Located on the northern slopes of the magnificent Black Cuillin range, Skye’s famous Fairy Pools are beautiful crystal-clear blue pools on the Allt Coire a' Mhadaidh (Burn of the Dog), which can be seen snaking down the hillside of Coire na Creiche into Glen Brittle where it becomes the River Brittle.
Although a spectacular and tranquil Highlands vista, in 1601 the area was the scene of the last of Scotland’s clan battles, and one of the bloodiest ever recorded in clan history. It is here the MacDonalds of Sleat and the MacLeods of Dunvegan saw the end of the long and brutal campaign of the Wars of the One-Eyed Woman. See our history section MacDonalds of Sleat.
The wonder of the Fairy Pools entices visitors from all over the world, as they make some great wild swimming for those brave enough to enter the ice-cold waters. For the less adventurous, these magical Fairy Pools make for some fantastic photos.
The walk to the pools uses the same route there and back on a purpose-made good gravel path. The complete return distance to the first main waterfall and pool is 2.4km, with the average time to complete the walk being 40 minutes to an hour and a half (with no stops and depending on your level of fitness). Most people will spend some time working their way up the river from the first waterfall exploring the different pools.
We have classed this walk as ‘Short’ in length and ‘Medium’ for difficulty, check the rating guide for details.
The completion of two new steel beam and timer footbridges in 2022 made the site more accessible but the steep inclines and rugged terrain in parts make it unsuitable for wheelchair users. A disabled viewing cabin adjacent to the toilet block in the car park is due for completion.
The nearest village to the Fairy Pools is Carbost on the Minginish peninsula in the West of Skye. The road between the Glenbrittle turn-off to the Fairy Pools is narrow, single-track road with passing places and not suitable for buses.
The Pools are located along the road roughly 5 miles from the Glenbrittle turnoff from the B8009. If traveling from Portree it is 20.5 miles and will take about 30 minutes to drive.
The start of the walk is just off the road opposite the main car park entrance and through a pedestrian gate.
This walk is suitable in most normal weather conditions but, if it has been raining hard, the water tends to rise fast and high in very wet weather. During the winter months, the Glenbrittle road may ice, so caution is advised to anyone visiting the pools between November and March.
There is no charge to see the Fairy Pools but there is a charge for parking.
After a successful funding bid, the car park at the Fairy Pools was completed in 2020 by the Minginish Community Hall Association at a cost of £800,000. Built to relieve long-term problems with verge parking after a substantial rise in visitor numbers, the 120-space car park is leased to the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland.
Entrance to the car park is well sign-posted and can be found on the opposite side of the road to the entrance to the Fairy Pools.
There is a pay and display machine on the left as you drive in, just before the toilet block (£6 daily for cars). The machine takes cards and coins.
The car park operates a one-way system with the bottom car park reserved for camper vans, mini buses, motorhomes and larger vehicles. No overnight stays are allowed. The busiest times are in the summer months from 11am to 1pm.
The off-grid toilet block has ladies, gents and disabled facilities. Entry to the toilets is free.
From the car park there are impressive views out towards the Black Cuillins. This walk to the pools follows a wide, smooth and firm gravel path with footbridges crossings over the water. There is a short, steep rocky section after the second bridge. It takes about 20 minutes to arrive at the first and largest waterfall that marks the start of the pools.
Visitors are requested to keep dogs on leads to protect the roaming livestock and take all litter home with them. Open fires are not advised and the flying of drones is prohibited without a UK flyer and operator ID issued by the Civil Aviation Authority.
The weather can be very changeable on Skye, particularly in the Cuillins, so appropriate footwear and clothing is advised.
Make sure your look through the Walk SlideShow, as it give a step by step account of what you will encounter.
From the car park, cross the road through the pedestrian gates to find the start of the path. There is a green sign for Sligachan 4.6miles marking the beginning of the walk.
As the path leaves the road it is steep and rough, don’t be put off by this as the first few meters are about the worst.
The gravel path drops gently downhill. On a wet day can be muddy in places.
As the path leaves the main road, there is a steep decline to the first footbridge.
There is still a very good gravel path here which crosses a peat moor with heather and grasses.
Ahead you will see an impressive large rock boulder at what appears to be a random location. This is a glacial feature called an erratic and was deposited there by the moving glaciers as the ice melted during the end of the last Ice Age.
From here, the path gently rises and meets up with the main Allt Coire a' Mhadaidh. Which will now remain on your right-hand side as the walk continues.
You will now reach the second footbridge. You can still see the remains of the old path here. The footpath now rises and the first waterfall will now come into view.
Follow the path on until you reach the fall.
The Fairy Pools
This first waterfall marks the start of the magical pools. Take some time to work your way up the river and explore all the pools. Some of the pools make great swimming, but rarely get warm (a wetsuit is a good option).
This first waterfall is the highest fall and deepest pool. For the brave only there are some great high jumps. On the other side of the river from the path it is possible to jump into deep blue pool (approximately 10 metres high).
Follow the main path up beside the river to find more pools.
The next pool is probably the most famous of them all: a beautiful clear blue pool which is ideal for swimming. It features a natural arch, offering an exhilarating underwater swim though it.
There many small pools as you work your way up the river.
The path in the upper section is narrower and not gravelled so, after heavy rain, could be boggy.
Higher up the path can get very muddy and the stones can get slippery during wet weather, so boots are advised.
The return; use the same path back which takes about 20min. This last part of the return is the steepest rise and a good place to stop and turn to view where you have just visited before crossing the road back to the car park.