Travel Photography

Elephant Mountain (象山步道)

So you’re sitting at your computer, you’re planning a trip to Taiwan and you’re wondering what you’re going to do while you’re here. You type ‘T-a-i-p-e-i’ into Google and what comes up? My bet is that you’re going to get a collection of photos that look more or less the same as the photo above.

This shouldn’t surprise you. 

Taipei is a city with an endless amount of things to see and do - but its fair to say that the undisputed champion of the city’s tourist attractions is the Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail. This is why each and every day hundreds, if not thousands of photos are posted from the many popular photo spots on the trail.

You’re of course welcome to disagree with my assessment, but before you do, I recommend taking some time to hike the mountain and taking note of the amazing mixture of languages being spoken by all of the travelers on the trail. You’re not likely to have an even remotely similar experience anywhere else in Taiwan (at least not in such a high concentration) as you will on Elephant Mountain. 

Even though I’m not a big fan of crowds slowing me down when I’m hiking, I can appreciate the fact that the mountain has become so popular and has played a part in helping so many people from different areas of the world realize that Taiwan is a great place to visit.

It goes without saying that the popularity of the mountain does have its downsides - Namely that it doesn’t matter when you visit, you’re going to be hiking the trail with hundreds of other people. You’re also probably going to have to stand in line at the top to get your cool-looking tourist photo. You’re also going to have to arrive quite early to reserve a spot if you’re wanting to take ‘professional’ style shots of the sunset or the view at night.

If this kind of stuff worries you, never fear, there are quite a few other options for mountain trails in Taipei where you’re able to take beautiful cityscape photos. 

If you’re a short-term visitor though, I can’t recommend enough that you deal with the crowds, hike the mountain and enjoy the experience - I’ve hiked the mountain a hundred times over the years, and even though it has gotten progressively busier, it rarely disappoints. 

Before I start, I’d like to take a minute to explain why I’m writing about this mountain for the second time.

When I first started this blog, I honestly didn’t really have any idea about what direction it would take. I figured I would use it as an outlet to showcase my photography and the beauty of Taiwan, but never could have imagined that it would become such a popular travel resource for people wanting to learn more about Taiwan.

Now that I’m much more experienced with this whole blogging thing, when I look back at some of the articles I wrote when I first started, I feel a bit embarrassed - especially with those that attract a lot of traffic. My Elephant Mountain article in particular is one where I felt like I needed to provide an update and offer much more in-depth information to travelers. 

I hope this updated version helps travelers and answers any questions you may have about hiking this beautiful trail. 

The Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail

Benches designed in the shape of the Chinese characters for Elephant Mountain.

Most tourists seem to be unaware that the Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail (象山登山步道) is essentially just a small section of the much larger network of trails known either as the ‘Four Beasts trail’ (四獸山步道) or the Nangang Mountain Hiking Trail (南港山系). 

The 7km long network of trails also includes Tiger Mountain (虎山), Leopard Mountain (豹山), Lion Mountain (獅山), Thumb Mountain (拇指山), Nangang Mountain (南港山) and 9-5 Peak (九五峰) - all of which provide excellent views of the Taipei cityscape and takes several hours to complete.  

The Elephant Mountain portion of the trail however is just a short hike up a very well-developed set of stairs that should only take you anywhere between fifteen and twenty minutes. Don’t let this fool you though, I’ve seen people showing up in high-heels and their Sunday best thinking that it is going to be quick and easy. 

This mountain trail is steep and even an avid hiker like myself gets a pretty good workout every time I go.

You’re not going to need to wear hiking boots or bring a bunch of gear with you when you go. You’re just going to have to wear comfortable footwear and clothes that are suitable for a bit of exercise.

From the trailhead, you’re going to hike on a very steep incline that will quickly transport you well above the city to a height of about 183 meters (600 feet) above sea level. 

Elephant Mountain Trailhead

The trail is well-developed with a stone path, signage, benches for taking breaks, lights that guide your path at night, water fountains and surprisingly clean washroom facilities. This allows you to not only hike the trail during the day, but also at night without having to worry. 

While there are several cityscape viewing platforms along the way, the main attraction of the trail for most tourists is the area known as the ‘Six Giant Rocks’ (六巨石) near the peak of the mountain. The giant rocks are part of an open space near the peak where you’re going to enjoy the best selfie opportunities, but is also where you’re going to encounter the largest amount of traffic.

Having your photo taken at the rocks is probably the most important part of hiking the trail, so it shouldn’t surprise you that you may end up having to wait in line to get your chance to stand on the rock and take your photos. So if there is a line, its just something that you’re going to have to be patient about if you want to get a photo of yourself.

My advice would be to hike the mountain early in the morning which should save you some time as the mountain isn’t as busy then.

If you’re a solo traveller and are hiking the mountain alone, I recommend requesting a fellow traveller to help you take a photo while standing on the rock rather than simply taking a selfie. If on the other hand you have others traveling with you, you can take turns by having them stand on one of the giant rocks to the rear to take photos of you.

This way you’ll get a bit more perspective when you take your photo and you’ll also save you some time waiting in line if you work together.

Once you’ve finished getting photos at the Giant Rocks area, if you’re not too tired and would like to get some more photos, I recommend continuing your hike a bit further past the Giant Rocks where you’ll come across several other viewing platforms that provide excellent perspectives of the city.

If you hike further up past the rocks, you can choose to complete your hike by returning the way you came, or simply continuing along to Tiger Mountain where you’ll descend upon another MRT station. 

Personally, I prefer to exit through Tiger Mountain for a couple of different reasons - It is a short distance from Elephant Mountain’s final platform, it also allows me to experience another mountain peak, there is less traffic, and more importantly, its much easier on the knees.

How you leave though depends on you, if you missed some platforms on your way up, you’ll probably want to revisit them, so if thats the case you’ll probably just want to head back the way you came.  

Elephant Mountain Photo Spots

Night view of the Taipei cityscape from Elephant Mountain.

When it comes to taking photos of the Taipei cityscape, you’re spoiled for options on Elephant Mountain - There are at least five different vistas for taking photos that provide tourists with an elevated platform giving an even better perspective of the city. 

So when you’re visiting Elephant Mountain, you simply have to ask yourself: What kind of photos do I want to take?

Do you want to take epic travel photos/selfies? Do you want to take professional quality photos of the cityscape? Do you want to take photos of the sunset or the night view? Or are you hoping to get photos of the New Years fireworks? 

Once you’ve decided what you’d like to do, there are a few considerations that you’ll want to keep in mind: 

  1. If you’re hoping to take photos of yourself, you’re probably going to have to wait in line to get up on the giant rock. You should also bring a photo-taking pal who can take turns with you. 

  2. If you’re wanting to take professional quality photos of the cityscape, you’re going to need a camera, possibly a tripod and a spot on one of the platforms where you can set up. 

  3. If you’re hoping to take photos of the sunset, you’re going to have to arrive early, bring a camera and a tripod and wait. Spots on the platforms fill up quickly, so if you don’t want to miss out, you’ll have to arrive several hours early. 

  4. If you’re hoping to take photos of the New Years fireworks, you should probably prepare a tent and camp out for a few days in order to reserve your spot. You may think I’m exaggerating but some of the old guys in Taiwan will have their tripods chained up in spots on the platform several days before New Years and they take turns standing guard. 

Elephant Mountain Photography Platforms

There are a number of platforms and viewpoints located on the mountain where you’re able to take some pretty awesome photos, but even though the signage on the trail is surprisingly helpful, its not easy for tourists to plan their trip in advance with all the scattered information available online.

I’m embedding a map below that includes the location of all the popular photo locations and the routes you’ll take to get there as well as a short description of each of the stops below.

  • Photographers Platform (攝手平台)

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The trail to the ‘Six Giant Rocks’ can more or less be divided into two sections, the first part is a 5-10 minute walk up a very steep set of stairs and the second part is another 5 minute walk up an even steeper set of stairs. Fortunately the space between the two sections is a flat section of trail where you’ll be able to catch your breath and take a break. 

The first viewing platform, the ‘Photographers Platform (攝手平台) sits along this flat piece of land and is an elevated structure that allows hikers the opportunity to take photos of the cityscape. This platform is often full of people so if you want to take photos from here, you’re probably going to have to be patient to get a spot.

Personally I feel like it is a nice spot to stop for a selfie, but its not one of my preferred spots for setting up a tripod and taking photos. I think what this platform does well though is give hikers a pretty good taste of what they’re about to experience as they hike further up the mountain.

  • Fireworks Viewing Platform (煙火平台)

The amazing view of the under-appreciated Fireworks Viewing Platform.

Once you’ve passed the first platform, you have the choice of either hiking up the hill to the ‘Six Giant Rocks’ or continuing straight along the flat path. Most people are going to elect to continue up the hill to their preferred destination, but here is where I’ll let you in on a bit of a secret. If you continue straight along the path, you’re going to find one of the best photo spots on the mountain, the Fireworks Viewing Platform. 

Continuing straight along the flat section of the path you’re going to come upon a covered rest area with public restrooms. What most people don’t realize is that if you keep following the path behind the rest area, you’ll find another trail that will take you to a small platform that has probably one of the best views of the city.

The trail to the platform doesn’t show up on Google Maps, so I’ve drawn a line to it on the map. You’ll see signage along the trail pointing in its direction, but the way they’ve blocked the trail with the rest area confuses a lot of people. Trust me, its there and its awesome!

  • Six Giant Rocks (六巨石)

The view from the popular Six Giant Rocks

The ‘Six Giant Rocks’ area is essentially the main destination for all of the tourists hiking this trail. This is the area where you’re going to get your ‘epic’ Instagram travel photos and also where you’re also going to have to line up with a bunch of fellow travelers all wanting the exact same photo. 

The area is aptly named for the six giant rocks that people climb on to take photos - The first rock you’ll meet as you walk up the stairs, which is coincidentally the smallest of the bunch is the main attraction. People are going to be waiting in line to take turns climbing up to the top of the rock to take their Instagram shots. This is because even though the rock is small, it towers over the peak which provides a unique perspective that makes you seem almost as tall as Taipei 101.

The best way to take photos here is to take turns taking photos with a fellow traveller so if you’re traveling with friends or family, you’re in luck. If you’re traveling solo, you’re going to want to ask another person waiting in line to help you take some photos. Don’t be shy, everyone has come here for the same reason, so make some friends while you’re there.

The reason that you’ll want to have someone else help take your photos is due to the fact that if you simply take a selfie while standing on the rock, you’re not really going to get the full perspective of just how awesome this spot is. If you have someone else helping, they can stand on one of the larger rocks to the real and take wide-angle shots that are so much better.

  • Six Giant Rocks Platform (六巨石觀景台)

Once you’ve finished taking photos at the Six Giant Rocks, you can continue walking along the trail where you’ll very quickly be met with yet another platform for taking photos. The ‘Six Giant Rocks Platform’ is another beautifully constructed elevated platform situated on a cliff and offers some pretty good views of the city. 

The platform has benches, so people like to stop here to enjoy the view and rest a bit. Unfortunately this means that if the mountain is busy on the day that you’re visiting that you’re going to have to wait to get a spot to take photos. 

While I do enjoy taking photos from this location, I don’t think its the best place to set up a tripod to take photos. The reason for this is because when others are walking on the platform, it shakes a bit, so if you’re taking long-exposures, you’re going to have quite a bit of ruined shot. You can however sit your camera on the rail to take some nice photos during the day, especially if you want to take multiple-exposure HDR shots of the cityscape.

  • Chaoran Pavillon (超然亭)

The Chaoran Pavillon is one of the most popular spots for local photographers.

The final photo spot tends to be the most popular one with local photographers, especially with those wanting to take photos of the cityscape at sunset. From the Six Giant Rocks area, it shouldn’t take you any longer than ten minutes to arrive at the pavilion, which thankfully doesn’t require you to walk up any more steep hills. 

While walking along the path you’ll come across a fork in the road with signage pointing that indicates the trail to Thumb Mountain (拇指山) is to the right and to the left you’ll find the pavilion. From there you’ll only have to walk for a minute or two before you arrive. 

The view from the pavilion is beautiful, but spaces fill up quickly, especially before sunset, so if you’re wanting to set up a tripod to take some cityscape photos, or night shots, you’ll probably want to arrive quite early to make sure you get a spot. 

Getting There 

In the past, hikers would have to walk from Xinyi District toward the mountain and (if they were anything like me) would invariably get lost or have to ask directions. All of those problems have been solved thanks to the addition of an MRT station near the trailhead. You can of course still walk to the mountain from the Xinyi area, but the easiest way to get there is by taking the Red Line (紅線) to Xiangshan Station (象山捷運站) and from there walking the short distance to the trailhead.

Something you’ll want to keep in mind is that not all trains go to Xiangshan Station as quite a few end their service at Da’an Station (大安站). Before getting on the train, make sure that it is one that goes all the way to Xiangshan, which is currently the terminal station for the red line.

Once you’ve reached the MRT station, take Exit 2 and walk through Xiangshan Park (象山公園) until you reach the end of the road. From there you’ll see signs directing you to turn left. When you’ve reached the top of the hill you’ll turn right and within a minute or two will arrive at the trailhead which is next to a temple.

If you want to grab some water or a snack before your hike, you’ll find a 7-11 and a Family Mart a short distance away from the park. Before you turn left to walk up the hill, turn right and walk down Xinyi Road to get to the convenience stores.

If you find yourself in the Xinyi (信義) area, you could also just as easily hop on a Youbike, ride to Xiangshan Park and then follow the directions above. 

Likewise, Xiangshan Station is serviced by buses 20, 32, 33, 37, 46, 88, 207, 612 and Red 10. 

If you want to take a bus and need info on bus stops or real time info, check the Taipei eBus website for more information. You may also want to download the “台北等公車” smart phone app which uses GPS to let you map your route more easily.  

While you’re in Taipei, there is certainly a lot for you to see and do, I’d suggest though that Elephant Mountain should be at the top of your list - Not only does it have arguably the best views in the city, it is also a quick and easy hike and is extremely accessible. You can also get some pretty epic travel photos while you’re there and best of all - its completely free. If you’re visiting Taipei and you’re not planning to visit the mountain, you’re certainly missing out on a great experience.


Postcards from the Isle of Skye

After a tiring two-week long trip to Iceland, we arrived in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh for the second leg of our Europe trip.

As we boarded the airport shuttle bus to the city I could hardly contain my excitement - It would be my first time to visit the country (as an adult) and would include stops in Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Highlands and the Isle of Skye. 

Admittedly I was also excited to be able to take a break from sitting in a car as the previous two weeks spent driving around Iceland were exhausting.

I figured I planned the trip quite well, we’d spend a few days exploring the capital, then we’d board a train to Glasgow and spend a few days there before once again picking up a rental car and driving around the beautiful Loch Lomond into the Highlands and ultimately ending up in the Isle of Skye where we’d spend a week. 

The Isle of Skye, was once one of Scotland’s best kept secrets but has in recent years become one of the country’s top tourist attractions. Every year, especially during the summer months, the island braces itself for the throngs of tourists who come to experience Skye’s breathtaking landscapes, rugged mountains, medieval castles and quaint seaside villages. 

The largest of the Inner Hebrides, a collection of islands just off the coast of the Scottish mainland, Skye has a total land area of 1,656 square kilometres and is home to just over ten thousand people with a population density of about six people per square kilometre. Taking into consideration that here in Taiwan the population density is on average around 650 people per kilometre, it was quite relaxing to drive around a place where there are more sheep than there are people! 

In my excitement to visit Skye, I did lots of research about where to visit, what to do and what to eat while hanging out on the island - One night however while watching Youtube I came across a news story that talked about how tourism was actually having a negative impact on the environment as well as the people who live on the island.

The main problem it seemed was that Skye is small and there aren’t enough hotel rooms available on the island to provide space for the amount of tourists visiting. This has led to many homeowners opening up their spare bedrooms and offering them to tourists on sites like AirBnB and has in turn caused rents and real estate prices on the island to skyrocket forcing many of the young people who grew up on Skye to move elsewhere.

With an estimated 500,000 visitors each year, the tourism industry on Skye has become unsustainable and local authorities are desperate to find solutions for a long-term tourism strategy that will improve the situation for everyone.

The lack of sustainability of the tourism industry and the detrimental effect it is having on Skye has led to several major travel publications, including CNN Travel and the BBC releasing articles that suggest tourists avoid the island altogether. 

Link: Skye islanders call for help with overcrowding after tourism surge (Guardian)

LInk: Tourism experts look to solve overcrowding crisis on Skye (The Scotland Herald) 

Knowing this, the enthusiasm I had for my trip to the island became somewhat subdued but having already booked accommodations at an AirBnB in Portree and renting a car in Glasgow, it was already too late to cancel my plans, which meant that our time on the island would be adding to the issues faced by the people of Skye. 

Being conscious of this, I decided to come up with my own solutions to be a responsible tourist, who would be able to enjoy the island like everyone else, but also contribute to the local economy and ensure that my trip wouldn’t be leaving a negative footprint on the beautiful island.

There are a lot of simple things every visitor can keep in mind to act responsibly while visiting Skye including supporting the local economy, buying local, taking local tours, making use of public transportation, visiting outside of peak times and taking your trash with you. 

Link: How to avoid Isle of Skye Tourism Problems (Wow Scotland) 

The Isle of Skye remains an amazingly beautiful place to visit and if you are thinking about travelling there, you should definitely make the most your opportunity to visit. It is important though that you take into consideration the issues faced by the locals and do your best to ensure that you enjoy the island as a responsible traveller.

Fortunately the time I visited wasn’t during the peak travelling season and I didn’t have to endure the traffic jams which have become quite infamous. It was also quite easy for us to support local businesses by eating at local restaurants and buying fresh local produce at roadside crofts without having to make reservations or stand in line for too long.

In the end, as we drove over the Skye Bridge back to the mainland, I was content with my trip to the island and it was a positive experience that I will always remember. The island is beautiful and the people are wonderful. It is definitely a trip that I would recommend to others but I do hope that the tourism industry on the island can sort itself out and in the meantime that the tourists who visit can practice responsible tourism by not contributing to the destruction of the environment. 

I may at some point dedicate a blog to each of Skye’s major tourist destinations in the same way that I wrote about the Quiraing, but the purpose of this blog post is just to offer up some snapshots that highlight the places I visited and simply provide a brief introduction. I was fortunate to be able to commit a bit more time to the island than most tourists, so you may notice a few locations below that aren’t exactly high on the list of tourist destinations, but are still really cool places to visit nevertheless. 


Old Man of Storr

The “Old Man of Storr” or just “Storr” is a short hike that has become one of the most popular destinations on the island as the so-called “old man”, a rocky crag, has in recent years become an image that symbolizes Scotland.

Situated on a rocky hill on the Trotternish peninsula, this short hike is likely where you’re going to encounter the most tourists on your Isle of Skye trip. The hike, which should take anywhere between an hour or two provides amazing picturesque views of the sea and the lakes below.

If you are visiting the Isle of Skye, this hike is probably going to be on the top of your list of places to visit. 

Unfortunately we had to do the hike on two separate occasions due to extreme changes in the weather on our first visit that turned our visibility from a clear day to almost 0% visibility with crazy amounts of fog rolling in from the sea.

Still, even if you have to do the hike more than once like we did, it is well worth your time and the pictures you’ll take will be one of the highlights of your trip!

Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls

Kilt Rock is situated along the northern coast of the island on the road between the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing.

When you stop here you’re rewarded with not only breathtaking ocean landscapes but a waterfall as well. 

From the parking lot, you’ll be guided to a platform where you’re able to view the rocky coastline in addition to Mealt Falls. The rocky cliffs known as “Kilt Rock”, which you view from a distance are said to appear strikingly similar to a Scottish kilt - I don’t have much of an imagination when it comes to rock formations, so I can’t confirm whether or not that’s true. 

Having just come from Iceland, the waterfall wasn’t really that impressive, but the falls, which flow over the cliffs and into the ocean are quite beautiful when combined with the rocky coastline.

Due to the angle of the platform and the cliffs however, its not easy to take photos of the falls but would be an ideal spot if you happened to bring a drone along with you.

One thing about this area I did enjoy however was the beauty of the landscape, which I think was comparable to the Qingshui Cliffs (清水斷崖), one of Taiwan’s most beautiful locations.

Even though I was a bit tired of waterfalls after a couple of weeks in Iceland, my girlfriend decided that after visiting the Quiraing that we’d stop by Kilt Rock for a second time to get nicer photos because we had better light. In the end I was quite happy that we did because the area looked much more beautiful on a day with better weather. 

The Quiraing

The Quiraing is arguably the top attraction on the Isle of Skye and is listed as one of the top hikes in all of Scotland - It also just so happens to be one of the more picturesque places in the entire country. 

If you haven’t already, I suggest checking out my dedicated post about the hike. 

Link: The Quiraing

To briefly explain though, the Quiraing is part of the Trotternish ridge, which encapsulates much of the northernmost portion of the Isle of Skye. The geography of the landscape is what makes the Quiraing so special with breathtaking scenery, jagged rock formations and mountainous lakes and valleys. 

The hike is actually quite an easy one, but the length really depends on how much time you’re willing to devote to it. For some, a short hike is enough, but for others, there is an entire circuit that will take you around and across the mountain. 

Whatever you decide you do, you’re sure to have a great time enjoying some of the best scenery this planet has to offer!  

Duntulm Castle

Why not include a little Urban Exploration in your trip to the Isle of Skye? 

Duntulm Castle, a ruined 14th-15th century castle sits quietly on top of a hill overlooking the sea on the north coast of Trotternish. The castle was once the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacDonald of Sleat and was a strategic location in their age-old war against the rival Clan McLeod. 

The castle was abandoned in 1732 with the clan moving to a new residence, Monkstadt House, which used much of Duntulm Castle’s stone for building material. Today the castle sits abandoned and ruined on top of a rocky cliff and is a popular grazing area for local flocks of sheep.

There actually isn’t that much to see when visiting this spot, but it is a great location for taking photos of the coastal landscape with a bunch of ambivalent sheep. We also enjoyed sitting near the beach enjoying the sound of the ocean with the view of the Western Isles in the distance.  

Dunvegan Castle 

Dunvegan Castle and Gardens on the western coast of Skye is the historic home of Clan MacLeod and is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island. The castle, which is a mixture of medieval and Victorian architecture is the Isle of Skye’s most well preserved castle and is home to many historic relics pertaining to the history of the island. 

The castle is open year round for tourists and the price of admission allows you to explore the interior of the castle as well as the beautifully maintained gardens. 

The interior of the castle was completely refurbished in the 19th Century and is probably not what you’re really expecting. The tour however is interesting and you can learn a lot about the history of the area and the history of the McLeod clan as well. 

The castle’s gardens on the other hand deserve your attention just as much as the castle as the groundskeepers have done an amazing job crafting and maintaining the area, especially with the multitude of plants, trees and flowers that are not native to Scotland’s climate. 

Coral Beach 

You likely weren’t expecting to find a tropical beach as far north as the Isle of Skye, but this coral beach, a short distance away from Dunvegan Castle is probably one of the prettiest beaches in the whole of Scotland. 

From the parking lot, you’ll have to walk for a short distance before arriving at the beach, but the short hike will be well worth your time as the white sand beach made up of broken coral is extremely picturesque, especially with the emerald green water. 

While this isn’t a popular stop for most tourists, the beach is well worth your time, especially since the walk takes you through an extremely quiet and peaceful coastal area. If I had of known how beautiful this place was going to be before going, I would have prepared a romantic picnic for my girlfriend!

Neist Point

Neist Point is the most westerly area on the Isle of Skye and is home to one of Scotland’s most famous lighthouses, the century-old Neist Point Lighthouse. The point is one of the Isle of Skye’s most famous attractions as it looks out towards the expansive Atlantic Ocean. 

Visiting the area requires a bit of a hike down a steep hill but also rewards visitors with stunning landscapes, coastal scenery and the historic lighthouse. The area is also a popular spot for birdwatching with several species of seabirds making their homes on the cliffs near the lighthouse. If you’re lucky you might also be able to see whales and dolphins feeding in the cove.  

Taking into consideration the popularity of the area, the roads that lead up to it are a major concern and is an area where Skye’s infamous traffic congestion becomes an issue. Not only is there a lack of signage pointing you in the direction of Neist Point, the roads are narrow and are often full of cars on both sides in addition to (what seems like) thousands of grazing sheep. You need to be really careful while driving and make sure that you yield to on-coming traffic.

Once you arrive however the parking lot is quite large, so you don’t need to worry too much about not being able to find a space. The area is also quite large, so you don’t need to worry about a bunch of annoying tourists ruining your photos! 

Dun Beag Broch

Dun Beag Broch is one of the places I listed as a possible location to stop, but to tell the truth I didn’t really know what it was. On our way back to Portree from Neist Point we decided to stop by to check it out and as we approached we got a little more confused. 

Was it a castle? Was it a fort? We had no idea. 

I opened up the dictionary app on my phone and searched the word ‘Broch’ and this is what I found: A circular stone tower built around the beginning of the Christian Era, having an inner and outer wall, found on the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, the Hebrides and the mainland of Scotland.

So basically it was an Iron-Age tower-like fort? 

No one knows for certain when the broch was constructed, but what historians do know is that this style of fort became common around 500 BC and it was continuously occupied well into the medieval period and as late as the 19th century. Several excavations have taken place to find out more about it and although exact dates of its origins are still a mystery, archaeologists have discovered coins dating back to the 12th Century.

Today the broch is in ruins but what was once (probably) a ten meter tower with several floors and thick stone walls has been partially excavated to show the passageways of the interior of the building. 

Although there isn’t much to see here, its pretty cool to be able to so freely walk up to a several thousand year old fort where people from the iron-age once lived. 

Eilean Donan Castle 

While not actually located on the Isle of Skye, Eilean Donan Castle, one of Scotland’s most picturesque castles is situated a short distance away from the Skye Bridge and is a must-stop location for anyone making their way to the island. 

The 13th Century castle which literally sits on the ‘Island of Donnán’ was the historic home of the Clan MacKenzie and their allies, the McRae’s. The castle has a long and interesting history and it is said to have been one of the locations that sheltered Robert the Bruce while he was on the run during the early years of his reign as King of Scotland. 

The castle was destroyed in the early eighteenth century due to the MacKenzie’s involvement in the Jacobite rebellions but would be rebuilt between 1919-1932 by a member of Clan McRae who converted it into a memorial for the members of the clan that perished during the First World War.

Fun fact: The memorial is inscribed with the poem “In Flanders Fields” which was penned by John McRae, who would coincidentally become one of the clan’s most well-known figures. 

Today the castle is one of the most photographed places in all of Scotland and has been featured in films ranging from the Highlander to James Bond and has even made an appearance in a Bollywood film! 

As one of Scotland’s most widely photographed locations, it is also a popular tourist attraction with tours of the castle taking place year round for the admission of about £10.00 per guest. If you can afford the hefty price and the long waiting list, you could also hold your wedding at the castle! 


As I’m sure you can see, there is quite a bit to do while travelling around the Isle of Skye - I’ve only really touched on part of what the island has to offer. There’s so much more that you can see and do while on Skye including visits to whisky distilleries, dining at one (or more) of the several Michelin starred restaurants, boat tours, camping, hiking etc. 

You should of course take into consideration the fact that the island has been inundated with tourists, but if you do your part, you can help become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

If you have the chance to visit, I hope you’re able to enjoy your adventure as much as we did!