Wild Swimming in the Fairy Pools, Skye

Wild Swimming in the Fairy Pools, Skye

Fed by magical waterfalls and tributaries tumbling down from the Cuillin Mountains, Skye’s spectacular fairy pools have to be seen to be believed. Found along the River Brittle in the west of Skye, they are shrouded in lore and have attracted admirers from far and wide for their otherworldly beauty. Tempting adventurers of all ages, they are a welcome prize at the end of a gorgeous walk and make for a divine spot to while away the hours in the sunshine.

If you are planning a dreamy escape to the Isle of Skye, then a trip to the island’s magical fairy pools near Carbost village is the perfect addition to your wanderlist. Here’s all you need to know.

The Legend of the Pools

A view of the Isle of Skye's enchanting Fairy Pools

Featuring heavily throughout Scottish mythology, fairies (or fae) are deeply connected to nature. Sometimes friend, sometimes foe, they are often depicted as guardians of woods, waterways and the sea and come in various forms. Intertwining history and lore, Clan Macleod is a Scottish clan with a deep-rooted history in Skye going back hundreds of years. Associated with a time-old love story, legend has it that a chief of the Clan Macleod once married a fairy princess, a “bean sidhe”, which is another reason why so many places in Skye, including the incredible Fairy Glen, are associated with the fae. Whether it be fact or fiction, it’s not hard to let the fairytale-esque scenery of Skye transport your mind and evoke whimsical tales of Scottish clans, faes, selkies and spirits as you immerse yourself in the island’s wild beauty.  

Access and Parking

One of the natural fairy pools along the River Brittle in Skye

The Isle of Skye’s fairy pools near Carbost on the Minginish Peninsula offer the perfect dose of accessible wilderness. To get there, follow the mountain roads of Skye and park in the Forestry Commission fairy pools car park between Glenbrittle and Carbost, signposted Glumagan Na Sithichean. Set along a single-track road just over five miles from Carbost and twenty miles from Portree, it is relatively easy to find; however, it’s best to arrive early in summer to secure a good spot.

The Walk to the Pools

The walk along the Glenbrittle trail towards the Isle of Skye's Fairy Pools

The natural pools and plunging waterfalls of the River Brittle radiate a wonderful sense of wilderness, yet despite their peaceful seclusion, are reasonably easy to reach. From Glumagan Na Sithichean car park, set off on foot to arrive at the first of the fairy pools (a mile and a half walk there and back) and enjoy one of the best walks in Skye, wandering in the lee of the awe-inspiring Black Cuillins.

Underfoot, a well-kept gravel track meanders alongside the river and wends its way upstream. With rolling countryside swathed in peaty grassland punctuated by heather on either side, it’s a blissful walk that you can take at your leisure. Open year-round, the rolling path and stunning aesthetics lend themselves to discovery throughout the seasons; that said, good footwear is needed to comfortably manage the river crossings and sometimes slippery terrain.

Beyond the first waterfall, which boasts the highest fall and deepest pool, you can explore further along the river to find a collection of smaller, equally beautiful, pools. Turn around to head back to the car or keep going to extend the walk and relish the incredible landscapes. For more of a challenge, there is also a wonderful five mile circular walk that leads hikers past the fairy pools and towards the mountains, past the striking face of Sgùrr an Fheadain - a rock climbing pinnacle graded ‘very severe’.

Things to See and Do

One of the magical fairy pools near Carbost on the Isle of Skye

Tempting the brave, Glenbrittle’s mountain pools are a tempting proposition for invigorating freshwater swims. Filled with crystalline waters that have descended from the mountains, they rarely feel warm, yet offer sheltered, shallow conditions that are hard to resist. If you are brave enough to take the icy plunge, bundle up a swimming costume or wetsuit and a cosy, fluffy towel and pop them in your bag. Before you get in, take time to let your body adjust to the temperature and carefully lower into the rejuvenating mountain waters for an exhilarating swim as eagles soar overhead.

Post-swim or post-walk, there’s no better way to warm up and refresh than with an alfresco repast. Wonderfully remote, there are no facilities or amenities en route, so make sure to take supplies (along with a dram of one of Skye’s famous whiskies) with you to enjoy a serene riverside picnic at the foot of the mountains. Upon your return, take a detour to one of the best beaches in Skye to continue your exploration of the island, or reward yourself with a wholesome meal in one of the best restaurants on Skye

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Skye here.


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