Hiking the Fairy Pools is one of the top things to do on the Isle of Skye. It’s a relatively easy hike in a wide open valley with the dramatic Cuillin mountains looming in the distance. The hike follows a section of the River Brittle, which has many waterfalls, many of which have a deep pool of water at the base of the waterfall. On a sunny day, these pools of water are a brilliant, crystal blue leading to them being called the “Fairy Pools”.
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As you stand at the trailhead ready to start the hike, you stare across a wide open river valley with massive mountains in the distance. It’s a beautiful sight and I just couldn’t shake the feeling I was about to go on a great journey into the mountains… funny, right? I wonder how many of you will feel the same…
As you begin the hike, it descends into the river valley, with a beautiful cascading waterfall on your left. The path crosses a few creeks along the way, which requires a little balance.
The first one is the hardest as it requires you to balance across some medium sized rocks – waterproof shoes with good grips are recommended. The second crossing is much easier due to some large, rectangular boulders which have been placed in the stream to act as easy stepping stones.
Don’t miss our post that includes everything you need to know about visiting the Isle of Skye with Kids!
Once the trail meets up with the River Brittle, the famous Fairy Pools begin to appear. The hike passes waterfall after waterfall as you slowly follow the river upstream.
If you are lucky to do the Fairy Pools walk on a sunny day, you can marvel at the “Fairy Pools”, which are brilliant, crystal blue pools at the base of the waterfalls. The day we hiked the Fairy Pools, it was cold, rainy and windy.
Some of the Fairy Pools are deep enough that you can swim in them, if you are brave enough! The water is cold enough that wet suits are recommended. There were hundreds of people on the trail the day we did the hike and not a single person was in the water.
The Fairy Pools is an easy walk and are fun to visit, making it one of the great Isle of Skye hikes to do with kids.
The Fairy Pools Hike Stats
Distance: The one-way distance from the Fairy Pools carpark to the furthest waterfall is 1.3 miles / 2km. Most people turn around here, but the trail continues past this point for many miles, if you have the time.
Elevation Gain: The hike loses about 130 feet / 40m of elevation right off the bat as you descend from the carpark into the valley. Once you reach the bottom, the trail gradually follows the river uphill and you will gain 330 feet / 100m of elevation.
Difficulty: We’d rate the Fairy Pools hike as ‘easy’. It’s short and sweet and the hill back up isn’t that difficult.
Duration: It took us about an hour to reach the furthest waterfall on the hike. This is a very typical pace for us walking with our kids (aged 3 & 6). Without kids, we could have done this distance in about half the time. This is a very picturesque hike with all the waterfalls, so your pace may vary depending on how many pictures you stop and take.
The Fairy Pools Location
How to Get There: The Fairy Pools car park is a 35 minute drive south of Portree. The final few miles of the drive to the trailhead is along a single lane road. There are a lot of little pullouts to allow cars to pass each other, but this is a very busy hike, so bring a lot of patience.
If you get there early, as we did, the one-way road didn’t have much opposing traffic. The trailhead is right across the highway from the car park.
The parking lot is huge and there is a fee to park. Attendants will collect the fee on the way in. They have a portable credit card machine if you need to pay by card.
The Fairy Pools Highlights
- Not surprisingly, the Fairy Pools are the star of the show here. It’s rare for a hike as easy as this to pack in so many waterfalls with such little effort.
- People rave about the color of the water on a sunny day, but given the typical weather in Scotland, most of us won’t have a sunny day to see the colors. Don’t worry, we did the hike on a dreary, cloudy day and we still thought it was fun and beautiful, even without the brilliant blue colors.
- The majestic Cuillin mountains provide a stunning backdrop to this hike, especially the pointy Bruach na Frithe, which the trail is always towards. (If you keep going past the Fairy Pools, you will indeed end up at the base of this mountain).
Hiking The Fairy Pools with Kids
- There are no bathrooms in the parking lot, but there are a few trees you can duck behind and we recommend you do if required. There are no trees on the trail and there is nothing but the sound of running water all around. This is a very popular hike, so there won’t be any breaks in the people allowing even a brief moments privacy.
- There are no water stations either, so be sure to fill your hydration packs before leaving home.
- The trail surface on this hike is mostly gravel with a few rocks sticking out. As mentioned the trail crosses a few streams and the trail can get quite muddy in spots, so we recommend wearing waterproof hiking shoes (including for kids).
- As always, be prepared for all kinds of weather in Scotland; wear clothing in layers, bring lots of water, sunscreen, rain gear, and something to repel the midges.
- This trail is not stroller accessible, but we saw several parents carrying their little ones on their backs in a carrier.
- Dogs are allowed on the Fairy Pools Hike.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
There are many large rocks next to the trail which make nice places to stop for a break. To get to a rock a little off the trail, you may have to walk through muddy grass, so again, make sure you have waterproof shoes on.
- There are a few short sections of trail where there are steep drop-offs. The trail is wide enough to be able to keep your kids away easy enough.
- The water runs quite swiftly. Help little ones cross the creeks and make sure they don’t get too close to the water.
What to Bring for Isle of Skye Hiking
- Hydration packs
- Rain jackets for mom, dad and kids
- Sunscreen & Midge repellent or this 2 in 1
- Warm underlayer for boys or girls
Other Isle of Skye Hikes
- See more incredible views hiking the Old Man of Storr trail.
- Escape the crowds on the Isle of Skye hiking to Brother’s Point.
- And the one you won’t want to miss, enjoy all the stunning scenery while hiking the Quiraing.