Summary : From traveling down the iconic River Thames to wandering amidst beautiful gardens as the late spring bursts into bloom, this colorful palette of the British Isles and Ireland is not to be missed. Experience the legendary hospitality of the Celts, island hop some of the most beautiful British and Iris isles and drink in colorful vistas infused with drama, decadence and eons of history.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$6,100 to $23,000
Embark Silver Cloud, settle in and attend a mandatory safety drill before leaving port. Tonight enjoy the first of many memorable meals in one of the restaurants.
The morning is spent traveling down the River Thames, starting with the special highlight of Silver Cloud passing the impressive Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. Heading downriver you will be passing Canary Wharf, the superbly restored Cutty Sark, and Greenwich with its National Maritime Museum. Silver Cloud will be crossing the Greenwich Meridian, having a marvelous view of the University of Greenwich, the old Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum and Greenwich Park just before the O2 will be rounded.
In the afternoon Silver Cloud will enter the North Sea, heading for the English Channel. Attend one of the lectures preparing you for the different natural and historic highlights awaiting you on this voyage.
Guernsey is only 25 square miles, but presents a surprising variety of beautiful and historic attractions.
For fit walkers a cliff walk will be offered. A long gradual climb of approximately 2 hours will lead to cliff tops affording great views overlooking the south coast cliffs. This walk will meander past an abundance of wildflowers along the pretty Petit Port Bay, arriving at the Jerbourg Hotel from where you will be driven to Les Cotils for a delicious Guernsey cream tea.
The second tour will depart the St Peter Port pier for a scenic drive to a silver and goldsmith’s workshop to see the craftsmen at work. The workshop and showroom are set in 8 acres of award-winning grounds. After browsing at leisure you will embark on a guided nature walk to truly appreciate the stunning grounds before enjoying a local refreshment called the Guernsey Gâche (a sultana fruit loaf served with Guernsey butter and tea or coffee).
The third excursion will take you back in time to see how life on Guernsey was during World War II. The Channel Islands were the only part of England to be occupied by the German forces and you will visit the La Valette Underground Museum which houses a mass of WW II memorabilia. Departing the museum the tour will continue along the beautiful West coast of Guernsey. On the return the charming “Little Chapel” will be briefly visited.
Silver Cloud will anchor between St. Mary’s and Tresco and during the morning local boats will take you ashore to explore the lovely St. Mary’s on your own. You might want to go birding or take a look at Star Castle, the Garrison Walls and the surrounding landscape.
To many, Tresco is the most attractive of the Isles of Scilly, especially with its Abbey Gardens. This afternoon go ashore by Zodiac for a guided tour of this world-renowned attraction which is home to thousands of exotic plant species from 80 countries (ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Myanmar to South Africa). Botanist and plant collector Augustus Smith began the gardens in the 1830s on the site of an old Benedictine Abbey by channeling the weather up and over a network of walled enclosures built around the Priory ruins. He had three terraces carved from the rocky south slope and, in this way, maximized Tresco’s mild Gulf Stream climate. Here, there are generally more hours of sunshine and less rainfall than the UK average, and many of these plants would stand no chance on the Cornish mainland, less than 30 miles away. Quite interesting is the collection of Galleon figureheads the garden has on exhibit.
If you like to walk, your day begins with a drive to Kete where you will begin a walk towards St Ann’s Head and then along the Coastal Path. On the walk you will see old and new lighthouses, coastguard cottages and Mill Bay, where Henry Tudor landed in 1485. This 7 km walking tour takes about 2 hours –the surfaces of the path can vary considerably with the weather.
If you prefer history, join an excursion to either Picton Castle or Pembroke Castle. Picton Castle is probably Britain’s most unusual ancient building, as it was designed as part fortified manor house and part medieval castle. You will be treated to an exclusive visit with stewards in each room ready to answer any questions. Leaving the castle enjoy a glass of sparkling wine before visiting one of the most beautiful woodland gardens in West Wales. Discover the woodland walks, ferns and the abundant wildflowers that blend with unusual woodland shrubs. You can also visit the Walled Garden.
Pembroke Castle in turn is the second largest castle in Wales. Built in the 12th century it was the birthplace of Henry VII. The massive walls with five projecting towers and a great keep (~60ft high and ~18ft thick at the base) guarded the strategically important town of Pembroke. Enjoy a guided tour of this impressive castle.
During the afternoon enjoy a Zodiac cruise to explore the cliffs of small Skomer Island off the southwest coast of Wales. Accessible only by boat, Skomer has a large population of breeding seabirds that include Manx Shearwaters, guillemots, Razorbills, Great Cormorants, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Atlantic Puffins, European Storm Petrels, Common Shags, Eurasian Oystercatchers and gulls, as well as birds of prey including Short-eared Owls, Common Kestrels and Peregrine Falcons. The island is also home to a variety of wildflowers. Harbor porpoises and grey seals can usually be seen in the surrounding waters.
The day begins with a visit to the magnificent Skellig Islands that lie 8 miles off the coast of Portmagee in South West Kerry. Rising majestically from the sea, Skellig Michael towers 714ft above sea level. On the summit of this awe-inspiring rock you will find a remarkably well preserved sixth century monastic settlement now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Small Skellig is equally renowned in matters of ornithology as the home of some 27,000 pairs of gannets – one of the largest colonies in the world. The final scene of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was shot on Skellig. The remains of the Skellig Michael monastery appear in the film, representing an ancient Jedi temple.
With a population of 156 inhabitants, Knightstown is the largest settlement on Valentia Island. From the port travel east to two different estates and gardens:
One excursion will visit Derrynane House, and the Derrynane National Historic Park. After visiting the house you will have free time to explore the estate and garden.
The second excursion will go to Kells Gardens, one of Ireland’s foremost Victorian Gardens. The garden contains a large collection of plants from the Southern Hemisphere and the spectacular topography and the almost subtropical climate are favorable to the growth of ornamental plants from many parts of the world. You will enjoy a guided walk and have time to explore on your own.
The day begins with a very early visit to the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark. The cliffs are made up of various types of perpendicular or overhanging rocks and have been broken into the most fantastic forms, eroding into hundreds of caves by the Atlantic waves. The views from Silver Cloud will show the extensive area of nature’s impact on geology.
The area can later be explored on land visiting Aillwee Cave, Ireland’s most impressive cave in the heart of the Burren from the Gaelic word Boireann. This area of limestone rocks, majestic mountains and tranquil valleys houses over 2,700 archaeological monuments and has Arctic, Alpine, and Mediterranean flowers.
Galway is the capital of the West of Ireland, but if you want to know about farming in Ireland, join an excursion to Rathbaum Farm, where the owners will offer morning tea, coffee and scones and be at hand to explain about life outside the cities and towns. They will also show how sheep are maneuvered with the help of a dog. Photographic stops will be made on the way at Dunguaire Castle and Galway Cathedral.
Your full day excursion into the Connemara country will lead to Kylemore Abbey and the Victorian Walled Garden. Home to the Irish Benedictine Nuns, Kylemore Abbey is regarded as one of Ireland’s most romantic buildings. The flower garden is a delight, with two glasshouses and a kitchen garden also quite productive. At Clifden, known as the “Capital of Connemara”, you will have lunch and time for some independent exploration. On the return you will drive through Recess, Derryneen and Maam Cross and will understand why Connemara is regarded as the “Emerald of Ireland”.
In the evening, Galway, Ireland’s fourth most populous urban area, offers either local life in a pub with live traditional music, local pub food and drinks, or you can stay onboard and listen to a local band coming to play aboard Silver Cloud.
The Aran Islands are rich in language, culture and heritage of Ireland. Inis Mor has about 900 inhabitants and the main village on the island is Kilronan. The Aran Islands are a great place for peace and tranquillity with weathered monuments, labyrinths of limestone and a patchwork of fields. The most spectacular national monument on the islands is Dun Aonghus (The Fort of Aonghus) with its semi-circular shape at the edge of a cliff. It is one of Europe’s finest prehistoric fortresses.
In the afternoon visit Clare Island, the largest of the 100 islands in Clew Bay. Five miles long by 3 miles wide, the island has 160 inhabitants dedicated mainly to farming, fishing and tourism. Two different hikes will be on offer to see the cliffs and lighthouses, as well as the island’s flora and fauna and to see the archaeological sites from Bronze Age to modern times, including Granuaile’s Castle. Clare Island was home of the infamous Pirate Queen Grace O Malley. The spectacular cliffs to the north are home to large numbers of seabirds.
In the evening see how Clare Island comes to life as some of the best shanos singers will present themselves at Sailors Bar. There you will enjoy a cultural experience combining traditional Irish music, storytelling and delicious seafood and local delicacies. The Sailors Bar Restaurant’s specialty is smoked mackerel, crab claws and smoked salmon. Farmed here and smoked on neighboring Achill Island, Clare Island Smoked Salmon, one of the world’s most premium farmed salmon, will be accompanied by home-baked tasty brown bread.
From the fishing village of Killibeg you will either be driven to The Bluestack Mountain Range of Southwest Donegal for a walk to the ancient Disert Graveyard and a Holy Well dating to the times of St Colmcille (mid-6th century) or to drive to Glencomcille Folk Village.
At the foothills of the Bluestacks the walk circles the National Monument on existing roads and tracks and offers many vantage points for magnificent views of the surrounding Bluestack Mountains and Donegal Bay.
At the Glencolmcille Folk Village you will be able to experience what Ireland’s past of poverty and hardship meant. The Glencolmcille Museum will show the bygone lifestyle through craft shops, a tea house, a school house (where you can get a tuition in Irish language), as well as replica cottages from the 18th to the 20th century. As Donegal is renowned for its tweed, a demonstration of spinning and weaving is also available. While tea and scones are served, local musicians will treat you to some traditional Irish music.
During your visit drive along the spectacular and unspoilt Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland to reach Dunluce Castle. Epic struggles between warring Gaelic families caused many castles to be built in defensive positions along the North Antrim coast. The rambling ruins of the 17th-century castle with its towers and gables cling precariously to a black basalt crag, and are dramatically surrounded by terrifyingly steep drops. The castle will be quite familiar to some, as it has prominently featured in “Game of Thrones”. Enjoy a guided tour of the castle.
Next experience the Giant’s Causeway — one of Northern Ireland’s most famous landmarks. Legend has it that the Irish giant, Finn McCool, constructed the causeway so he could cross the sea to Scotland and thus be with his lady love. In reality, the Causeway’s 40,000 stone columns, mostly hexagonal, formed millions of years ago with the cooling of molten lava. For centuries, visitors have marveled at the rugged symmetry of the columns and their ability to withstand the unbridled ferocity of Atlantic storms. UNESCO has recognized this unique site with World Heritage status.
Following breakfast on board, disembark Silver Cloud.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Ship accommodation; most onboard meals (Le Champagne Restaurant excluded); butler service; most wines, champagnes and spirits on the ship; tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water and soda; onboard gratuities (except spa); port charges and handling fees; Vista and Veranda Suites receive one hour of included internet access per guest/per day; Medallion, Silver, Royal, Grand, and Owner’s Suites receive unlimited internet access; Royal, Grand, and Owner’s Suites receive laundry service throughout the voyage as well as dinner for two in Le Champagne (one evening per voyage) and two hours of worldwide phone use from your suite, per voyage segment. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; meals on board at Le Champagne Restaurant unless mentioned above as included; some alcoholic premium beverages; travel insurance; government fees and taxes; visa and passport expenses; internet use not mentioned as included; gifts and items of a personal nature such as laundry (unless mentioned as included) and spa options; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Bruno Cazarini, © Ray Stranagan