Nestled beneath the motherly shape of Ben na Calliach (the hill of the old woman) lies the central village of Broadford. The name bears an interesting reflection on the political history of the island. Broadford originally came from the Old Norse Breiðafjorðr meaning ‘wide bay’ but has been retrospectively translated into Gaelic as An t-Àth Leathann, meaning the ‘broad river-ford’. The second largest settlement in Skye, this long meandering village historically consisted of the few buildings on either side of the Broadford River, but the many small townships around the wide sweep of the bay have grown together and Broadford now stretches for a mile and a half around the bay.
Although some parts of Broadford may be more municipal than pretty, over the bay to Scalpay, Paabay and Torridon is unequivocally delightful. Threaded along the main road are a selection of craft shops and artists’ studios. The old pier, next to the Dunollie hotel is a bit like Broadford’s equivalent to the rive gauche and boasts several off-beat shops and a wool spinner. More practically, Broadford is home to Skye’s main hospital, a large supermarket, filling station, post office and bank and it is well served by public transport in all directions.
There is plenty of good quality accommodation for those who choose to use Broadford as a ‘base camp’, ranging from actual camping or Youth Hostelling to ‘glamping’, self catering, B&B or hotels. Even those staying elsewhere will find lots to do here. For nights out and meals Broadford is a good choice and ‘choice’ is the key word. Aside from Portree, no other village in Skye can offer such a variety of hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafes and takeaways. Many of these eateries make a point of using local seafood, venison or other ingredients and the overall quality is high.
Boat trips operating out of Kyle and Kyleakin offer pick-ups at either of Broadford’s two peirs and fishing is always a possibility too. Adventurous visitors can hire bicycles, take kayaking lessons or go on a sea plane trip. There are also many well maintained and easy walks in the area. The soft rocks of the bay hold a wealth of Jurassic fossils easy identified by amateur collectors and the Ranger service organise activities throughout the summer. If the weather is on your side and the tides are right the beach at Ashaig is a favourite picnic spot.