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What to expect when visiting the Fairy Pools

Scotland is nothing without folklore and fairytales, and the Fairy Pools optimise both! Given their name due to the legend that a local Clan MacLeod chief married a fairy princess, they are one of the numerous fairy-related sites on the magical Isle of Skye. The “Fairy Pools” are one of the most iconic tourist attractions in not only Skye but the whole of Scotland. The Fairy Pools are a series of crystal clear plunge pools linked by cascading waterfalls at the foot of the Black Cullen Mountains.  These pools may look idyllic but beware of the harsh realities of visiting the Fairy Pools listed below.

1. The fairy pools are freezing

Even in the warmest summer months, Skye is no tropical paradise. In fact, it is barely even warm enough to go outside without a jacket. During the summer months you may be treated to temperatures of approximately 15 degrees, but more than likely it will be significantly colder and wet, very wet.

If the air temperature wasn’t bad enough, the bitterly cold Fairy Pool waters are positively frightful. The sudden hit of the cold water goes straight to your head and brain freeze takes over – and a sense of immediate regret.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as we are in Scotland after all. They take your breath away, not only because they are beautiful, but because you go into shock as soon as you are submerged.

Unlike jumping into a cold swimming pool, your body never adjusts to the temperature. Staying in the water trying to acclimatise is arguably quite foolish, you’re more likely to catch hypothermia!

If you have a wetsuit, we recommend putting it on, unless you are like us and will do anything for a cute Instagram photo! But it does beg the question, is it worth it?

2. There is a long walk to the fairy pools

The fairy pools are on a lot of people’s bucket lists, however, if you are not the most mobile they may not be a reality for you.

Firstly, it is a 20/30 minute walk from the car park. This walk is a steady incline the whole way and has a few areas that are a bit more demanding! For example, there are a couple of streams that can only be crossed by negotiating stepping stones. One of the crossings is slightly more ambiguous as you don’t know if the stones are wobbly underfoot. 

Don’t be deterred as it is not highly challenging, but it could present a challenge for people who are less mobile or with young children. This is particularly true when the ground is wet as it can be quite slippery and marshy.

When we went, it was not unusual to see people carrying buggies (strollers) over the stepping stones with small children. So if you are up for that… go for it! 

Unfortunately, this point is inevitable when visiting any natural landscape, and unsurprisingly one of the realities of visiting the Fairy Pools.

3. The Fairy Pools are crowded

Unfortunately, as more people discover the beauty of the Fairy Pools, more people will visit this stunning natural attraction. This is one of the unfortunate realities of not only the Fairy Pools but over-tourism in general. For this reason, we recommend visiting the fairy when the crowds will be at their smallest (or dare we say – when they won’t be crowded)!

If you want to “beat the crowds” then this means visiting the fairy pools either extremely early in the morning, or in the evening. Visiting in the morning (before 8 am) is easily the best option for the fewest crowds – and you may even catch a spectacular sunrise!

Next, we recommend visiting during Autumn (fall) or spring as these seasons see significantly fewer tourists than summer. Not only that but there will be a lot less pesky Scottish midges (pronounced: mid-gees)!

We went to the fairy pools at 5 pm on an extremely rainy day in October. Sadly and (somewhat) surprisingly, the weather wasn’t enough to deter other tourists. However, the weather was enough to prevent anyone else from braving the freezing water and jumping in.

4. There is NO easy way in

Before going to Skye we did our research on the Fairy Pools and were excited to jump in and swim in the magical waters. However, what we didn’t realise was that it would be so difficult!

Online there is an abundance of top-quality photos in front of one particular waterfall that we were eager to recreate. Recreating these images would be more of a challenge than we ever imagined…. and for our level of photography, frankly impossible!

Not only were they difficult to access but swimming against the power of the waterfalls proved quite tricky!

I am unsure whether we were just blind to finding an easy way into the pools or in fact there is no easy way to get down to them. We found ourselves scrambling down a muddy verge and carefully climbing up a series of small waterfalls. Perhaps, the rainy weather may have been the reason there was no easy entrance to the pools. There was squelchy mud everywhere making everything slippery.

Image of a girl climbing up a waterfall at the Fairy pools in the Isle of Skye

We wouldn’t recommend tackling the falls on your own!

Don’t let these harsh realities of visiting the Fairy Pools deter you from one of Scotland’s most stunning natural attractions. It is a fantastic experience for everyone, even if you don’t take the plunge. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for anyone visiting the Isle of Skye!

Would you jump in? Let us know in the comments below.

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For something a little different, but also a vision of natural beauty, why not check out the post below? It explores what there is to do and see when doing the NC500 – a scenic road trip around the north of Scotland.

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Here is a definitive list of what you can expect to come across when visiting the fairy pools. Are they as breathtaking as people say? Are they easy to access? Find out the answers to these questions and many more by clicking the link.


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