By Craig Neil
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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.
Discover the Fairy Pools in this guide which includes an overview, visiting advice, and 360° photos.
Isle of Skye,
|Parking:||Paid car park opposite the path leading to the pools. Free parking spaces further up the road.|
|Facilities:||Toilets in the car park|
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 colour is simply astonishing. Just bear in mind if you visit on a grey day it’s a completely different story.
3: One feature that’s often missed by tourists is the path that links the Fairy Pools to Sligachan. 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 it can get pretty busy so I recommend visiting in the off-peak season (May – June, September – October).
2: The car park has toilets so it’s worth paying extra to use it, but if you’d rather save a few quid you’ll find off-road parking spaces further up the road.
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.
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.
If you would like to join a tour of Scotland’s west coast islands take a look at this selection from Get Your Guide.
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.
However, 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 very 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 (link to my favourites).
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.
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 absolutely 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.
For an overview of Skye, read: The Complete Guide to The Isle of Skye.
Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:
Skye – Cuillin Hills – 411 Explorer.
South Skye & Cuillin Hills – 32 Landranger.
OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
Things to do nearby
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.
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.