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, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year.
Visitors can take a walk along the river, stop for a picnic, or even swim in the fairy pools if they’re brave enough to face the cold water. The walk to the pools is quite straightforward with well-maintained paths, though it can be a wee bit muddy after rain.
Isle of Skye,
|Paid car park opposite the path leading to the pools. Free parking spaces further up the road.
|Toilets in the car park
The Fairy Pools are a natural wonder on Scotland’s Isle of Skye. They’re renowned for their crystal-clear blue waters, cascading over a series of waterfalls against the backdrop of the majestic Black Cuillin mountains. This enchanting spot offers captivating views, making it a must-see for nature enthusiasts and sightseers alike.
If you visit the Isle of Skye, you have to visit the Fairy Pools, the beautifully clear crystal-blue pools of water that lie at the foot of the Black Cuillins. 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 mountains that lie behind it.
The complete return walk to the first pool is only around 1.5 miles, but there’s a bit of a scramble across stepping stones in places, so anyone with mobility problems might find it difficult to complete.
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 located 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 (usually a LOT).
As you approach the glen, you should see a sign pointing to a Forestry Commission car park where 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 very busy at times, with tour coaches lining the road in both directions, so I recommend getting there early.
1: The walk to the pools is short but very enjoyable thanks to the scenic views across the glen. It’s possible to extend the route past the pools by continuing into the Black Cuillin mountains. For more information, see the Walk Highlands website.
2: The pools totally live up to the hype when the sun is out, as the colours are beautiful. Just bear in mind that if you visit on a grey day, the pools will be much less scenic.
3: The path that connects the fairy pools to Sligachan is a feature that visitors frequently overlook. I 100% recommend attempting this route as it crosses one of the nicest parts of Skye. The trail begins at the first waterfall closest to the car park.
1: Like most of Skye, this attraction gets very busy in the tourist season, so I recommend visiting in the off-peak months (May–June, September–October).
2: The walk to the Fairy Pools can be quite rugged and wet, especially if it has rained recently. Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots (link to boot reviews) are highly recommended.
The walk to the pools is fairly easy at the start as the footpath comprises a well-maintained gravel section. However, later on, you’ll find yourself having to hop over several places that cross the River Brittle, where the ‘bridge’ has been made out of rocks placed at key locations.
The downside to this is that the rocks can get very slippery, especially if it has been raining, so unless you want to spend the afternoon walking around with wet socks, I recommend taking great care when crossing.
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. At this point, you’ll be able to stop and soak up the views of Glen Brittle and the River Brittle, with the backdrop of the mountains providing a truly magical setting.
The water flowing over the hard basalt and softer limestone rocks over many thousands of years naturally eroded the rocks to form the pools. Over time, this erosion created the cascades and beautifully crystal-clear pools that we see today.
The Fairy Pools are particularly attractive on a sunny day and there are usually a few brave people swimming in them, especially in the first pool where you can jump in from the waterfall above. The second pool is also good for swimming as there’s a natural underwater arch that you can swim through, while the rest of the pools are much shallower and less suitable for swimming.
It won’t take long to see the pools, maybe one hour, so afterwards you might consider following either of the footpaths that lead into the Cuillins or to Sligachan.
If you decide to head into the Black Cuillins, be aware that the mountains become treacherous the higher you climb. You’ll need good-quality, warm, waterproof clothing and sturdy boots, as the Cuillin Ridge is a strenuous climb with steep ascents, descents, and lots of scrambling.
Things to Do
Swimming in the Fairy Pools: The crystal-clear pools of water on the River Brittle provide a chilly, but invigorating swimming experience that you won’t forget. Just remember to take care on the rocks as they’re a wee bit slippery and it’s easy to take a tumble (don’t ask me how I know that…).
Hiking around Glen Brittle: The Fairy Pools are located at the base of the Black Cuillins near Glen Brittle, in an area that offers several picturesque hiking trails such as the route to Sligachan. The heather-covered moorland and the views of the Cuillin Mountains make the trek a truly memorable experience.
Photography at the Pools: The Fairy Pools are a photographer’s paradise. The vivid colours of the pools, coupled with the dramatic backdrop of the Cuillins, make for absolutely breathtaking photos. For the best shots, try to wait for a sunny day as that’s when the water takes on its famous deep blue hue.
Wildlife Watching: Keep your eyes open for the wide variety of wildlife that lives in the area around the Fairy Pools, including golden eagles and red deer. If you’re thinking of hiking in the area afterwards, taking a pair of binoculars is highly recommended. Click here to read binocular reviews.
Picnic beside the pools: After exploring the Fairy Pools, perch yourself on one of the big rocks next to them and unpack a picnic. Just ensure to take your litter with you as there are no bins at the pools, though there are some in the car park.
Things to Do Nearby
Sligachan. 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.
Bruach na Frithe. Isle of Skye IV47 8SW.
A mountain region on Skye that’s 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there toilets at the Fairy Pools?
The newly-renovated car park at the Fairy Pools has toilet facilities.
How long does it take to walk to Fairy Pools?
The distance from the car park to the first waterfall is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) on rough but fairly level paths which should take most visitors 20 to 30 minutes to walk.
Expect to spend 1.5 to 2 hours in total at the Fairy Pools.
Why are the Fairy Pools called Fairy Pools?
There is no historical record that associates the Fairy Pools with fairies, but a local legend says that a local chief of Clan MacLeod married a fairy, hence the pools are named after them.
It is more likely, however, that the pools were given the nickname due to their ethereal blue colours which are caused by the colour of the underlying bedrock.
Is it safe to swim in the Fairy Pools?
It is perfectly safe to swim in the Fairy pools, though visitors should note the water is cold year-round with an average temperature of 11 °C. The first waterfall is the highest and has the deepest pool of water.