On this adventure to the British Isles, explore remote and isolated coastlines where windswept cliffs and promontories teem with some of the largest seabird colonies in Europe, all at the height of their breeding season. Exhilarating walks bring you through heather-clad moorlands and among the ruins of fortress-castles that echo the lore of the Celts and Anglo-Saxons. From the lovely sub-tropical gardens on the Isles of Scilly and the geological wonders of Giant’s Causeway to the sacred sites of the Inner Hebrides and the stark beauty of the Fair Isle, this exciting expedition captures the ancient spirit and wild heart of Britain.
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.
Days 1-2, May 9-10
Fly to London
Fly to London, England, arriving on Day 2. Upon arrival, check into the hotel, with the rest of the day at leisure to explore the city on your own. In the evening, gather for a welcome reception and dinner.
Day 3, May 11
London / Portsmouth / Embark the Ocean Adventurer
After breakfast, depart via train for Portsmouth. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before a tour of this famous port city. This afternoon board the Ocean Adventurer.
Day 4, May 12
Falmouth / Penzance
This morning take a stroll through Trebah Garden, a beautiful subtropical garden with a stunning coastal backdrop. After lunch on board, take a tour of the Eden Project in Penzance. This innovative complex of domes houses plants from around the world, with each emulating a natural biome. Or, take a walk through the expansive Trelissick Garden, noted for its impressive collection of camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas. The garden also offers glorious views of the Fal River and distant rolling hills.
Day 5, May 13
Isles of Scilly
Warmed by the North Atlantic Drift, the Isles of Scilly have given their fortunate inhabitants the luxury of turning a passion for growing flowers into a major industry. This morning board local boats and cruise to Tresco to visit the ruins and exquisite subtropical gardens at the medieval Tresco Abbey.
Day 6, May 14
Skellig Islands, Ireland
The wonderfully remote Skellig Islands are one of Europe’s most impressive seabird citadels. Little Skellig is home to the second-largest colony of gannets in the world. Other seabirds found here include kittiwakes, razorbills, Manx shearwaters, and nesting puffins. Depending on weather and permission to access, visit nearby Skellig Michael—the site of an important 6th century Anchorite monastery and now a World Heritage Site.
Day 7, May 15
Dunmore East / Waterford / Saltee Islands
From the port city of Dunmore East, drive through scenic countryside to Waterford. Options today include a visit to the renowned Waterford Crystal glassworks to watch master craftsmen at work, or enjoy a tour of Mount Congreve, a magnificent estate with exquisite gardens. Return to the ship for lunch as you cruise toward the privately-owned Saltee Islands, which attract a variety of birds to their craggy masses. On Great Saltee Island search for puffins, murres, razorbills, gannets, and more of the 47 bird species recorded here.
Day 8, May 16
Port St. Mary, Isle of Man
Enjoy a leisurely morning on board, as the ship cruises to Port St. Mary on the Isle of Man. We board the Isle of Man Steam Railway, the single remnant from the extensive Victorian system that served the main centers on the island, and ride through quaint and picturesque villages to the southern resort of Port Erin.
Day 9, May 17
Portrush, Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland / Rathlin Island
Disembark at Portrush and travel overland to the World Heritage Site of Giant’s Causeway. This three-mile section of coastline is a geological masterpiece—some 40,000 closely-packed hexagonal columns of varying heights line the coast and descend like a staircase into the sea. In the afternoon, visit the rugged cliffs of Rathlin Island, where you are greeted by colonies of guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills, and puffins. After lunch, go ashore on the Isle of Islay for a tour of the world-famous Lagavulin Distillery.
Day 10, May 18
Staffa, Inner Hebrides, Scotland / Iona
Weather permitting, spend the morning exploring the uninhabited island of Staffa by Zodiac and its most famous feature, Fingal’s Cave. The cave’s peculiar rock formations and unusual coloring are a delight to behold, and the wonderful echo of the sea from within served as the inspiration for Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture.
In 563 AD the Christian missionary St. Columba built a monastery on Iona and spread Christianity throughout Scotland. Though it suffered repeated attacks by Vikings over the centuries and the original was destroyed, the monastery was rebuilt each time, and some of these later buildings still stand. Visit the monastery site; the nearby cemetery of St. Oran, where numerous Scottish kings are buried; and the 12th-century Iona Abbey.
Day 11, May 19
St. Kilda, Outer Hebrides / Flannan Islands
Spend the morning at St. Kilda, once home to a small community, evidenced by abandoned houses and cleits, beehive-shaped cells where goods were stored. Cruising among the Flannan Islands this afternoon, puffins, fulmars, murres, and kittiwakes should be plentiful. Of special interest to birders is the Leach’s petrel colony on the grassy slopes of Eilean Mor beneath the lighthouse.
Day 12, May 20
Kirkwall, Orkney Islands
Arrive in the capital city of Kirkwall on Mainland Island in the Orkneys for visits to the magnificent St. Magnus Cathedral and some of the island’s major archaeological sites. Maes Howe, a chambered tomb dating from 3500 BC, is known for its runic hieroglyphs left by visiting 12th-century Vikings. Then visit the enigmatic Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and Skara Brae, a remarkably well-preserved Stone Age village buried in sand some 4,500 years ago. Return to Kirkwall for an afternoon walking tour of this charming city.
Day 13, May 21
Lerwick, Shetland Islands / Isle of Noss / Mousa
This morning enjoy a guided walking tour of Lerwick, capital of the Shetland Islands, which are steeped in Norse heritage. After the tour there will be free time to stroll the narrow streets and browse the many shops, or raise a pint at the local pub. After lunch on board, cruise by Zodiac to the Isle of Noss, where spectacular cliffs support a large and diverse seabird colony, home to 80,000 seabirds—guillemots, razorbills, gannets, shags, and more. This evening go ashore at Mousa to view one of Britain’s finest Iron Age ruins, an unusually well preserved 40-foot broch, a dry stone structure, dating from about 200 AD.
Day 14, May 22
One of the most isolated settlements in the British Isles, this island is renowned for the quality and intricacy of its handmade sweaters using local wool. It is also famous as a haven for seabirds including gannets, murres, black-legged kittiwakes, numerous gull species, and a large colony of puffins. After a short walk, join some of the 70 islanders at their community center for tea and cakes, and a visit to the local museum.
Day 15, May 23
Aberdeen / Disembark / Edinburgh
Disembark in Aberdeen this morning, and enjoy a scenic train ride to Edinburgh. Check in to the Balmoral Hotel for a special farewell dinner and overnight.
Day 16, May 24
Edinburgh / Depart
Transfer to the airport for your independent homeward flight, arriving in the USA the same day.
Note: This cruise is not an exclusive Wilderness Travel departure. The itinerary, lecturers, and other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the ship operator.