Day out: Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye
Prepare for an encounter with the near supernatural at Fairy Pools, ringed by the Cuillin Hills on Scotland's dramatic Isle of Skye
Eilean a’ Cheó – Island of the Mist – or Skye, is the Inner Hebrides’ most dramatic island. Here, an aura of primeval majesty reigns, a force strongest at the mountainous heart of the island where even compasses swoon under the magnetic rocks.
Ethereal beings would not seem out of place on Skye’s jagged ridges, pinnacles and cliffs. And it’s easy to imagine fairies inhabiting the vibrant turquoise pools near Glen Brittle, at the foot of the Black Cuillin mountains.
Find out more about the myth and legend of Fairy Pools, as well as how to get there, walking trails and swimming.
Mythology and legend of Fairy Pools
The crystal-clear, water-carved Fairy Pools are fed – and ceaselessly enlarged – by a string of small waterfalls on a burn that drains one of the Cuillin’s vast ice-flattened corries. Britain’s finest and most formidable mountain scenery forms a backdrop to the pools, where the Black Cuillin ridge extends serpent-like for some seven miles.
The legend goes that a local Clan MacLeod chief of old married a fairy princess, giving rise to many fairy place names on the Isle of Skye. It is also said that Fairy Pools attracted selkies. These mythological creatures, disguised as large seals during the day, would come to the beach at the foot of Glen Brittle where they would shed their skins and change into human form for the night, to bathe in the pools under the light of a full moon.
Visiting Fairy Pools
To visit Fairy Pools, assuming you are not coming ashore as a selkie, make your way along the enchanting single-track road that runs down Glen Brittle, east of Carbost. From the Glumagan Na Sithichean car park, follow the path on the opposite side of the road towards the burn, known as Allt Coir’ a’ Mhadaidh. Ignore an early fork to the left and continue strenuously uphill on the footpath as it runs alongside the lively burn for 1.5 miles (2.4km).
A dip in Fairy Pools is extremely refreshing, if a bit chilly, even in the summer months. To attempt a submersion in winter requires considerable bravery, or foolishness. On a sunny day, the pools’ bright greens and blues are at their very best, lit up to create a magical realm. An underwater arch graces one pool, while higher up, the pyramidal pinnacle of Sgùrr an Fheadain draws the eye.
After your enchanting day, The Old Inn at Carbost offers B&B or bunkhouse lodging, wholesome food and an open fire.
Fergal is an outdoors writer who loves exploring Scotland on foot and by bike.