You often hear about the beauty of the Isle of Skye. It is true, but don't rush to get there!
The main road to the island, A87 Road, is also magnificent.
A87 Scotland takes you along the tortuous Loch Cluanie and through the narrow Glen Shiel before reaching Loch Duich and the Skye Bridge.
Below is my guide to help you plan the drive with map, tips and photos.
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Why drive the A87 Road to Skye Bridge?
The Isle of Skye is considered a must-visit when in Scotland, for very good reasons. It is a magnificent island with impressive mountains and lochs.
But what is the best way to get there?
Personally I prefer Road A87 along Loch Cluanie and through Glen Shiel rather than the ferry from Mallaig.
The scenery is once again breathtaking.
Below is a short video that will give you an idea of what driving on A87 looks like - one of the most scenic drives in Scotland!
More photos after the planning tips.
PLANNING TIPS & Map - Driving Road A87 Scotland
About Road A87 Scotland - Map
- The Isle of Skye can be reached by ferry from Mallaig (at the end of the Road to the Isles) or by car via the Road to Skye, a.k.a A87 Road
- A87 starts in Invergarry (from A82) and takes you all the way to the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh and continues on the Isle of Skye to Portree and Uig where you can catch ferries to the Outer Hebrides.
- Below is a map to help you get oriented around the A87 road up to the Skye Bridge:
- A87 is a road with one lane in each direction. It is in good condition.
- From A82 to the Skye Bridge, it takes 1 hour (37mi / 60km) if you don't stop. The grand scenery starts at Bun Lyone
- The main towns are Invergarry at the beginning, Shiel Bridge, roughly in the middle, and Kyle of Lochalsh near the bridge to the Isle of Skye
- One of the most famous stops is for the Five Sisters of Kintail in Glen Shiel
The best stops, with their GPS coordinates are included in both my Travel Guides eBooks that help you plan your Scotland road trip:
Accommodations along A87
- You can enjoy the beautiful Loch Cluanie at the Cluanie Inn - check out photos and availability
- Or stay at the West end of Glen Shiel in the town of Invershiel - See few accommodation options in the area
- Or decide to stay in Dornie, near Eilean Donan Castle - See accommodations options
- And at the end of A87 you reach Portree (and later Uig) - See the best rated accommodations in Portree
SECTION 1 - Loch Cluanie Scotland
About Loch Cluanie
- Loch Cluanie is a freshwater loch created by a dam built in 1957 as part of an extensive hydroelectric project.
- Niched in the Highlands, several hikes on Munros are available in the area.
- On the West side, you can find the settlement of Cluanie with an Inn and 2 holiday homes
Road A87 and Loch Cluanie viewpoints
Even if you don't have time to explore the area, Road A87 follows the North shore of the loch and offers some beautiful views.
It takes you all the way to the historical Loch Cluanie Inn (check out photos and availability)
Below are some photos along the drive
The shores of Loch Cluanie are very tortuous with islets and white rock 'peninsulas'.
Loch Cluanie viewpoint at the West end
At the west end of the loch, just before the Cluanie Inn, there is a stopping area where you can enjoy a wide view of the loch, looking towards the East.
SECTION 2 - Drive between Cluanie and Glen Shiel
The River Shiel takes it source in mountains Est of Loch Cluanie. So, Glen Shiel does not officially start right after Loch Cluanie.
This does not mean that the scenery is not interesting. On the contrary. It just keeps getting better and better. Wide at the beginning, the glen gets narrower and the views more impressive.
SECTION 3 - Glen Shiel and the Five Sisters of Kintail
Driving through Glen Shiel
Glen Shiel is one of the best valleys to drive in Scotland. The road follows along River Shiel stuck between towering mountains.
The area is green and never boring. The peaks all have very different shapes, and the canyon is like a snake displaying different layers of mountains.
Glen Shiel History
Glen Shiel is also famous for a battle which took place in 1719 during the Jacobite rebellion.
The most famous peaks in the area are Sgur Fhurean (Cold Peak - 3505ft - 1068m), The Saddle (3319ft - 1011m) and Sgur Na Sgine (3098ft - 944m).
Five Sisters of Kintail
One of the ridges is called the Five Sisters of Kintail. It is a series of peaks rising from 2729ft (832m) to 3505ft (1068m).
And the drive keeps delivering splendid views...
SECTION 4 - Loch Duich and Eilean Donan Castle
You leave Glen Shiel at the town of Shiel Bridge where Loch Duich starts. At its East end, you still have views of the famous Five Sisters of Kintail
Although it looks like an enclosed loch, Loch Duich is actually a sea loch.
This Loch is mostly famous because at its head was built the Eilean Donan Castle, on a small island where Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh meet.
Learn more on my article about Eilean Donan.
SECTION 5 - Loch Alsh and Skye Bridge
The last leg of Road A87 to the Isle of Skye takes you along Loch Alsh and to the Skye Bridge.
Loch Alph is of course a sea loch that runs for 12km (7.5 miles). Several carparks are available to admire the scenery of enjoy a picnic (although it can get very windy).
Before the only way to get to the Isle of Skye and admire the beauties of Quiraing, the Cuillin Mountains and the Old Man of Storr was to take a ferry from Mallaig or from Kyle of Lochalsh (right next to where the bridge is now).
Built in 1992, the Skye Bridge now gives easy access to this beautiful island covering the 500 meters of straight (1640ft). It connects Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin.
Following many protests, the bridge is toll free.
SECTION 6 - A87 on the Isle of Skye - Bridge to Portree
And then you discover the beautiful Isle of Skye!
Road A87 continues on the island all the way to Portree and further to Uig where you can take the ferries to the Outer Hebrides Islands.
Check out my article with the best things to do on the Isle of Skye (including a map).
The scenery of the drive will include more lochs and mountains such as Loch Ainort:
And you will end up seeing the Old Man of Storr in the distance before reaching Portree.
Want to see more wonderful Roads to drive in Scotland? Here are a few:
- A82 through the Valley of Glencoe - read article
- Glen Etive to reach Loch Etive - read article
- The Road around Loch Leven - read article
- The Old Military Road through Cairngorms - read article
- The road to the Isles from Fort William to Mallaig - read article
- The road to Skye - read article
- The road through Wester Ross - read article
Planning a trip to Scotland? Check out my travel guides to help you plan it:
And keep track of your own trip!
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