The Fairy Pools are located at the foot of the Black Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye. These crystal-clear pools of water are one of the most-visited attractions on the island and many visitors wild swim in them, while others use them as a starting point for hikes into the surrounding mountains.
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Review of the Fairy Pools
If you visit the Isle of Skye then you have to visit the Fairy Pools, the beautifully clear crystal-blue pools of water that lie at the foot of the Black Cuillin hills.
These pools have become something of a mecca for nature-lovers and tourists from all over the world come to walk along the path that follows the River Brittle as it runs off from the imposing hills that sit hunched behind it.
The complete return walk to the first pool is only around 1.5 miles, although there’s a bit of a scramble across stepping-stones in places so anyone with mobility problems might find it a bit difficult, but those visitors that do make the journey will be well rewarded with one of the most interesting walks on the entire isle.
If you drive to the pools then simply head to the village of Carbost in the west of Skye and follow the signs to the Fairy Pools which are situated in Glen Brittle. The journey from Carbost to the pools should take no more than 15 minutes depending on how many tourists are heading in the same direction.
As you approach the glen you should see a sign pointing to a Forestry Commission car park from which you can park up and take the short walk out to the pools.
Be aware though that the pools are one of the top attractions on Skye so they can get phenomenally busy at times, with tour coaches lining the road for quite a distance in either direction so you’d be well advised to get there early.
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Things to do at the Fairy Pools
The walk towards the foot of the Black Cuillins is fairly easy at the beginning as there’s plenty of natural rock underfoot and there’s a well-maintained gravel section, but later on you’ll find yourself having to hop over several sections that cross the River Brittle, where the ‘bridge’ has been made out of rocks thoughtfully plonked down at key locations.
The downside to this is that the rocks can get a bit slippery, especially if it’s been raining, so unless you want to spend the afternoon walking around with wet socks I’d highly recommend donning a pair of waterproof boots.
You can’t really get lost on this short walk as it’s obvious where you have to go and there’ll probably be a hundred other tourists to follow as they make their way to the first waterfall, but please make sure you take the time to stop and take in the beautiful Glen Brittle along the way.
Everyone seems to be so focused on getting to the first pool that they miss the beautiful vista of the heather-filled glen and the absolutely massive bank of hills rolling away on either side, and there’s lots of birdlife to watch soaring above the forest if you bring your binoculars with you.
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The pools are situated along a stretch of river that slopes down at quite an angle away from the Black Cuillins, and at each pool there’s a waterfall of crystal-clear water plummeting into it.
Because the water is so clear it shines with the deepest blue/green colour you’ve ever seen (at least when the sun shines), and it really does look enticing.
In fact, I bet you’ll find a few hardy/crazy souls swimming in the pools when you get there, especially at the first pool you encounter as it’s deep enough that you can jump into it from the waterfall above, although even in summer the water is going to be abso-bloody freezing.
The second pool is also good for swimming as there’s a natural underwater arch that you can swim through and you’ll find several other smaller pools all the way along the route as you continue on towards the hills.
This path actually leads right into the Black Cuillins so you can continue on for quite a decent hike if you fancy it, or you can simply turn around for the 30-40 minute walk back to the forest car park.
One word of warning if you do decide to head into the Black Cuillins. These mountains are frequently described as the most difficult to climb in Scotland and they should not be attempted by anyone that is inexperienced. That being said, at the very least I would make sure you take an OS map with you so you don’t get lost. Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
Discover more Scottish islands with my Western Isles articles.
- The walk to the pools is lovely. There are fantastic views across the glen.
- The pools have an amazing blue colour that’s perfect for photos. Well, at least when the sun is shining…
- You can go swimming in them (if you’re brave enough).
- Like most of Skye it can get pretty busy so I recommend visiting in off-peak season (May – June, September – October).
- There’s a car park up the road but it’s always full of tourist coaches. Prepare to search for a parking space on the road-side.
- Other recommended outdoors attractions on Skye are the Quiraing and the Old Man of Storr.
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Things to do near the Fairy Pools
- Bruach na Frithe. Isle of Skye IV47 8SW. Mountain region on Skye that is one of the easiest to walk in the Black Cuillins, but it is still a difficult trek. Stunning views from the summit but part of the walk is quite treacherous. Note that due to the iron-rich rocks, compasses will not work correctly.
- Glen Brittle Waterfalls. Isle of Skye IV47 8TA. 5-minute drive. A waterfall in a picturesque landscape a few miles south of the Fairy pools. A stone and gravel track runs through Glen Brittle which allows access to the falls. Parking is available for around 8 cars at the start of the track where the single track road crosses the Allt a Choire Ghreadaidh burn.
- Sligachan Waterfalls. Isle of Skye IV47 8SW. 21-minute drive. Attractive waterfall on the Allt Dearg Mor river not far from the famous Sligachan Old Bridge. There is a well-used path from the Fairy Pools car park to the waterfall or visitors can take a much shorter walk from the A863 near the River Sligachan.
- Talisker Distillery. Carbost, Isle of Skye IV47 8SR. 13-minute drive. The oldest working whisky distillery on Skye. Talisker is a highly-rated single malt distilled on the banks of Loch Harport. The distillery offers guided tours as well as exclusive tasting experiences.
- Loch Brittle. Carbost, Isle of Skye IV47 8TA. 11-minute drive. A sea loch on the southwest coast of Skye. There is a sand beach that separates the loch from Glen Brittle. A footpath allows visitors to walk along the eastern shoreline of the loch while the western side offers a much more difficult path.
More places to visit in Scotland’s islands
- The Isle of Tiree: Complete Visitor GuideThe Isle of Tiree is the most westerly island of the Inner Hebrides and although small at only 20 square miles it has become increasingly popular with tourists thanks to its golden sandy beaches and shallow bays of crystal clear water.
- The Isle of Islay: Complete Visitor GuideThe Isle of Islay is one of the largest west-coast Scottish islands and has the nickname ‘The Queen of the Hebrides’ – a title that’s been passed down the generations for hundreds of years by the proud people who live there.
- The Old Man of Storr – Isle of Skye: Complete Visitor GuideLocated in Trotternish, around 6 miles north of the main town of Portree, The Storr is the remnant of an ancient landslide which resulted in a dramatic cliff-face backdrop with the ‘Old Man’ sitting in a prominent position on its own looking out across the stunning landscape of Loch Leathan and the Sound of Raasay.
- The Fairy Pools – Isle of Skye: Complete Visitor GuideIf you visit the Isle of Skye then you have to visit the Fairy Pools, the beautifully clear crystal-blue pools of water that lie at the foot of the Black Cuillin hills.