Forming stepping stones into the Atlantic, Scotland’s Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, and Outer Hebrides offer enormous natural splendor along with an astonishing array of Neolithic archaeological sites, remains of defensive fortresses, and a fascinating human history. Our voyage also takes in the Isle of Man, with its magnificent Castle Rushen, the subtropical gardens of the Isles of Scilly, and the Channel islands of Guernsey and Herm.
Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.
Day 1, Aug 17, 2017
Embark the Hebridean Sky this afternoon. Transfers will be provided from Edinburgh Airport and Waverley Station at a set time.
Day 2, Aug 18, 2017
After a morning at sea, arrive in Scrabster, the most northerly port on the Scottish mainland. On an afternoon tour, visit the Castle and Gardens of Mey, built between 1566 and 1572 by George Sinclair, 4th Earl of Caithness. The castle was purchased by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 1952, who restored the castle for use as a holiday home and created the beautiful gardens.
Day 3, Aug 19, 2017
Kirkwall, Orkney Islands
From the Orkney capital of Kirkwall, head into the west of Mainland, Orkney’s largest island. Pass through gentle rolling landscape and into the Neolithic heartland of Orkney, an area designated as a World Heritage Site due to its wealth of prehistoric archaeology. See the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, a huge ceremonial circle of stones dating back almost 5,000 years. Continue to the 5,000-year-old village of Skara Brae and see the remarkable dwellings revealed from beneath the sand dunes by storms only 150 years ago. Return to the Hebridean Sky for lunch and enjoy an afternoon at leisure to explore at your own pace. This evening, you will be entertained by local musicians onboard as we moor overnight.
Day 4, Aug 20, 2017
Westray and Papa Westray
Sail in the early hours from Kirkwall for your exploration of the islands to the north of the Orkney mainland. On Westray, visit Noup Head, an RSPB reserve on the sea cliffs, and Notland Castle, an incomplete fortress built in the 16th century by Gilbert Balfour, Master of the Royal Household to Mary Queen of Scots, Sheriff of Orkney. Meanwhile in the main village of Pierowall, find the Westray Heritage Center housing Neolithic carvings. Over lunch, sail the short distance to Papa Westray, where you have time to stretch your legs on a number of island walks. You can choose to visit the 3,500-year-old Knap of Howar, a Neolithic farm building that claims to be the oldest standing house in Europe and the 12th century St. Boniface Kirk. In the north of the island is the North Hill Reserve, home to Arctic terns and skuas and also the extremely rare Scottish primrose. In the early evening, meet at the Papay pub for a well-deserved pre-dinner drink.
Day 5, Aug 21, 2017
Unst and Fetlar, Shetland Islands
Start your exploration of Shetland in the northern islands of Unst and Fetlar. Unst is Britain’s most northerly inhabited island and at the Heritage Center we will learn about how the islanders have lived over the centuries and the industries that have prospered. Visit the Unst Boat Haven, dedicated to the history of the island's distinctive wooden boats, which descend from Viking craft, and Saxa Vord with views over Hermaness National Nature Reserve and Muckle Flugga stacks, home to thousands of birds as well as rare Arctic-alpine plants. Over lunch, sail to Fetlar, inhabited for over 5,000 years; the island lays claim to being the first Norse landing site in the Shetlands. It is the most fertile of the Shetland Islands and the wildflowers bring great color to the landscape. The expedition team will lead walks ashore including the Fetlar Interpretative Center and Museum where you will learn about the wildlife and archaeological history of the island.
Day 6, Aug 22, 2017
From the Shetland capital, visit the remarkable archaeological site of Jarlshof. The site contains a remarkable sequence of stone structures: late Neolithic houses, a Bronze-Age village, an Iron-Age broch and wheelhouses, several Norse longhouses, a medieval farmstead, and the 16th century laird’s house. Return to the ship for lunch and enjoy an afternoon at leisure to explore this historic port including the excellent Shetland museum.
Day 7, Aug 23, 2017
Enjoy a relaxing morning at sea before arriving on the Isle of Lewis at lunchtime. On leaving the island capital of Stornoway, this afternoon’s tour takes you across the island to the beautiful west coast and Callanish. Described as Scotland’s Stonehenge, the Callanish Standing Stones date from around 3000 BC. There are a total of 32 stones in a circular design. Visit the excellent visitor center to learn more about the site and venture out among the stones themselves to experience their mysterious atmosphere. Continue around the west coast to the site of Dun Carloway Pictish Broch. Probably built sometime in the last century BC, it would have served as an occasionally defensible residence for an extended family complete with accommodation for animals at ground floor level. Head north to Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, a reconstructed settlement of traditional black houses where people and animals lived in close proximity. Visit the small museum, enjoy a display of a typical crofting activity such as weaving, and take in the views at this dramatic site on the wild Atlantic coast.
Day 8, Aug 24, 2017
Canna and Muck
Strategically placed between the mountains of Rum and the Outer Hebrides, the island of Canna and its adjoining neighbor, Sanday, are bound together like some rare text that reveals over 60 million years of Hebridean geology and history. Canna is run as a single farm and bird sanctuary by the National Trust for Scotland and enjoys the best harbor in the Small Isles, a horn-shaped haven. Canna and Sanday have an amazingly rich archaeological landscape with remains dating to all periods of settled occupation in Scotland. The fertile soil and its diversity of habitats mean that the island has an incredibly rich plant life, with 248 native flowering plants recorded. You will see Canna House and wander across grassy basalt plateaus to the 600-foot cliffs on the north shore. During lunch, it is but a short sail past the rugged cliffs of Rum to the smallest of the Small Isles, Muck. A peaceful low-lying island, you will land in the southeast corner at the small settlement of Port Mor and enjoy a gentle wander across the island.
Day 9, Aug 25, 2017
Derry, Northern Ireland
Visit the historic city of Derry, renowned as one of the finest examples of a walled city in all of Europe. This morning, leave the city and drive to the Giant’s Causeway, which became widely known from the 1700s as the "Eighth Wonder of the World," and large numbers of visitors came to view this amazing array of basalt columns. It is estimated that there are around 40,000 in total. Return to Derry for lunch and enjoy an afternoon to explore the city independently.
Day 10, Aug 26, 2017
Peel, Isle of Man
Arrive this morning on the Isle of Man and the main fishing port of Peel. Settlements have been here since the Mesolithic Age and the island also claims to have the longest continuous parliament, which was founded in 979 AD. This morning, you will travel to Tynwald Hill, located in the little village of St. John’s. This grass-topped, tiered hill is made from the soil and stones from each of the island’s 17 parishes and is the point from which, each July 5th, all the laws enacted in the year preceding are promulgated to the gathered government officials and the public at large, both in Manx and English languages. This process has been a continuous procedure for well over a thousand years. Continue to Castletown and the magnificent Castle Rushen, one of the best examples of a medieval castle in Europe, which was the former seat of the Kings and Lords of Mann, with the castle’s oldest part dating back to the time of Magnus, the last Norse King of Mann, who died here in 1266. End your tour at Castletown station and board the vintage steam train for a delightful and traditional journey to Douglas. Dating from 1874, the Isle of Man Steam Railway is the island’s oldest Victorian rail system and this narrow gauge railway still runs with its original locomotives and carriages. Return to the vessel for lunch and enjoy an afternoon at leisure.
Day 11, Aug 27, 2017
This morning, arrive in Holyhead, your base for a full day exploring this spectacular part of North Wales. Visit Portmeirion, an extraordinary Mediterranean-style village designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975. Enjoy a tour of the village before a drive through Snowdonia where you will enjoy lunch in the National Park before continuing to Bodnant Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in the United Kingdom. Spanning some 80 acres, the garden is set above the River Conwy and offers views to the Snowdonia range.
Day 12, Aug 28, 2017
From the ship's berth in the town of Waterford, head to Mount Congreve, a spectacular woodland garden on the banks of the River Suir. This privately-owned 70-acre garden has a collection of over 3,000 trees and shrubs. Enjoy time to walk the numerous paths bordered with wisterias or bluebells and visit the vantage points with views over the landscape and meadows beyond. Return to the ship for lunch and enjoy an afternoon at leisure to explore Waterford independently.
Day 13, Aug 29, 2017
Isles of Scilly, England
Spend the morning on traffic-free Tresco, walking its idyllic lanes from the beach to the famous sub-tropical Abbey Gardens. Defying the Atlantic weather, this miracle of a garden is home to more than 20,000 species of plants from over 80 countries. Enjoy time to wander at your own pace along the paths, maybe visit the Valhalla collection of ship figureheads from ships wrecked on the islands, relax in the café, or further explore this peaceful island. We sail over lunch to St. Agnes, the most southwesterly community in the UK. Surrounded by rocks and reefs, this delightful tiny island offers marvelous coastal walks.
Day 14, Aug 30, 2017
Guernsey and Herm, Channel Islands
The last island group is the Channel Islands. Awake in Guernsey, the "Island of Flowers," where there will be the option of a walking tour of St. Peter Port including a visit to Castle Cornet, a 12th century battlement that guards the entrance to St. Peter Port Harbour. Alternatively, enjoy a panoramic drive to see the beautiful coastline and also visit the Little Chapel, built in 1914 as a miniature version of the famous basilica at Lourdes. This afternoon, make the short crossing over to Herm, which at just one and a half miles long and half a mile wide, is perfect for exploring on foot. There will be some free time to explore or maybe join the naturalists on a walk.
Day 15, Aug 31, 2017
Disembark this morning. Transfers will be provided to Portsmouth Harbor Railway station at a set time.