Scotland's magical Fairy Pools can be found on the Isle of Skye near Glenbrittle. The iconic natural formations, which sit at the foot of the Black Cuillins mountains, are crystal-clear blue pools on the River Brittle that are best experienced as part of a walking route. While the pools feel like something out a fantasy novel, they're really a series of waterfalls with no mythical backstory or specific legend attached to them.
The pools have become increasingly popular over the past few years, especially with the growth of Instagram, and many travelers stop by the site to grab a few impressive photos during a visit to the Isle of Skye. The pools are a great addition to any Isle of Skye itinerary, but can also be experienced via a day trip from Inverness. Travelers exploring Skye on their own will need a rental car or camper van to access the Fairy Pools.
What To See And Do
Get up close to the Fairy Pools via a walking trail, which winds through the foothills of the Black Cuillins and stops at several small waterfalls that spill out into otherworldly blue pools. It's about 1.5 miles to and from the first pool when leaving the nearby parking lot, and the other pools can be accessed by continuing upriver from the first pool. Most visitors hike along the trail, snap a few photos, and then return to the parking lot, but you can also explore the area off-trail or even take the risk of leaping into the perpetually-cold water for a swim.
Swimming is allowed anywhere in the river, and some more adventurous visitors may even dare to leap off the waterfalls themselves. Swimming is best done during the summer when the weather is warmer, but feel free to test your nerve any time of year.
For a lengthier hike, head past the Fairy Pools towards Sgurr an Fheadain and the Waterpipe Gully. There is a small uphill path that stretches about five miles, looping back to Glen Brittle with great views of Macleod's Tables on the way down. There are also numerous other hikes in the area, so grab a map before you head out if you're looking for a day trek that passes the pools but also gives you more of a workout.
How To Get There
International visitors can arrive in Isle of Skye by renting a car in either Inverness or Glasgow and then driving several hours to the vast island. The Fairy Pools are located on the western part of Skye, and Carbost is the closest village. There is a parking lot about five miles from Carbost where travelers should park before heading to the pools. Parking costs 5 pounds per car. From the parking lot, follow the gravel path to the Fairy Pools, which are about 20 minutes walking distance from the parking lot. The route can be steep and muddy, and it crosses the river at a few different points, so be sure to use caution when trekking towards the pools. The walk is best for those who are relatively fit, but it's accessible for older kids and teens as well.
Several tour companies in Inverness offer day trips to the Isle of Skye that include the Fairy Pools. These can be a good option for travelers who want an overview of the area without having to drive or navigate narrow roads, or who just want to take in the general vibe of Skye without staying on the island. Tours from Inverness typically also include stops at the Quiraing, the town of Portree, Eilean Donan Castle, and Loch Ness, which is located between Inverness and the Isle of Skye. Look for companies like WOW Scotland Tours or Tour Skye to make the most of a day trip.
Tips For Visiting
- Visiting the Fairy Pools is possible year-round, but consider the current weather conditions when planning to hike in. Be sure to wear sturdy, waterproof shoes, especially when it's raining or muddy, and bring along a rain jacket or poncho. When the weather is particularly rainy, it can be challenging to cross the river, so be aware and go slowly.
- On busier days, the parking lot can be full, so plan to arrive earlier in the day if possible. When the lot is full, it's best to wait for a spot to open up as many visitors only stay for an hour or so at the pools. Consider visiting during the off-season and during on weekdays to avoid the crowds. Holiday weekends, especially during the summer, can be crowded.
- Wild swimming is allowed in the pools but jump into the cold waters at your own risk. There are no lifeguards or staff around, so only swim the pools if you are confident in your abilities (and you've brought along a towel).
- Toilets are located at the nearby Glenbrittle Campsite Cafe, which also serves coffee and snacks. Do not leave any litters or items behind when walking to the pools and use the trash cans at the cafe if you need to toss something.
- The Talisker distillery, one of three whiskey distilleries on the Isle of Skye, is located nearby to the pools in Carbost. It can be a great addition to a day out in the area, and visitors can tour the facility to learn about whiskey production and even taste some of the blends. Several different tours are available, and it's recommended to book in advance online to secure a specific time.