fairy Pools trail is a gravel path that winds along the River Brittle in the Isle of Skye.

After reaching the trailhead, the path steeply heads downhill before crossing a wooden bridge. From here, the trail will start sloping gently uphill. About 0.3 miles (0.5 km) into the trail, you’ll reach another wooden footbridge that crosses over the river and shortly thereafter, reach the first waterfall. 

Waterfall along the Fairy Pools Trail in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Over the course of the next mile (1.6 km)  you’ll pass a series of countless waterfalls and rock pools, which, in direct sunlight, appear to be a beautiful turquoise color. 

The waterfalls towards the front of the trail tend to be the busiest, with the crowds thinning out as you climb higher and higher along the trail. Beyond the upper waterfalls being less crowded, the views of the Cuillin Mountains will just keep getting better and better the farther along you go! 

Waterfall and wildflowers along the Fairy Pools hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

The incline along the pathway is pretty gradual, but it’s also pretty rocky and uneven in places and can become super slippery during or after the rain (which, let’s face it, is basically all the time in Scotland)—I’d recommend wearing hiking shoes, like the pair that Justin has for men or the pair that I have for women, if you can swing it to provide extra traction and support.

You’ll reach the last of the Fairy Pools—a wide waterfall with countless cascades—about 1.3 miles (2 km) into the trail. 

Woman hiking down to a wide waterfall with the Cuillin Mountains in the background along the Fairy Pools trail in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

However, if you’re up for a more strenuous hike, the trail actually continues on to the Coire na Creiche Trail, a 4.8 mile (7.7 km) loop that takes you through a stunning and impossibly green landscape—without all of the crowds of the Fairy Pools—that also just so happens to be the site of one of the most famous wars in Scottish history.  In 1601, the MacLeods of Dunvegan clashed with the MacDonalds in a bloody battle. In fact, legend holds that the Fairy Pools ran red that day!

If you don’t feel like adding on to your journey, simply retrace your steps back to the car park. I’d suggest budgeting at least two hours for the hike, which should give you a decent amount of time to explore and take lots of photos and videos.

When to Visit the Fairy Pools

The Fairy Pools are open 24 hours a day, so you’re welcome to visit whenever you like. 

While Scotland’s weather is famously temperamental, you’ll have the best chance of clear and sunny days in the summertime, which, if you’re lucky, can even be ideal for swimming through the beautiful clear pools here. Fair warning—we visited in July and I got in the pools—admittedly, mostly for the ‘Gram—and the water was still FROSTY cold! If you’re into cold plunges, though, this should definitely be right up your alley! 

Waterfall and wildflowers along the Fairy Pools trail in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Summer also happens to be the busiest season by far, so if you’re visiting during this timeframe, I’d suggest heading here early (as in, before 9 AM) or in the late afternoon (after 5 PM) to have the best chance of enjoying the pools in relative peace and quiet. As a bonus, sunrise and sunset are spectacularly beautiful at the pools! 

If you don’t mind throwing on a raincoat and some cozy layers, spring and autumn can be a great time to visit, given the fact that the waterfalls will be plentiful and rushing at their maximum flow. You just probably won’t quite have swimming weather!

View of the Fairy Pools in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

In the wintertime, some of the waterfalls can actually freeze over, leaving behind countless icicles—making this magical place feel even more ethereal. However, you’ll likely encounter ice or snow on the trail, so I’d suggest bringing along some microspikes to slip on your boots to prevent falling on the uneven pathway.

Tips for Visiting the Fairy Pools

Bring midge repellent

When it’s cool, rainy, or foggy (which, since this is Scotland, is most of the time), bugs aren’t really a problem here. But if you happen to luck out with a bright sunny day, midges can be quite annoying along the trail. Bring along some insect repellent to keep them at bay. 

Bring a swimsuit and towel

If you’re visiting during the summertime and don’t mind a bit of chilly water, the Fairy Pools are an excellent place to jump into the water to cool off. Just don’t forget a towel, like I did—I had a REALLY hard time warming back up after getting out of the water! 

Woman floating in the Fairy Pools with a waterfall in the background in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Be careful with cliff jumping

I’ve seen a number of social media posts with people cliff jumping from various spots into the Fairy Pools. Hopefully, this is common sense, but please be extremely careful when doing this—the depth of the pools change, depending on the season and rainfall, and there’s lots of large boulders lurking under the water, just waiting to break your legs or other appendages. 


I hope you enjoy the Fairy Pools in the Isle of Skye as much as we did! Do you have any questions about these incredible hikes? Let us know in the comments below!

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