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Old Man of Storr Hike: Scotland’s Most Epic Trail

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If you’re looking for Scotland’s most epic scenery, look no further than the Old Man of Storr hike, located on the gorgeous Isle of Skye. Somehow, this single hike combines some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery, all in one—rolling green mountains, jagged rock columns, and sweeping ocean views. Sounds incredible? It definitely is! So if you want to cross one of Scotland’s best hikes off your bucket list, here’s everything you need to know about the Old Man of Storr.

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View of the rock formations in Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye in Scotland
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Scotland is full of incredible hikes, from the Devil’s Pulpit to the Quiraing Walk.

But the Old Man of Storr is arguably one of the most iconic hikes in the entire country and it’s no wonder why—it seriously looks like something straight out of Game of Thrones. In fact, seeing a photo of the otherworldly Old Man of Storr is the reason that I decided to pull the trigger and plan an entire trip to Scotland!

Accordingly, it should be no surprise that the dramatic landscape has been used as a filming location for a number of TV shows and films, like The Wicker Man and Snow White and the Huntsman

Couple holding hands along the Old Man of Storr hike, with rock formations in the background, in Scotland

But how do you explore it with your own two feet? Let’s get into it!

About the Old Man of Storr Hike

Length: 3.4 miles (5.4 km)

Elevation gain: 1,200 feet (365 meters)

Difficulty: Challenging—there’s nothing particularly technically difficult about this hike, but it is STEEP in some parts, so it’s a serious cardio workout. 

Woman climbing stairs near a basalt rock formation along the Old Man of Storr hike in Scotland

Are dogs allowed? Yes, dogs are welcome so long as they’re on a leash.

How long does it take to hike the Old Man of Storr? Most hikers will finish in about one and a half to two hours… unless you’re like my husband, Justin, and I and can’t help yourself from taking photos and videos every two steps… in which case I’d budget around three hours!

Psssst… most of the path is pretty straightforward but there are certain sections where social trails make it a bit confusing which direction you’re supposed to go. I’d recommend using the trail map on AllTrails to help you navigate and make sure you stay on the right path!

Why is it called the Old Man of Storr?

The Old Man of Storr refers to the dramatic, rocky outcropping that juts 160 feet out of the ground. But why exactly is it called the Old Man of Storr?

Well, legend has it that there was a giant (the aforementioned Old Man) who lived amongst the mountains here—“Storr” actually means “great man” in Norse. When this giant laid down and took his last dying breath, his thumb (the giant pointy rock formation) remained above ground. There’s also a handful of other rumored origins of the name, ranging from goblin-like creatures called “brownies” to fairies (ahhhh, Scotland things). 

Woman standing on the basalt rock formations along the Old Man of Storr hike on the Isle of Skye in Scotland

In reality, the rock formation here is a volcanic plug that was formed over 2.8 million years ago when magma within a volcanic vent cooled rapidly. Actually, much of the land in the area, like the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing, has such uniquely steep angles, because of basalt landslides, due to volcanic activity.

How to Get to the Old Man of Storr Hike

The Old Man of Storr trailhead is located about 15 minutes north of the cute fishing village of Portree on the Isle of Skye, along A855. You can either access it by car or via the 57A bus from Portree.

If you’re visiting Scotland with a rental car, the trailhead has a HUGE parking lot that can probably fit about 150 or so cars, with an additional 40 parking spots along the actual road which would be perfect for our RV and camper van friends. 

Parking lot for the Old Man of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

When Justin and I visited, we got to the parking lot pretty early on a weekday—around 7:30 AM—and were one of the first cars in the lot. But by the time we were leaving around 11 AM (we took soooo many photos here, guys!), the parking lot was pretty much completely full. So, even though there’s tons of space, I’d recommend trying to get here on the early side!

To park in the lot, it costs £5 for up to six hours or £7 for up to 12 hours, which you can pay with either cash or card at machines in the lot—for most hikers, six hours should be more than enough time. The money generated from the lot is used to pay for the maintenance of the lot itself, the trails, and the flush toilets and RV dump station located in the lot.

Meter in the parking lot along the Old Man of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Alternatively, if you’re okay not not actually hiking to the Old Man of Storr and, instead, admiring it from afar, there are several group tours that make a quick stop at a viewpoint of the unique rock formations, like this day tour from Inverness and this three-day Highlands tour from Edinburgh.  This is the PERFECT option if you aren’t staying in Isle of Skye and don’t have your own transportation or simply have a short period of time to see all of the incredibly beautiful things the Isle of Skye has to offer.

What to Expect on the Old Man of Storr Hike

Before we start off, there’s a few helpful things to understand about this trail. 

  • You may have heard of a lollipop loop before, which is basically an out-and-back trail with a loop attached to the end of it. 

    The Old Man of Storr, however, looks more akin to a pair sunglasses—an out-and-back section, with a loop, then another out-and-back section, yet another loop, and finally terminating in a final out-and-back section.
  • The Old Man of Storr hike is STEEP, ascending and descending down gravel and dirt paths and old stone steps. I saw hikers of all ages on the trail, but if you have serious knee or hip issues, this might not be the best trail for you.
Alltrails map of the Old Man of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland
Trail map from AllTrails

With that context in mind, as you leave from the parking lot, you’ll walk up a steep, but wide gravel path, with giant basalt cliffs looming ahead of you. After just 0.1 miles (0.16 km), you’ll reach the first loop along the path. 

If you want the shortest (but steepest) path to the top, bear to the right hand side, which has a series of switchbacks that climbs up the mountainside and meets up with the next out-and-back section in just 0.6 mile (0.9 km). On the other hand, if you’d prefer something a wee bit less steep (but still… pretty dang steep), head to the left side, which offers some stairs that curve along the mountainside and ascend the same elevation gain as the right hand side on a longer 0.9 mile (1.5 km) path.

Woman climbing up the trail along the Old Man of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Justin and I got to the trail early because we wanted to take photos and videos before the crowds arrived, so we chose the right hand side (counterclockwise) to get up to the top quickly and the other side to go down. Honestly, the views are pretty similar on both paths, so if you’re super short on time or just want to hike less, I’d consider both going up and down the path to the right. 

Once you reach the junction, continue up the path. You’ll notice it changes from gravel to dirt and will get quite a bit narrower in this section—and your views of the rock formations towering above will continue to get better and better! After another steep 0.2 miles (0.3 km), you’ll reach the final loop of the trail. 

If you stick to the left (clockwise), you’ll head around the western side of the Old Man of Storr, with interesting up-close views of the basalt formations. If you stick to the right, you can, instead, head up to an overlook that provides jaw-dropping views of the jagged formation and the surrounding landscape. Since we were on a mission for incredible photos, we headed to the right first to beat the crowds, but it’s up to you if you’d rather save the best for last!

Woman hiking along the Old Man of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

If you head to the right, you’ll start by climbing up the steepest part of the trail yet, most of which is along stone stairs. These stones can get super slippery when wet, so if you’re visiting during or immediately after it rained (which in Scotland is basically always!), be very careful! 

After about 0.2 miles (0.3 km), you’ll reach the last out-and-back section of the trail. Here, you’ll climb up several series of stone steps, as basalt rock formations soar overhead on the right side. 

The trail will then blessedly flatten out for a bit, allowing you to take in the sweeping views of Loch Lethan and beyond, the Atlantic Ocean. Be sure to keep a lookout to your right for a rocky outcropping that has a social trail steeply climbing up it—be careful if you decide to scale this rock, but from the top, you’ll have one of the very best vistas in all of Scotland, with up-close views of the Old Man of Storr, the surrounding rock formations, and the beautiful rolling green hills of the Highlands.

Woman standing on a basalt outcropping with the rock formations of the Old Man of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Otherwise, continue along the flat part of the trail to the base of the hill that the viewpoint is on. You’ll make the final push up a steep set of stairs and, towards the end, a steep and crumbly gravel trail to the viewpoint, which is located on a wide, flat section of a steep hill. 

Once you reach the top, take a breather and just soak in the breathtaking vistas at your feet! Between Scotland’s epic greenness, the ocean, and the dramatic rock formations, the views are SERIOUSLY out of this world.

Couple smiling in front of a rock formation along the Old Man of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

If you have kiddos or dogs with you, just be sure to keep an eye out—there’s REALLY steep drop-offs here and the cliffs are crumbly. Falling off a cliff is definitely not the way you want to remember the Old Man of Storr!

Once you’re done, retrace your steps back 0.2 miles (0.3 km) to where the trail splits off into a loop around the base of Old Man of Storr. Honestly, this pathway is not particularly well-worn or obvious, so I’d suggest keeping a close eye on a trail map on the AllTrails app to make sure you don’t miss it!

Follow the path to the right, which will wind around countless enormous boulders scattered on the ground and to your left, the imposing formation of Storr. 

Woman standing on a basalt rock formation along the Old Man of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

About 0.1 miles (0.15 km) down this path, there will be a short offshoot trail that climbs to the top of a chasm in the basalt formation along an extremely steep hill. The view from the top is unique and provides a really interesting perspective of the formation’s basalt. That being said, it’s a REALLY steep path and up an incredibly crumbly volcanic sand hill—I would really only recommend making your way up this offshoot if you’re a more experienced hiker.

Eventually, the trail will make its way back down hill, where it will again meet up with the main trail and the final loop section of your descent, where the right hand side will be a bit longer but less steep, or the shorter and steeper left hand side. 

Man standing along the Old Man of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Best Time to Visit the Old Man of Storr Hike

The best time of year to visit the Old Man of Storr is from May through early October, when the skies tend to be clearer and the temperature is a little more pleasant. 

View of the rock formations at the Old Man of Storr hike at the Isle of Skye in Scotland

While you absolutely can go enjoy the hike on a rainy day, be aware that the trail can become incredibly muddy and the well-worn stone stairs can become very slippery—and dangerous. Plus, it’s not unusual for clouds, fog, or mist to obscure the Old Man—which is what we’re all here to see!

In terms of time of day, your best bet will be to come early in the morning or late in the afternoon to beat the rush of other tourists and tour buses, which will be at their busiest from about 9 AM to 3:30 PM. 

As I mentioned above, we got here quite early (around 7:30 AM) and there were probably still about five or six cars that were already in the lot! And by the time that we were headed back downhill, mid-morning, I couldn’t believe how many people were streaming up the trail and how many tour buses were in the parking lot.

Hikers along the Old Mann of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Tips About the Old Man of Storr Hike

  • You’re not allowed to use drones. We were soooo excited to fly our drone around the Old Man of Storr and were bummed to see several signs that prohibited it. So leave the drone at home!
Woman making a sad face near a No Drones sign along the Old Man of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland
  • Go to the bathroom in the parking lot. The majority of the hike has wide open sweeping views—which is great until nature calls. So be sure to use the toilets in the parking lot before you hit the old dusty trail.
  • Bundle up. We got soooo lucky with the weather the day we went, with blue skies and dramatic clouds. Even then, it got so cold and windy, especially while we were up on top of the overlook. 

    So be sure to bring several warm layers along, like a beanie and jacket, even if you go on an otherwise nice day. I promise you’ll be happy you did when a big ol’ gust of wind hits you in the face!
Couple standing in front of rock formations along the Old Man of Storr hike in the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Where to Stay for the Old Man of Storr Hike

Seeing the Old Man of Storr is one of the biggest bucket list items you can do in Scotland, but the surrounding area in the Isle of Skye is almost just as incredible. So if you decide to stick around for a day (or four) here, consider staying in the nearby town of Portree, like at:

  • Marmalade Hotel: The Marmalade is the best of both worlds, being housed in a historic building from 1817 but with an updated and modern interior. This hotel offers a staff that bends over backwards for you, incredibly comfy beds, and an onsite bar and restaurant that serves up a full Scottish breakfast every morning.
  • The Skye Inn: If I was going to recommend staying at one place in Portree, it would probably be the adorable Skye Inn, due to its cheery vibes and its focus on sustainability, such as limiting its use of one-time use plastics and renewable energy. There’s lots of little perks in this hotel, like cookies or chocolates included in the room and boxed lunches upon request if you plan on being out on adventures all day.
Colorful houses in Portree in the Isle of Skye in Scotland
  • Taransay House: This modern and funky guest house is the only accommodation in Portree that has been awarded five stars by Visit Scotland and it’s no wonder why—each unit offers beautiful mountain views; huge, comfy beds; and fluffy robes (which I am a sucker for). There’s too many perks here to list, but some of my favorites include complimentary breakfast and dinner from the fabulous onsite restaurant and complimentary snacks and local beer when you’re feeling a bit hungry. If you’re visiting Scotland on your honeymoon or just here for a romantic getaway, this is the perfect place to call home for a few nights!

I hope you love the Old Man of Storr as much as me—it’s seriously one of our favorite hikes we’ve ever done! Do you have any questions about this hike? Let me know in the comments below!

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