The Tricky Business of Sleeping on Skye

by Keith Savage · 4 comments

The Common Area/Breakfast Room at Larchside B&B Outside Portree, Isle of Skye

Scotland’s Isle of Skye is a difficult place to plan accommodations. It’s a deceptively large island with the only “major” settlement being Portree in the north. Google Maps seems to have trouble accurately estimating drive times on Skye, and there are loads of worthwhile stops around the island, from the Black Cuillins to Dunvegan Castle to the craft trail and the Old Man of Stoor. Do you base yourself in Portree or roll the dice somewhere further afield?

Invariably, all of my previous visits to Skye involved me speeding through the southern half of the island en route to my accommodation in Portree. Portree is a pretty, compact town with all the conveniences you would expect, but it also fills up quickly and you could be out of options if you’re trying to book less than two months in advance. Looking at a map of Skye, though, it just felt wrong to continue on with the same choice with each visit. Besides, it’s not a short drive from Portree to Dunvegan or Talisker distillery. I decided to change things up during my last trip to Skye.

Let me tell you about a couple of places Sarah and I picked to see if we could shed some light on this tricky business.

Larchside Bed & Breakfast

Just a 10-minute drive (45 min. walk) north of Portree, in the township of Achachork, stands pretty Larchside B&B. We followed the crushed rock driveway to the back door where we met Carol and Martin, relatively recent transplants to Skye from Oxfordshire. They provide two rooms in their house, which was very clean and smelled of fresh baking. They were already scoring high on the “homeyness” scale.

We hauled our bags up the stairs to the guest rooms and found our cozy room with a window looking toward Portree. All of the furnishings were tasteful and in excellent condition. The room was a bit small, though it held us and our things just fine. I think we noticed the size of the room only because the weather was atrocious during our stay and so we spent an inordinate amount of time inside.

Our room did not have an en-suite bathroom, but there was one immediately down the hall that was for our dedicated use. Since Larchside only has two guest rooms, the chances of being caught in the hall, perhaps in less than full dress, are slim.

The downstairs breakfast room/common area at Larchside was warm and welcoming. When the sun managed to shine, light poured in through glass doors that led outside. It didn’t hurt that Carol and Martin knew a thing or two about hearty breakfasts – I was far too slow to snap some pics before my plate was clean.

At £30/person/night, Larchside is actually on the affordable end of the spectrum for accommodation in Scotland (they even gave me a minor price break), but perhaps that’s because the location isn’t as convenient as staying in Portree town. Sarah and I drove whenever we needed to get somewhere.

Achalochan House

For the other part of our week on Skye, we chose to try a totally different location: the northwest. I figured we’d be close to both Dunvegan and Talisker but still close enough to Portree to visit its nice pubs and restaurants. In the tiny townlet of Ose we stayed at Achalochan House. Ose is a scattering of residential houses and a few B&Bs. In the midst of a downpour we managed to find the accommodation tucked off the main A863 and met Kenny, who was nearing the end of expansion and renovation of the house.

Achalochan House has two separate guest areas, and our room was accessible via an exterior staircase that led to a beautiful guest area laced with windows and the beginnings of kitchen facilities for guests.

Our room was just down the hall from the common area and filled with classy leather furniture and a low-slung bed. A chaise lay in the corner perpendicular to the bed that was super comfy for writing posts. The style was right up my alley. It might seem shocking to find such a luxurious interior in what seems, from the exterior, like just another house, but this kind of upscale B&B experience is becoming more common throughout Scotland.

This room did have an en-suite bathroom that continued the same aesthetic from the bedroom and guest area. There were some nice touches in here, like the mirror panels above the sink, but I banged my head on the slanted ceiling more than once.

A good breakfast was served in the other section of Achalochan House (perhaps the original area?) where there was another common room filled with books for guests.

The Verdict

I liked Larchside B&B and Achalochan House. They were both very comfortable, provided excellent service, and delicious breakfasts. One trended toward luxury (Achalochan House) while the other nailed the comfortable homey feeling (Larchside). Not to detract from these excellent accommodations, but there are amazing B&Bs and guest houses all over Scotland, perhaps Skye in particular since it’s such a hot spot for tourists. It comes down to location.

I felt very detached out in Ose. Dunvegan was the nearest town, but even that had very little in the way of conveniences. Larchside is on Portree’s doorstep, but you still need a vehicle to stay there. These forays into different parts of Skye have confirmed that staying in Portree town is the ideal situation. If you really want to get away from it all and immerse yourself in solitude, Skye has plenty of options, but for the average visitor I recommend booking in Portree, though I still haven’t given a fair shake to the southern half of the island. Maybe next time?

AyngelinaNo Gravatar February 12, 2012 at 11:17 AM

I’m surprised at how modern Achalochan House looks, I would definitely splurge on it.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 12, 2012 at 11:23 AM

It was super comfortable, which was nice considering how awful the weather was during my week on Skye.

GiuliaNo Gravatar February 8, 2012 at 12:32 PM

I stayed in a hostel when on Skye, and it was probably my first experience in a hostel:) It was in 2005!
I so want to go back to that place, it felt magic.
Thanks for sharing these tips about accommodation!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 8, 2012 at 2:01 PM

Hey Giulia, I bet I know where you stayed. Was it the Portree Independent Hostel, a big yellow building? Hope you manage to make it back to Skye soon!

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