Where to Stay in Scotland: The Cowshed
If there were ever a place in the world to feel like you were walking in a land of fairies and magic, it’s Isle of Skye. Tucked away in northeastern Scotland, Skye is a truly other-worldly place that has to be seen to be believed. I’ll write about all the details and a 36 hour-itinerary in Skye in a separate post, but if you do plan to visit Skye from any of Scotland’s major cities, one thing’s for sure. After a long, moderately intense, somewhat grueling and long drive, Skye isn’t just something you can see for 5 minutes and then hit the road. You’re going to need a place to stay. And that’s where the cowsheds come in.
No matter how you slice your options, the only real way to get to Skye is to rent a car, unless you’re taking a guided tour or something like that. Immediately after landing in Glasgow, my boyfriend and I rented a car from Sixt and made our way up into Skye. From Glasgow, we decided to make two stops on our way to Skye. First, we stopped in Glencoe to stretch our legs and gawk at the vast mountains, valleys, and waterfalls that make up Scotland’s most famous glen. Second, we stopped at Fort William, a picturesque little town that’s also the “outdoor capital of the UK.” We spent an hour or so here for a quick beer at one of the local pubs and to stock up on provisions for Skye in the form of chips, wine, and other snacks. You might want to do that here too, since Skye’s grocery options are limited. From Glasgow to Skye, Google will tell you this drive is only 6 hours, but in reality, it’s more like 8-10 (especially if you make stops along the way like we did, which you definitely should).
THE VILLAGE OF UIG
Once you arrive at the base of Skye (you’ll cross the water at Kyle of Localsh), it’s another hour’s drive to Portree, or an hour and 15 minutes straight on to Uig, where we were staying. Uig is a tiny ferry village about 30 minutes past Portree (the biggest town on Skye), situated on rolling hills and cliffs clammering up at steep angles from the sea down below. By the time we got to the village, the sun was setting, casting an insane hue of pink and purple light over the hills of Uig for a brief moment before dissolving into total darkness. Our GPS took us all the way up to the top of the hills, where you can see panoramic views of the ocean and cliffs, and where you’re surrounded by insane highland winds that could likely whisk you away if you were to so much as jump with both feet off the ground. Originally, we wanted to take some time before going to the hotel to drive around Skye a bit and start crossing sights off our list, but the drive from Glasgow really did take much longer than we thought it would, so we had to skip out and go directly to our home for the night. Fortunately for us, where we were staying was a destination in itself.
The Cowshed Boutique Bunkhouse in Uig are part hostel (your standard accommodation fare with several bunkbeds in a dorm-style room), part boutique hotel featuring personal bunkhouses, or “pods.” We checked in to one of the pods and immediately fell in love with our tiny home for the night. It was a Tiny House Hunters’ dream come true! Each of the pods is equipped with a double bed, a sofa (which also turns into a bed), a dining table, a mini kitchen (complete with dishware, instant coffee, and tea), a bathroom/shower combo (as in, the bathroom IS the shower-a bit funky, but definitely space-efficient!), and a cute little front patio. After checking in, we immediately wished we had time to spend more than one night here.
In addition to the pods, the “lobby” is only a short walk away, and it’s complete with everything else you could possibly need to round out your stay. Here, guests have access to laundry facilities, a full kitchen, a large well-decorated common area, and WiFi (not available in the pods).
Food options are limited in Uig, but you do have a couple ways to go. You can use the kitchen in the main house to cook up whatever you want, and there were actually a lot of guests doing this when we arrived. If you didn’t come with groceries, the front desk has a small selection of groceries to choose from in case you need food in a pinch. You couldn’t whip up something crazy like steak and eggs from the selections available, but you could probably pull together a decent pasta or a simple breakfast.
After the 8-hour drive, the thought of cooking didn’t seem very appealing, so we actually walked 5 minutes up the hill to the Uig Hotel, which has a restaurant in the lobby that the staff at the Cowshed highly recommended. We ordered a couple much-needed beers, a cheese plate, a burger, and the salmon. I wasn’t extremely thrilled with the salmon, though the cheese plate and burger were delicious. But the main attraction here was the sticky toffee pudding. I think I died a thousand times with each bite. The restaurant was warm and cozy with extremely hospitable waiters, and the large windows probably make for a beautiful setting to see the views of the ocean during the day.
The pods were the perfect place to call home on our first night in Scotland. After coming back from the Uig Hotel, we spent a little while hanging out in the common area catching up on emails before making our way back up to our pod. It was 10 pm by then, so the area was pitch black and blissfully quiet besides the distant sounds of the ocean and the occasional outburst from our neighbors (sheep), and you could see stars for miles. We curled up in our bed with the curtains open so we could see the stars, and we cracked open our bottle of wine to celebrate our short time in Skye. A lot of people say that Skye is the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, but throughout this whole trip I was striking out, Skye included. Maybe I just wasn’t meant to see the Lights this time around (I was pretty upset about this while we were there, not gonna lie).
In the morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn to go outside onto the patio and get a glimpse of Uig and our surroundings, since we arrived at nighttime the day before. It was freezing cold and the wind was unforgiving, but I put on my thickest coat and spent a good 45 minutes outside just taking it all in. The sunrise was the most vibrant pink I’d ever seen, and the clouds looked like cotton candy. From our pod, you could see all of Uig, the harbor, and the ocean beyond it, and everything was peacefully still and uncomplicated in a way that most moments in life are usually far removed from. Once my boyfriend woke up and came outside, we just sat there in silence, listening to the wind, watching the sunrise wake up the sleepy little town, and soaking up the experience.
After a quick cup of coffee in our little kitchen, we begrudgingly said goodbye to our pod. Back at the common area, the super helpful front desk people helped point us in the right direction as we geared up to drive around the entire perimeter of Skye before heading back down to Glasgow. Our first stop, Fairy Glen, happened to be a 5-minute drive from the hotel.
There are tons of unique, affordable, cozy places to stay while in Scotland, no matter where you're headed. But, if you ever find yourself planning a trip to Skye, don’t even think about doing it without adding the Cowshed to your list of things to experience.