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Quick facts | Did you know? | Local heroes | Well-known landmarks | Local specialities | Sports | Best time to visit | What's on | Learn more

Quick facts

Port-Rìgh - King’s Port

The main town in Skye adopted this name in 1540 when King James V visited with a fleet of warships to persuade local clans to support him. The town was previously known as Kiltaraglen.

Population - The population of Portree is around 2491 (2001 Census), 37.72% speak Gaelic.

Weather - The Isle of Skye is called Eilean a’ Cheò in Gaelic which translates as The Misty Isle. Weather in Portree, and on the Island in general, can vary from beautifully sunny and summery to a cold, blustery autumnal day in one afternoon! The average annual rainfall in Portree is 68.8 inches.

Local Clans - The following clans were traditionally dominant in Portree and on the Isle of Skye:

  • Clan MacLeod
  • Clan MacDonald
  • Clan MacKinnon
  • Clan Nicolson

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Did you know?

Thomas Telford designed the local pier and the original wall stands to this day.

The peninsula that lies above the local pier is called “The Lump”. This is where local hangings used to take place.

The Royal Hotel on Bank Street used to be known as MacNab’s Inn. This was where Bonnie Prince Charlie bade farewell to Flora MacDonald. Johnson and Boswell also visited here on their tour of the Hebrides.

Mylo produced his first album in his bedroom in the south of Skye on an Apple Mac G4.

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Local heroes

Sorley MacLean:

The late Gaelic author, Sorley Maclean was from the neighbouring Island of Raasay and spent much of his life in Skye. Sorley is the most successful Gaelic bard to date. His work includes the legendary poem “Hallaig”.


The Gaelic band Runrig was formed in Portree and the original lead singer Donnie Munro still lives here. Runrig were the most successful Gaelic band ever and their first album (Play Gaelic) was released in 1978. This was a groundbreaking effort and all the titles on the album are in Gaelic. Runrig broke the mould for Gaelic song by writing contemporary music in the language.

Runrig are still together to this day albeit with new singer, Bruce Guthro, and are playing on the banks of Loch Ness in August 2007. Donnie Munro has had a very successful solo career and most recently won Album of the Year at the Traditional Music Awards in 2006 for his album, Heart of America.


Dance DJ Mylo attended Portree High School for 5 years. After leaving Portree he went to Oxford University and graduated with a degree in Philosophy and Physiology. However, he has more recently made a name for himself as a DJ and producer. His first album, “Destroy Rock and Roll”, exploded on the dance scene in 2004 and has led to massive success. He has provided remixes for The Scissor Sisters, Kylie Minogue and The Killers.

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Well-known landmarks

The Cuillin Hills

The spectacular Cuillin hills are a range of mountains that lie south of Portree and are a must for all enthusiastic walkers and climbers. The Cuillin comprises the Black Cuillin and the Red Cuillin.

The Black Cuillin ridge traverse is probably the best mountaineering expedition in the UK. A full traverse normally takes two days although the record is believed to be around 8 hours. All 12 Munros on Skye are Black Cuillin peaks including that of Sgurr Alasdair (Alasdair’s Peak). The ‘Inaccessible Pinnacle’ is the only graded rock climb and is a spectacular feat in itself. The Red Cuillin are more rounded hills with more vegetation than their counterparts. The highest point of the Red Cuillin is Glamaig, venue of the Glamaig Hill Race every June.

The Old Man of Storr

The Old Man of Storr looms over Portree and is situated 7 miles north of the town. It is a spectacular site. Legend has it that the Old Man of Storr gets its name because the rock outline and the protruding pinnacle resemble that of the face of an old man. “Storr” itself is Norse in origin and is thought to mean “Great Man”.

In 2005, one of Britain’s single largest environmental artworks was performed on the Storr. This was a spectacular light show that included performances of poetry and Gaelic singing from local singer Anne Martin.

Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle, seat of the Clan MacLeod is a 15-minute drive from Portree. It is reputed to be the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland. The castle houses many relics of the Clan MacLeod including the famous Fairy Flag of Dunvegan. This magical flag was given to the clan by the queen of the fairies as a reward for a favour they had done, and that waving it would enlist the fairies help in time of need. The flag is said to have been waved twice, one single use remains to this day. The flag however hangs in a frame in the drawing room and is in a delicate state.

The castle has been at the centre of controversy in recent years as it is in need of serious repair. Chief John MacLeod of MacLeod, who died in February 2007, claimed to own the Cuillin Hills and put a price tag on them in order that any sale would raise money to repair his castle.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

With a spectacular setting looking across the Sound of Sleat towards Knoydart, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is the world’s only Gaelic-medium college of further and higher education. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (which means ‘The Big Barn of Ostaig’) was opened as a college in 1973, and has won international acclaim for its work in regenerating both the local community, and the Gaelic language and culture. The college runs Gaelic course for full-time students, short-courses during the summer and a range of distance learning and online learning initiatives – so there’s something to suit everyone who wants to learn!

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Local specialities


Talisker is a locally produced single malt. The Talisker Distillery lies 15 miles west of Portree in the little town of Carbost.

The Isle of Skye Brewery in Uig also produces a variety of beers and ales.

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One of the biggest sports on the island is shinty – the traditional game of the Highlands. Skye has a team which plays its home matches in Portree at Pairc nan Laoch (Heroes Park).

A spectacular annual event is the Glamaig Hill Race, normally held in July. This is a race from Sligachan Hotel (at sea level) to the summit of Glamaig (at 2,400 feet) …. and back down! It is a two-mile climb giving a race distance of 4.5 miles. The current record is 44 minutes, but the first record was set in the late 19th century by a bare-footed Gurkha soldier!

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Best time to visit


May - The Isle of Skye Music Festival takes place in May and has played host to (among others) The Stranglers, KT Tunstall, Idlewild and Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

June - The local half-marathon and Glamaig Hill Race take place in June for sporting enthusiasts. The Portree Pipe Band Festival takes place at the end of this month.

August - The local Highland Games take place on this month as well as a local agricultural show. Summer is the busiest time of year in Portree.

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What's on

What's on

March/ Am Màrt


01/03/07 – Strathpeffer


02/03/07 – 17/03/07 – Perth Theatre, Perth


02/03/07– Strathpeffer Pavilion, Strathpeffer


03/03/07 – Ironworks, Inverness


04/03/07 – Ironworks, Inverness


06/03/07 – 07/03/07 – Plockton


06/03/07 – 07/03/07 – An Tobar, Isle of Mull


08/03/07 – Aros, Portree, Isle of Skye


08/03/07 – Elgin Community Centre, Elgin


09/03/07 – Laggan Village Hall, Laggan


12/03/07 – 17/03/07 – An Lanntair, Stornoway


16/03/07 – The Seaforth, Ullapool


19/03/07 – The Music Hall, Aberdeen


25/03/07– Balmacara


28/03/07 – 30/03/07 – Portree, Isle of Skye


28/03/07 - 30/03/07 - Cultural exhibition on poet Sorley MacLean and his folklore collector brother Calum, Braes Village Hall, by Portree

SEACHD: The Innaccessible Pinnacle

30/03/07 – 31/03/07 - The Innaccessible Pinnacle – Gaelic feature film, AROS Centre, Portree

Information about local events and external links to H07 events via the H07 website.

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Learn more

Learn more

Full-time Learning

Cùrsa Comais – Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
The Cùrsa Comais, or Immersion Course, is a full-time residential course at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic college. It is aimed at those wishing to obtain fluency in the language.
Contact: 01471 888 000

Part-time Learning

Short Courses – Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
The Gaelic college on Skye also offers weekly residential course for beginners and intermediate beginners. A full timetable of courses usually runs at Easter time and also throughout the summer months.
Contact: 01471 888 000

Short Courses – Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle
The Gaelic centre on Islay also offers a short course programme. These courses are for all levels of learners.
Contact: 01496 810 818

Distance Learning

Cursa Inntrigidh - Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
The Cursa Inntrigidh is a distance-learning course based at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. The course is about gaining the confidence to use your Gaelic practically, with priority given to speaking and listening skills. It takes advantage of new technology to reach those people who are too far away or whose schedule makes it impractical to attend existing courses. Workbooks and accompanying CDs allow students to work at any time of day or night that suits and weekly conversation classes through teleconferencing offer the opportunity to chat to tutors and practice with others on the course. Weekend schools held at the College offer the opportunity to consolidate and put into practice what has been learned, as well as the chance to get to know students and tutors in a convivial Gaelic atmosphere.
Contact:01471 888 000

Learn Gaelic at BBC Alba
The BBC offers an array of online learning tools for the Gaelic beginner. They have their "Beag air Bheag" online course, the animated series "Colin and Cumberland" and they also have an online version of “Litir Bheag” from Rèidio nan Gàidheal.

learndirect scotland
learndirect scotland have over 500 learning centres throughout Scotland. These centres give you an opportunity to learn Gaelic either online or through community classes. learndirect scotland have a full and up to date calendar of course. For more information go to their website or give them a call.
Contact:0808 100 9000

Community Learning

Community Classes
Gaelic classes are available for all levels of ability on the Isle of Skye. Classes run in Portree, Sleat, and Auchtertyre (just over the bridge on the mainland). There are classes for both beginners, intermediate learners and more advanced learners.
Contact: 01478 611 310

Community Education Classes
The Community Education Department have recently started a Gaelic night class for parents of children in Gaelic-medium education. They take place at Portree Primary School on a Thursday night at 7.30pm.
Contact: Shona Paterson Community Education Officer
Tel: 01478 613 697

Comhairle nan Sgoiltean Araich (CNSA)
CNSA run a series of “Gàidhlig san Dachaigh” (Gaelic in the Home) courses throughout the Isle of Skye. The classes are total immersion classes whereby the tutor only converses in Gaelic. There are classes in Kilmuir, Portree, Carbost and Broadford.
Contact: Anne MacLeod
Tel: 01463 225 469

Alternative Learning on Skye

Whitewave is an outdoor activities and music company based in Skye which will arrange basic Gaelic language courses, at either introductory or advanced level concentrating on conversation, and using the local area and people as a resource. Outdoor activities and walks can be arranged through the medium of Gaelic.

Museum of the Isles
Why not trace your Scottish roots, research your family, or just visit and browse through the many reference books and documents in the Library and Study Centre at Armadale Castle and Museum of the Isles, in Sleat, at the south end of the island.
Contact:01471 844 305 or 01471 844 227

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