See a picture of Skye, suspect computer enhancement. That’s just how it works until you get there. Then you cross the bridge, and slowly it dawns on you – Skye really does look like another world.
The grass really is that emerald green (that’ll be the rain), the mountains really are that sheer, the water really is that mirror-like. And, yes, the sky really is that theatrical, its clouds veering from disaster film leaden to romantic drama sun-streaked.
No surprise then that the latest film adaptation of Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, uses Skye as a backdrop. Here’s where you can follow in their footsteps.
For classic Skye scenery
Locals were called up to the Quiraing to appear as extras during filming here, in the scene where Macbeth is titled Thane of Cawdor, but it is the scenery that decidedly steals the show.
Arrive early (before 11am) to grab a parking spot along the single-track road between Uig and Staffin and head along the lower level path. To your left are sheer granite cliffs, exposed by a dramatic landslip that also created otherworldly rock formations including the Needle rock stack and the dramatic triple summit of the Prison.
Taking a hard left you’ll hike uphill (thousands of feet have worn it into a ladder of turf steps) for views down over the Table, a flat grassy plateau once used by locals to hide sheep from invaders. It’s a steep trail back down to road level but the shots you’ll have filled your camera with make it well worthwhile.
For a challenge
The most challenging mountain range in Britain, The Cuillin also plays a dramatic role in the film, as the site of Banquo’s assassination.
But the drama doesn’t end there, as even the most experienced of hikers will find plenty to push them in this rocky range. There are 11 munros in the ridge, the easiest of which to climb is probably Sgurr na Banachdich, for which you won’t need to use your hands.
Start from Glen Brittle Youth Hostel car park and follow the path up the south side of the stream, passing a series of waterfalls. A faint muddy path leads off to the right, ascending the moor. You’ll cross a stream and head on up the back of Coir’ an Eich on a clear path zigzagging up an extremely steep scree slope before continuing along the ridge towards the summit. You’re at 3166ft up here and the views are truly spectacular, out over the tooth of the ridge towards the sea.
Don’t set out without proper gear, food and drink, a decent map and route instructions.
For those who want to get out on the water
“I was really foremost led by [Scotland] and [its] landscape to kind of define the look of the film”, said director Justin Kurzel. And if you want to get a real feel for the views that inspired him, you have to take to the water.
Board a Bella Jane boat trip in Elgol and it’s just a 45-minute crossing to the base of the River Scavaig, which links the loch to the sea and is said to be the shortest river in Britain.
It takes just ten minutes to walk up the river to the loch, with some rock hopping involved, and here you will get some of the best views of The Cuillin. The steep-sided mountains stare down at you from all directions, reflected in water so calm it acts like a mirror.
Don’t try to cross the river (unless you are happy to get very wet), instead stick to the left-hand side of the loch and continue further, leaping from rock to rock and following the often soggy path to get a little closer to those imposing peaks.
The boat runs continuously so you can either stay an hour and a half or three hours before catching it back to Elgol. On the crossing look out for the Small Isles of Rum, Muck, Eigg and Canna, as well as plenty of seals, and puffins during the summer.
For a true taste of Scotland
Food might not be a focus of the film – but it should be one for your trip. Skye is known for its natural produce and restaurant menus across the island make good use of it (try Kinloch Lodge, the Three Chimneys and Scorry Breac for the best).
The freshest produce is found by getting out there among it, though, foraging on a day out with Skye Ghillie, aka Mitchell Partridge.
Every day with Mitch is different, but expect a spot of deer stalking through the forest (look out for snapped branches and hoof prints as signs of recent activity), plenty of picking of herbs such as wood sorrel and bog myrtle and a feast of foraged mussels on the beach, cooked in water from the loch.