Three Things to Know Before Hiking Old Man of Storr
January 25, 2020
The buzzing of my 4:00am alarm still rang in my head as we loaded the car and began the three-hour journey from Fort William to Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands. We immaturely allotted one day to explore Isle of Skye, making a 6-hour return trip in a single day from Fort William.
In those early morning hours and fixing for coffee, we drove under the shadows of highland mountains for hours. In between groggy conversation and my frequent mention of caffeine, we realized it had been nearly an hour since passing another car on the desolate stretch of road between the two vistas.
“Perhaps Isle of Skye won’t be that crowded,” we thought.
Yet, by the time we reached Old Man of Storr on our daily itinerary, it was apparent this wasn’t the case. It was early May, the beginning of tourist season in this part of the country, yet cars lined the road a mile past the trailhead. Tiny black dots speckled the hillside trudging slowly upward toward the main viewpoint.
I didn’t know what to expect when arriving at Old Man of Storr, much like many of those who go. I saw a photo of it, added it to the list, and hoped it would be a grand adventure. However, like with many tourist hot-spots, I feared the wilderness surrounding Old Man of Storr would be paved over by sidewalks, elevators, and gift shops. I almost expected it to be a disappointment.
1. Old Man of Storr is a hike (with a tiny bit of elevation)
Hikes are my favorite way to get to viewpoints. The view always seems a little sweeter knowing I had to work to get there. However, there were many people on the trail who definitely thought this was a “pull up and take a picture” kind of spot. Old Man of Storr is 2.8 miles (4.5km) round trip with an elevation gain of just over 900ft (276m). It’s easy enough for families and non-hikers, just be prepared to spend at least two hours at the location and pack accordingly.
2. The parking lot is really, really small
There were a few construction vehicles dotted about, so I’m unsure if they are planning to build a bigger parking lot, but the initial dusty lot can fit only a handful of cars and by mid-morning, there’s already a line down the road. If you come during the busiest times (10am-3pm) you may need to add on an extra mile or so to your walk to get back to the trailhead from your parking lot. If you want to avoid crowds, aim for a sunrise hike.
3. There are no bathroom facilities or water
Like much of the Isle of Skye, there are no bathroom facilities or water stations offered at the trailhead. I appreciate the effort to keep the landscape wild. However, it does pose a problem for several travelers. Make sure to fill water bottles (and an extra liter of water) before leaving for the trail. And please make sure to be a respectable human being and leave no trace.
Traveling to Scotland? Check out my full Highlands guide.
At any given moment, Shalee is either lost, hunting for ice cream, or obsessively planning her next adventure.
Born and raised in rural Michigan, she began exploring the shores of Great Lakes as a teen, often sleeping in her car to save money. Eventually, her urge to explore pushed beyond her Midwest borders. Today, Shalee shares her tips and stories to thousands of readers interested in adventure and outdoor tourism. Her pack now includes two spunky hiking cats and her partner, Josh. Learn more about her here.