Hidden in a far corner of Scotland, in the beautiful Isle of Skye, sit a number of streams and pools called the ‘Fairy Pools’. Near Glenbrittle, in the foothills of the Black Cuillins, these crystal clear waters that show off amazing colors were supposedly named so because of the beauty and mystery of the area. It’s said that the pools are magical and fairies dwell in the area. Once you see the colors in the pools, accentuated by the waterfalls, you may agree that the area is magical.
You can get to the pools by car, and if backpacking you may want to rent a car to get out here, as the start of the trail is a good 6km from the nearest bus stop. The pools have a designated parking lot but it’ll get full if its a nice day in the tourist season. The path to the pools starts across the road from the parking lot.
Some areas of the hike can be mucky, and rocks around the pools are slippery, so make sure you wear good hiking shoes/boots. You also have to cross a river, using stepping stones. The overall hike, including checking out the surrounding hills should take about 3 hours if you’re up for it, including stopping to see every pool. The full round trip without stopping would be about 45 minutes.
The Fairy Pools are a number of smaller ‘pools’ or ponds that are connected with waterfalls, some small, some large. The pure, clear water has dug into the ground, showing off a variety of colored rocks. The local mineral deposits are what gives the water and the rocks their vibrant colors, with turquoise, teals and brilliant blues showing up. Even in cloudy days (which happen a lot there), like when we went to see them, the colors look great.
The pools themselves can be swum in, but just know that this far North, even in summer, the water will be quite chilly. We were there in late May, and I wouldn’t even think of jumping in.
It’s best to visit the pools on a day after rain, when the water levels are topped up and flowing well. Also if you’re lucky enough, check out the area on a slightly cloudy day, when the sun’s light doesn’t reflect off the water and you can see the great colors of the rocks below.
Bring a picnic lunch, as there are many great areas to sit and eat while enjoying the scenery. Also note that this is really ‘rural Scotland’, meaning no public washrooms (as of the time we were there), so be prepared to ‘rough it’.
If you carry on past the pools, and just up the hillside a bit, you’ll get some great views of the valley. Up the path a few miles further is the Glen Brittle beach. You can see in the image above how cold it was in late May – toques, gloves and rainpants are a necessity!