Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best way to get to Skye?
Check out our blog post entitled ‘How to get to Skye’ for a handy guide to the different travel options and some pros and cons of each.
What are your check-in and check-out times?
Please arrive at 4pm where possible and let us know if you are running late or can’t make this time. In winter dusk can arrive early, especially if the sky is overcast. In the summer months it stays light for longer and we have more flexibility. We can’t take you over to the island after dusk.
Departure is at 10am so that our cleaning team have ample time to prepare the house for the next guests. Gus will collect you from the island. It may be possible to arrange an earlier departure time with Gus, within daylight hours.
What’s the weather like on Skye?
What are ‘The Midgies’ like?
Pack a midge hood and some ‘Smidge’, or visit in the winter to be sure of a midge-free experience.
How do we get on and off the island?
It’s also possible to walk onto and off the island at low tide, as it’s a tidal island or islet. The route is quite tricky under foot in places as it crosses a rocky beach covered in seaweed. There are only certain points where you can safely cross and we will advise you about this on arrival. The walk is only suitable for the sure of foot and typically takes about 20-30 minutes.
Your arrival and departure transfers are included in the cost of your stay.
What about parking?
How long is the boat trip?
Can we book extra trips in the boat?
Where can we get groceries from?
At Eilean Sionnach we’re all about supporting the small businesses in our local community. We recommend you consider ordering your groceries in advance from our local village shop, which is called An Crubh. Check out their website: www.ancrubh.com. Email the shop directly or email us at: email@example.com and ask for the order spreadsheet at least one week before your stay (and earlier if possible).
Once you have placed your order, let Gus or Dawn know you have an order to collect and they will pick it up for you on the day of your arrival.
Alternatively, there’s a Co-op supermarket in Kyle of Lochalsh just before you cross the Skye Bridge, and another Co-op in Broadford, just a couple of miles North of the turning for the Sleat Peninsula (the Armadale road).
There’s also another general store a few miles further South at Armadale, where a range of local produce and packaged and unpackaged goods can be purchased. Here’s a link to their Facebook page: https://business.facebook.com/ARMADALESTORES
Where can we get local seafood from?
If you’re coming across the Skye Bridge, the best place to order in advance from is Skye Bridge Seafoods: https://www.facebook.com/SkyeBridgeSeafoods. Call in your order and collect on your way past!
If you’re coming over by boat from Mallaig, aim to get to the port in plenty of time and pop in to Jaffy’s Seafood, which is right in the heart of the village, near the train station. Here’s the website link: http://www.jaffys.co.uk/jaffys-shop.
If you’re out and about exploring the island, there’s also The Oyster Shed further north on Skye. Their website is: https://www.theoysterman.co.uk.
What is there to see and do locally?
There’s so much to see and do on Skye! However, you might be forgiven for thinking there are only five or six key places to visit and those ‘highlights’ do tend to get somewhat overcrowded.
If you’d like some top tips from the locals, check out our blog post entitled ‘What to do on Skye – tips from the locals’ for a few off-the-beaten-track recommendations local to Eilean Sionnach.
In the summer months it’s worth keeping an eye on the SEALL website for a programme of performances and entertainment for all the family: https://www.seall.co.uk/#events
Armadale Castle also has a busy programme of activities throughout the season: https://www.armadalecastle.com/
Our local café and shop at An Crubh now has a children’s playpark, as does Armadale Castle, so there are now two ‘playparks with a view’ in the South of Skye!
In addition to the famous Talisker, a second whisky distillery has started business on Skye just a few miles from Eilean Sionnach. Be sure to check out Torabhaig during your stay if whisky’s your thing: https://www.torabhaig.com/
If you’d like to experience South Skye from the water then why not book a guided kayaking trip with South Skye Sea Kayaks? https://www.southskyeseakayak.co.uk/
It’s advisable to book before your stay as their trips are very popular. If you like to be IN the sea, there are many beautiful little bays in South Skye to explore. Two of our favourite are Tarskavaig, on the Ord Loop Road and Sandy Bay at Point of Sleat. Of course you can also wild swim right here on Eilean Sionnach!
If you’re a first time wild swimmer or would prefer to swim with a guide, contact @soakupskye via Instagram to book a guided wild swimming experience.
There are also many places to mountain bike in South Skye. Eilean Sionnach is not ideally set up for you to bring your bikes as we don’t have easy access to secure bike storage. However, you can store them in your vehicle , hire bikes locally, or book a guide who provides the bikes.
We recommend Skye MTB Adventures: http://www.skyemtbadventures.co.uk/ Qualified mountain biking guide Iain can get you kitted out and ready for exploring at any level of ability. Again, he’s very popular so don’t wait until you arrive to book – it’s never too soon to plan your Skye based activities.
Which services can be delivered to the island?
- A private chef
- A pre-prepared meal box (restaurant standard)
- A massage therapist
We’re developing this aspect of the experience more as time goes by, so if there’s something you’d like to experience in the comfort of your own private island, let us know!
Can we visit the Lighthouse?
What else can we ‘do’ on Eilean Sionnach?
Here’s a short list of suggestions to help you pass your time enjoyably on the island:
- With a hot drink, wee dram or glass of wine, sit on Mount Doglet,
watching the world go by.
- Look out for otters, seals, harbour porpoises, minke whale and sea birds.
- Clamber over the rocks and explore the shoreline. Look for life in the rock pools.
- Go fishing off the rocks beyond the lighthouse.
- Have a wild swim. Either jump in off the rocks or enter more sedately via the small bay in front of the cottage.
- Sit down by the fire and chat. Just chew the fat!
- Read a book. If you haven’t brought one, there are plenty in the house.
- Prepare a meal! When you have plenty of time to spare, baking or cooking becomes even more enjoyable.
- Take a nap…treat yourself!
- Draw or paint. Maybe you’ll find your inner artist?
- Listen to music. Really listen. As an activity, not as background noise…
- Light the BBQ, fire pit, or an open fire in the fire circle and toast marshmallows.
What and how should we pack?
- A robust pair of wellies – you’ll be stepping in the sea at some point.
- Wet weather gear (we can lend you some oilskins but they’re not glamorous).
- Wetsuit if you have one and you fancy a spot of wild swimming.
- Warm socks, comfy slippers and cosy pyjamas.
- A good book.
- Your phone or iPod for music. There is a speaker in the lounge you can pair your device to.
- A laptop if you desperately need to watch Netflix or keep in touch with work – there’s superfast broadband.
- Smidge (an insect repellent).
- And don’t forget your toothbrush!
Everything else is just ‘nice to have,’ and as long as you have plenty of food and your drink of choice (see ‘where can we get groceries from’ above), you’re ready to have a grand old time.
How do I find out about tide times?
If you’re planning your trip well in advance and can’t access tide information via a free app, you may want to order the Mallaig Tide Table. Visit www.tidetimes.org.uk. This small booklet is inexpensive and provides tide information for a whole calendar year, at least one year ahead. Please note that all online and app tidal estimates become more accurate closer to the actual date.
Can people with limited mobility access the island?
At the Isleornsay end guests are required to use a wooden stair down the side of the stone pier that has a rope handrail on one side and is open on the other. The steps can be covered in slippery algae. The crossing itself would be ok, as passengers can sit in the boat (though the weather can be rough). At the Eilean Sionnach end, the boat has a bow that can be lowered, but passengers still need to disembark on to an algae covered beach of small stones. The path around the island itself and down to the lighthouse is stable and level, but those elsewhere on the island are overgrown and uneven, as the grass and soil forms a thin layer over the rock underneath. The house interior itself contains only one step (to the kitchen) so is broadly accessible.
Only you can determine the level of your ability under these conditions, but we would highlight that getting to and from the island – and enjoying the outdoors once you are there – requires a degree of strength and mobility. Take a look at our social media to get a good feel for what’s involved.
We hope that guests with a range of physical abilities are able to enjoy Eilean Sionnach, and if you do book we will do our very best to accommodate you but we will not be able to offer physical assistance. Please also note that due to Covid restrictions we are limited in how much assistance we can provide with luggage.
Is the island dog friendly?
Salty Sea Dogs Ahoy! We place no restrictions on the number of dogs your party can bring, nor the type of dog. We don’t produce a long list of rules around dog behaviour and there’s no security deposit required. Your four-legged friends are every bit as welcome as you are. We only ask that you respect our property, be mindful of our neighbours (such as they are) and keep dogs on leads where appropriate, for example near livestock or when there are ground-nesting birds on the island. Please do not allow your dogs on to the large separate rock off of the island, as it is home to many nests and is even called the Island of Birds!
Is the island child/baby friendly?
What is there to do with kids on the island?
The more adventurous will enjoy wild swimming and jumping off rocks. Others will take pleasure in drawing, painting, dolphin spotting and discovering life in the rock pools.
Children also love to read, bake, fish, explore and play games with their parents whilst on the island, rediscovering and reconnecting with life beyond technology.
Will my teenagers be bored?
Teenagers may at first think that Eilean Sionnach is the worst place they could ever visit. We hope that the boat ride over starts to put them in the right frame of mind for an adventure…
Older teenagers really enjoy the freedom to explore and clamber on the rocks with limited adult supervision. They love to sit by the bonfire after dark and watch the flames dance. Perhaps they’ve never had the opportunity to try their hand at fishing before? Equipment is provided in the workshop.
After a careful examination of the tide timetable, teenagers may want to wander further afield, leaving the island to explore the headland (where there are small caves) or the neighbouring island of Ornsay.
Good swimmers should be encouraged to get in the water if they dare, as many hours of fun can be had jumping off the rocks, paddle boarding (if you bring your own), snorkelling or simply wild swimming.
Teenagers wanting a space to get away from parents and midgies should ask Gus for the key to the wee Bothy on the back deck.
Finally, while there’s no TV in the house, the island does benefit from mobile phone connectivity (currently 4G) and if all else fails, there’s superfast broadband…
What’s the WiFi and mobile phone signal like?
Is there a TV on the island?
What happens if the weather is bad?
What if we’re running late on the day of arrival?
What happens if the boat can’t sail?
What if there’s a power cut while we’re on the island?
We keep candles in the cottage so you’ll be able to light your way just as the old lighthouse keepers did. We also have a wood burning stove and the log store is kept topped up for just such a reason. The lighthouse has top priority for reconnection if the power goes down and the cottage is on the same supply, so you won’t be in the dark for long.
How do we access medical assistance on the island?
If the condition is not life-threatening but the casualty needs to go to hospital during daylight call Gus and he will collect you in our boat. The closest hospital is nine miles away in the village of Broadford. If it’s after dark call The Coastguard.
If the condition is non-life threatening and does not require hospitalisation call 111 for advice or go to: www.111.nhs.uk
Where is the closest pub?
Where do you recommend for lunch and dinner?
We can also assist you with arranging a private chef to provide you pre-prepared restaurant quality meals for you to serve at your convenience. If cooking isn’t your idea of a holiday, they can stay overnight and prepare you a sumptuous dinner of locally sourced produce, a cooked breakfast in the morning and a picnic lunch. Please note that catering options may be subject to change due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Is it possible to eat out in the evening?
During the winter, there’s less flexibility. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE to take you across to the island in the dark. The Skipper must be safely back to shore by no later than half an hour after sunset, so you should plan for your dining out experiences to be at lunchtime.
Are kitchen essentials provided or do I need to bring everything?
Are linen and towels provided or do I need to bring my own?
How many does the property sleep?
Can we add more people to our group?
Who do we contact if we’re running late?
Who do we contact if we have a problem on the island?
What if we have an emergency on the island?
Can we arrive after dark?
Can we leave the island early in the morning?
What’s the history of the island/lighthouse?
Ornsay, Rubha na Gall (Sound of Mull) and Kyleakin were all lighted on 10 November 1857.
Thomas Stevenson had devised a new “condensing” apparatus for these three lights, by which the light shown in different directions varied in strength according to the distance from which it was required to be seen. This was one of a series of improvements in the dioptric system introduced by Thomas. (Source “Scottish Lighthouses”)
The Optic System is a 300mm Acrylic lens with a 250 watt tungsten lamp controlled by an electronic flasher. The lamp is mounted on a lamp changer with standby lamp available to rotate into position in event of a lamp failure.
Ornsay light was automated in 1962, and in 1966 the author Gavin Maxwell, best known for his work “Ring of Bright Water,” bought the cottages at Ornsay and those at Kyleakin, where a small museum was later established. He was drawn to the properties as he enjoyed planning and converting houses and he thought they had commercial potential.
Ornsay light was modernised in 1988 when mains power was installed to replace the gas system. The light is unmonitored and relies on the observer to report any problems to Northern Lighthouse Board headquarters in Edinburgh. You can help with this during your stay!
The Sedgwick family have owned the island and the cottage since the early 1980s. As a working lighthouse, Ornsay light itself is still owned by the Northern Lighthouse Board.
Does the island have any famous connections?
The current owners are the Sedgwick family, the most famous of whom was the 60’s icon and muse, Edie Sedgwick.
What’s your Covid-19 cancellation policy?
If a change in your own circumstances prevents your stay from taking place, you will need to refer to your own travel insurance for compensation.