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?

Being situated on the west coast of Scotland, Skye is subject to slightly wilder weather than other parts of the UK. It can be pouring with rain and howling a gale in summer and you can find clear blue skies and crisp, still, perfect days in winter. So the best thing to do is check the weather just a few days before your trip and pack accordingly!

What are ‘The Midgies’ like?

You’re most likely to encounter midges between April and September, not just on Skye but all across the Highlands of Scotland. They’re at their worst on still days with no breeze. Luckily, being slightly out to sea, there’s often a breeze on Eilean Sionnach, and we thankfully have relatively few midges

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?

On arrival and departure we transport you on and off the island on our own private boat, which is a Pioneer Multi. It’s an open boat and can carry four passengers plus cargo. If there are more people in your group we will take your party across in two trips.

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?

We have space to park one car right at the pier in Isle Ornsay. Any additional cars can be parked nearby, a short walk or drive away. Skipper Gus will assist you on arrival.

How long is the boat trip?

It all depends on the tide! At high tide, when the wind direction is right, the trip can take as little as two minutes. At low tide, or in certain sea conditions, the skipper will take a longer route around the end of the neighbouring island and this can take 15-20 minutes.

Can we book extra trips in the boat?

Yes! Skipper Gus will be very happy to discuss your requirements on arrival. He charges £40 per single trip.

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: welcome@eileansionnach.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?

There are two places on Skye that offer locally caught seafood to order.

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?

Several local services are able to be delivered to you right on the island but it’s best to book well in advance of your stay.  Examples of services our guests have enjoyed to date include:

  • 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?

Ornsay Light is a working lighthouse, and for this reason it’s not possible to actually go inside it. However, you can certainly experience it! For the most magical moment, wait outside on ‘Mount Doglet’ (the small hillock next to the house) just before the light fades from the sky.  As dusk descends, watch Ornsay Light begin its slow, blinking conversation with its neighbour across the water at Sandaig.

What else can we ‘do’ on Eilean Sionnach?

If you’re used to having lots of activities and ‘stuff’ around you or you’re someone who likes to be ‘busy’ all the time, you may at first wonder ‘what to do’ on Eilean Sionnach. The island is not really a place to ‘do,’ more, it’s a place to simply just ‘be.’  Relax, unwind and feed your soul as you take life at an altogether different pace. We’re pretty sure you’ll soon get into the swing of it.

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?

Pack your belongings in a RUCKSACK. Don’t forget:

  • 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?

There is a tide timetable booklet in the cottage. You can also find this information via an app on your phone (many different tide apps exist). The closest reference points are Mallaig and Glenelg Bay. These two places have tide times half an hour apart from each other and the island of Eilean Sionnach is half way between the two.

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?

We’ve looked hard at making the island safe and convenient for as many people as possible to enjoy, but it has not been possible to make the accommodations necessary for people with restrictive physical disabilities, mainly due to the island’s terrain and topography.

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 better place to relax and enjoy time as a young family? Take life at your own pace. There’s no schedule to keep here. We provide basic baby and toddler items such as a travel cot, high chair and child friendly plates, cups and cutlery. Little ones will enjoy spending time ‘marooned’ with their parents and are guaranteed to have the best afternoon naps ever…

What is there to do with kids on the island?

Children will love exploring their very own Treasure Island. We provide an ‘Ideas Jar,’ a quiz and a story writing competition to help get them started. They’ll soon be lost in their island adventure, playing pirates, making discoveries on the shore and turning their parents into ‘big kids’.

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?

Big kids and smaller ones alike all tell us that a real highlight of their stay is toasting marshmallows on the fire pit at sunset. Even teenagers find it hard to resist the lure of a ‘Smore’ (melted marshmallow sandwiched between chocolate biscuits).

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?

The island does have a few spots where you can pick up 4G. The window sill in the master bedroom is the best place inside the cottage and the South side of the cottage (toward Mallaig) is better than the North. You can usually get a good signal standing on top of Mount Doglet. There’s superfast broadband…the thick walls mean that it’s not available in the kitchen or the workshop but there’s usually a fairly good signal in other parts of the building.

Is there a TV on the island?

No. We hope you won’t feel the need of a TV whilst on Eilean Sionnach – this is a different kind of holiday experience.  However, you can always bring your laptop or tablet if you want to snuggle up in your bed and watch films, or catch up on your favourite, unmissable shows.

What happens if the weather is bad?

Skipper Gus is a very experienced seaman and can make the crossing in most conditions. Please remember that it’s an open boat, so even though it’s a short crossing, waterproofs are required. Prepare for an adventure! Gus may alter the timing of your crossing to suit the tides and sea conditions but he will keep in touch with you about this in the run up to your stay. Gus will vary where he sets you down on the island according to the wind direction, the swell of the sea and the height of the tide.

What if we’re running late on the day of arrival?

It’s important to keep Skipper Gus informed of your movements on the day of arrival. 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. If you arrive close to sunset he will not be able to transport you to the island. During the summer months when there is plenty of light check in time is 4pm.  During the winter it may be a little earlier than this to allow for good light. If you’re not able to arrive for this time on your arrival day, you will need to arrange to travel up the day before and book a nearby hotel. We can provide suggestions if you don’t know the area well. If things go wrong during your journey, let us know and we will do everything we can to help you find alternative accommodation locally, but you will need to sort this out with your insurance provider.

What happens if the boat can’t sail?

If the boat can’t sail, we will either walk you to the island with a guide if it is safe to, or we will find you alternative accommodation for the night.

What if there’s a power cut while we’re on the island?

Power cuts are not uncommon on Skye, especially in the winter months. Don’t panic!  What an adventure you’re going to have…

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?

There’s a first aid kit in the pantry for your use in minor emergencies. If someone in your group develops a serious medical condition or has a serious accident use the red telephone in the lounge. Call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. The ‘What 3 Words’ code for the island is: intricate.pockets.ferrets

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?

Our closest pub is Am Praban (the bar) at the Eilean Iarmain Hotel. It’s situated right at the pier from which your boat departs to the island. At low tide it’s possible to walk across, grab a pint and a bite to eat and wander home again.

Where do you recommend for lunch and dinner?

The Sleat Peninsula has several highly regarded restaurants. These include three very close neighbours: the Eilean Iarmain Hotel, Kinloch Lodge and tThe Duisdale Hotel. We can highly recommend eating out at any of these three local establishments.

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 summer months when there is plenty of light, it’s possible to eat out at one of our lovely local restaurants and still be home before dark.  Unfortunately, you will not be able to eat an evening meal further afield on Skye (lots of people ask us about The Three Chimneys – a great lunch stop but not possible as an evening option).

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?

We’ve provided plenty of kitchen equipment, so you should find most things you have at home. We’re always open to suggestions so do ask in advance if you want to check about a particular item. There’s also a larder cupboard with a range of dried goods such as tea, coffee, salt, pepper, sugar, herbs and spices.

Are linen and towels provided or do I need to bring my own?

Bed linens and towels are provided, along with shower gel, shampoo, and other essential toiletries.

How many does the property sleep?

The cottage sleeps eight adults, in four beds. Three of the bedrooms are spacious, with permanent king-sized beds. The fourth bedroom is a little smaller, with a day bed that is perfect for kids but also regularly made up into a comfortable king-sized bed. When that bed is extended it largely fills the room.  All four rooms are ensuite with showers, and the Sedgwick Room also has a roll top bath.

Can we add more people to our group?

The cottage sleeps a maximum of eight.  If you booked for less than eight people but later decide you want other friends to join you (up to a max of 8), that’s absolutely fine! Please just let us know so we can be aware in advance for the boat journey (life-jackets etc).

Who do we contact if we’re running late?

Please contact Skipper Gus as soon as you know you’re running late.

Who do we contact if we have a problem on the island?

Please contact Skipper Gus if you have a problem during your stay on the island.

What if we have an emergency on the island?

If a non-medical emergency occurs, please contact Skipper Gus.

Can we arrive after dark?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to transport you to the island after dark, so you must arrive for your boat transfer at the allotted time.

Can we leave the island early in the morning?

It’s not possible to transport you off the island before first light, but it’s possible to depart earlier than 9am if the light allows. This will depend on both the time of year and also the weather conditions. Please discuss your plans in advance with Skipper Gus.

What’s the history of the island/lighthouse?

In 1853 the Commissioners’ Engineer David Stevenson, who had succeeded his brother Alan, prepared a list of 45 possible sites thought desirable to complete a system of lights for the coasts of Scotland.

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 island has many literary connections. It’s a Stevenson lighthouse (the most famous Stevenson being the author Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote Treasure Island); it was owned by Gavin Maxwell, who wrote the bestselling novel (and film) Ring of Bright Water and it’s also the setting for S.K. Tremayne’s best-selling novel, The Ice Twins.

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 to government travel restrictions prevents your trip from taking place, we will find new dates to suit you. If this isn’t possible, you’ll receive a full refund.

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.