Hidden in the hills of Uig, above the sweeping sides of Glen Conon, the enchanting geographical formations that form Balnaknock, the Fairy Glen (Bail nan cnoc in Gaelic, meaning village in the hills) has gained this special miniature landscape on Skye a reputation for being a place of myth and wonder.
The Fairy Glen
Described by some as a mini-Quiraing, this small and magical feature of the Island, dotted with gnarled rowan trees, was formed over 100,000 years ago by post-Glacier landslides, while years of erosion and the elements sculpted the Torridonian sandstone into unusual patterns of cone-shaped craggy hillocks, random boulders, tranquil lochans and even a basalt castle.
The Fairy Glen can be found just south of Uig along the 80km Trotternish loop in Skye’s far north east.
From Portree, take the A87 road towards Dunvegan. After approximately 9 miles, continue on the A87 towards Uig. After a further 7 miles, before the Uig Hotel on the right and Captain Fraser’s Tower on the left, take the road on the right signposted to Sheader and Bail nan cnoc. Follow the narrow winding road for 1.5 miles to the Fairy Glen car park.
From Uig harbour, take the A87 towards Portree for 2.9 miles. After the Uig Hotel on your left, turn left at the signpost towards Sheader and Bail nan cnoc. Follow the road for 1.5 miles to the Fairy Glen car park.
Bus services are the 57 or Citylink 915 from Portree but they are infrequent. The nearest bus stop is 1.5km from the Glen on the A87.
There are a number of private bus tours that include the Fairy Glen as part of their itinerary.
As with all of Skye’s outdoor locations suitable clothing and walking shoes should be worn and it is advised to carry waterproofs, even on a good day. The ground can get very muddy and wet, especially during the winter months.
There is parking in the car park with overspill on the side of the road in marked lanes. Parking for cars is £2 for 2 hours and £3 for 4 hours. Tickets can be purchased by the machine at the car park which takes card and coins. There are no toilets on site and the nearest facilities can be found in Uig.
Parking is limited and it is advised to see the Glen either early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the busier times.
There is no fee for entering the Glen.
There is a circuitous walk from the car park which covers most of the area.
Distance 1.5km (1 mile) from car park. 5.8km (3.6 miles) from A87 turn-off.
Time 1 hour +.
From the car park, follow the road towards Sheader and follow it along to the turning area at the bottom. This route will take you past a picturesque lochan and a small path towards an area overlooking Glen Conon. A little further along, you will pass the larger hills of the Fairy Glen on your right but it is worth taking the extra few steps to the turning area at the bottom as there are some wonderful views across Glen Conon towards Kilmuir where a series of waterfalls plunging down the other side of the glen can be viewed.
Retrace your steps and head towards the steep mound that looks like a castle above you on your left. Just before the lochan on the side of the road you will come to some ruined stone foundations, covered in moss and surrounded by ancient weathered rowan trees. Take the steep path leading upwards towards the most spectacular part of the Fairy Glen. At the top of the path, the ground levels out at the foot of the natural landmark called Castle Ewen. Of course, this is not a castle but a natural basalt outcrop that has the appearance of a crumbling medieval fortress. For those who wish to see the stunning views from the top, there is a steep climb up the gravel path and a last-minute scramble to the top. Care should be taken in wet or icy weather as the drop is very steep at the apex.
At the foot of the castle is a flat area where there is a large spiral cut into the grass, often furnished with nearby stones. Contrary to popular belief, this spiral was not made by the Faeries but by visitors. This practice is not advised as it causes unnatural erosion of the area. Local volunteers are compelled to remove these stones on a regular basis.
From here, you can explore all that the Fairy Glen has to offer but please make sure you stick to the designated paths and do not enter areas that have been cordoned off to prevent environmental erosion.
With Castle Ewen on your right, follow the path leading out of the Glen towards the car park. Before the lochan on your right, take the right-hand path that winds around the water’s side and through a series of grassy hillocks before descending back to the car park.
Do take some time to take in the magnificent view of the Fairy Glen behind you before returning to your car.
Livestock roam freely around the area so please keep all dogs on leads.
Remember to take all dog waste and rubbish home with you.