Hiking to Skye’s Old Man of Storr

by Keith Savage · 19 comments

The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The Isle of Skye’s geology is some of the most violent and awe-inspiring in all of Scotland. The A87 snakes across the island beneath the glowering gaze of the Black Cuillin while lesser peaks lacerate the sky(!) from tip to tail. On the Trotternish Peninsula just north of Portree stands one of Skye‘s most sought-after natural monuments: The Old Man of Storr. The Storr is a rocky ridge whose eastern face is a labyrinth of craggy spires and pinnacles resulting from landslip, and the Old Man is the tallest and most distinctive of these spires.

A hike up to the Old Man was at the top of my list during my last trip to Skye, and I vowed to Sarah that we would do it whether or not the weather cooperated. As fate would have it, the weather did not cooperate. At all. For the entire week. So we tightened our bootstraps, pulled down our hoods, and set our chins as we began the ascent on a drizzly, overcast day.

The Old Man was plainly visible from the road as we drove north, and by the time we arrived at the trail head a long line of parked cars and buses outlined the road beneath the Tote Forest. Scotland is a paradise for hikers as they take such care with maintaining clear paths and providing excellent signage, and the Old Man of Storr was no exception. After reading a bit about the Old Man, we passed beneath a small shelter and started on the path through the woods. The Tote Forest is a magical place of glowing green trees, primordial darkness, and pure waters pouring forth from the heart of the island.

The trees held in chilly, damp air and this part of the ascent was muddy and treacherous. It took us a lot longer than anticipated to climb through the forest and exit about the tree line, but once we managed to escape the darkness we were presented with a fantasy landscape of majesty. The nerd in me cried out that it was the spitting image of the slopes of the Misty Mountains. Sarah nicely agreed in the face of my boyish enthusiasm.

Huge rocks extruded everywhere along the grassy slope leading up to the Old Man, who was now visible. The path changed, fraying in several directions like the end of a cut rope and mirroring gouges in the turf created by runoff. Scale and distance were all askew up here as the Old Man looks quite near but people ahead of us on the path were as tiny as ants.

After a good half hour of sweaty climbing up steep slopes and over rough patches of rocks waiting to twist an ankle, I turned around to survey our progress. Despite the overcast sky, I could clearly see the islands of South Rona and Raasay, and the mainland’s Applecross Peninsula beyond. A continuous line of pilgrims clambered over boulders below us as soft rain pattered on our hoods.

Getting close to the Old Man of Storr is one of those experiences that perfectly calibrates your place in the world. We were tiny, soft bodies flashing into and out of existence in comparison. We rested among the boulders, proud that we had climbed more than 2,000 feet, and considered continuing on the path that encircled the Old Man. Tired and wet yet buoyed by our accomplishment, we decided to descend instead.

The hike to Skye’s Old Man of Storr is the perfect day-trip from Portree. You can reach the trail head via public transportation, and you don’t need to be a hardcore hiker to attempt it. The landscape is alien and gorgeous, the views – even in suboptimal weather – are stunners, and the Old Man himself will put everything in perspective. Happy trails!

Hussain khanNo Gravatar March 10, 2015 at 4:07 PM

Hi Keith ,

I will be going to the isle of Skye in Easter i was wondering about the storr can u tell me if i can walk up there and do u know any places that i can go where i can see lots of Scottish birds and birds of prey

Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 10, 2015 at 4:23 PM

You can certainly hike up to the Old Man and beyond – that’s what this post is about! The best place to start looking for information about birding are the RSPBs around Scotland. Give that a google.

JacelynNo Gravatar September 8, 2014 at 2:00 PM

My husband and I just returned from our trip to Scotland and I’m so glad I read up on your recommendations for the Isle of Skye before we left! We made the Old Man of Storr a priority and it was spectacular. We were fully prepared for a cool, wet day but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was almost hot. Unfortunately, the forest has been clear cut but once you’re on the slopes of the mountain, the views are incredible.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 8, 2014 at 8:11 PM

It seems every trip I take to Skye I see loads of clear-cutting happening, but it’s still very disappointing to hear the little forest on the slope beneath the Old Man of Storr is now gone. It was a special place.

NinaNo Gravatar September 9, 2014 at 5:05 AM

I hiked up to the Storr too this August and the forest around the path is indeed gone. However, it was planted forest so either they will replant it or a more natural habitat will form so it’s not all bad 🙂 and as Jacelyn said, the views are spectacular.

StephanieNo Gravatar November 26, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Just the blog post I was hoping to find! My 11 year old son & I are doing a special mother-son trip to Scotland the last week of March 2014. We are staying near Neist Point, which appears to be on the other side of Skye, but the Old Man of Storr is a hike we will not miss. We are prepared for a rainy week but I am wondering if you would recommend hiking boots or wellies, considering all the potential mud? Was it cold? We ‘re from Wisconsin where wind chill can be negative, so I guess we’ll know how to layer up, but any packing advice for two outdoor adventurers for that time of year will be appreciated! Beautiful photos too, by the way!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 26, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Hi Stephanie,

Neist Point is awesome. Have you seen these posts:


I recommend hiking boots. Wellies take up so much room in luggage and I doubt you’ll truly need them. I am also from Wisconsin and live here now! The temperatures will not approach Wisconsin’s sub-zero winter temps – not even close, really – but the wind off the Atlantic is particularly brutal at Neist Point. The wind chill must have been around 35F when I was there in late May. I doubt it would get much colder than that, but the cold in Scotland feels colder than the temperature indicates because of the wind and dampness.

Have a great time!

NinaNo Gravatar October 19, 2013 at 8:45 AM

Hi Keith, I am planning on travelling to Scotland on my own, next Summer, and I really want to hike to the Old Man of Storr. I was wondering if it is a good idea to attempt this on my own. Best regards.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 19, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Hi Nina,

You can absolutely make the hike on your own. It’s a fairly busy route. Being so close to Portree, many visitors make the short trek here, so you won’t be alone. You can get up to the Old Man fairly quickly, though you can extend the hike along the ridge if you’re so inclined.

NinaNo Gravatar October 19, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Thank you for the quick reply!

JillianNo Gravatar July 26, 2013 at 11:09 AM

Hi Keith, We are headed to Skye for a weekend in August. How long round trip up to Old Man did it take you? We only have 2 days on Skye but this is high on my list. Would just like to know if we did it early in the day how much day we would have left. Thanks and great blog!!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 26, 2013 at 4:37 PM

Depends on where you’re based. It’s a super fast drive from Portree. The hike itself was probably a good 2.5 hours up and down at good pace and with some time spent at the top. Well worth it, even on a cloudy day.

Shanna SchultzNo Gravatar March 20, 2012 at 9:28 PM

To me, the Isle of Skye was exactly the picture that my mind’s eye had made of Scotland…rugged, green, craggy. I would love to have more time to hike here sometime. I think it is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 20, 2012 at 10:18 PM

How long did you have, and where did you go?

Hungary travelsNo Gravatar March 14, 2012 at 6:35 AM

Yet another breathtaking landscape from Scotland, as usual… 🙂 I am sure the Old Man of Storr makes a perfect trekking/hiking/walking place… love the fog!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 14, 2012 at 9:14 AM

I highly recommend this hike if you’re ever on Skye.

Mary frNo Gravatar March 13, 2012 at 7:50 AM

What a nice land :))

wandering educatorsNo Gravatar March 8, 2012 at 8:21 AM


KenNo Gravatar March 7, 2012 at 8:54 PM

Some great photos. I wish we hadn’t missed it when we visited Skye in 2009. It’s a must see for next time. It’s surely a beautiful island and like the rest of Scotland incredibly green.

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