Summary : If, like the national poet of Scotland Robert Burns, your heart “lies in the highlands”, then this trip will fill your soul with song. Wild moors and rugged coasts, mighty mountains and hauntingly beautiful landscapes are the backdrop for birders to spot a startling variety of seabirds. Complete the trip with castles and cathedrals plus one of the greatest train rides in the world.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$9,100 to $24,400
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.
Apart from an independent visit to the Manx Museum in Douglas, the Isle of Man has two quite distinct options for you: you can either walk along part on the coastline on one of the island’s most beautiful walks, or you can choose to take a vintage steam train towards the former capital of Castletown.
For the “Southern Cliffs” walking tour you will be driven to the Folk Village of Cregneash, from where you stroll through farmland to The Chasm, a local landmark. There you can have excellent views of the nesting seabirds, continuing on an easy coastal path to The Sound. A renowned bird sanctuary is located just across this body of water and grey seals frequent the area. At The Sound you will board your bus to return to the pier.
If you are a train buff, then you should either take the excursion by train from Douglas to Castletown to see the magnificent Castle Rushden, one of the best examples of a medieval castle in Europe dating back to the year 1200, or combine the train ride with a special culinary touch: traveling in lovingly restored dining cars through the Manx landscape with breathtaking scenery and coastal views, you will enjoy a tasting menu of the freshest seasonal Manx produce and Manx craft ales.
Whichever you choose, you are sure to enjoy the magnificent views either walking or riding the train.
This morning arrive at Iona Island. St Columba came here from Ireland in 563 AD and early Christianity spread through northern Britain from this remote island community. Forty-eight Kings of Scotland are buried here, including Duncan, Macbeth’s victim. Once ashore visit Iona Abbey, one of Scotland’s most sacred and historical sites. The abbey was restored during the early 20th century, and today the Iona Community continues the tradition of worship first established by St Columba.
The Tresnish Isles, protecting the western approaches to Mull, will be Silver Cloud’s afternoon’s destination. Lunga, the largest of them, has 2,000-plus pairs of Atlantic Puffins that breed on the island’s plateau of short turf. Other birds include storm petrels, Manx Shearwaters and Black-legged Kittiwakes. Guillemots, puffins, Corncrakes and Razorbills breed on Lunga and nearby Harp Rock, but the island is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its abundant plant life! Many rare and endangered plants are native to Lunga. These include Primroses, Birdsfoot Trefoil, and orchids, Sea Campion, Thrift and Tormentil.
Today combine a visit to the Scottish Highlands with one of the “Great railway journeys of the world”. Departing Oban head east by coach going through the Pass of Brander, past Loch Awe and stop for views of Kilchurn Castle near Rannoch Moor, one of the last remaining wildernesses in Europe. Through Glencoe again go along the shores of Lock Linnhe until you reach Fort William, the largest town in the West Highlands. After lunch at a local hotel, board the Jacobite train for an 84-mile route that covers some of Scotland’s “most/best” list: start near Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, and pass close by of Loch Morar, Britain’s deepest freshwater loch, to end the journey next to the deepest seawater loch having crossed Britain’s shortest river. The train uses locomotives dating back to the 1930s and 1940s, while the coaches are 1960s ex-British Railways Mark 1s. Truly one of the great railway journeys of the world.
In Mallaig you will again board Silver Cloud.
To give you time to explore the charming port of Portree on your own in the afternoon you will have three morning choices for excursions in the morning.
You can head to Waternish Peninsula to the village of Stein and the Skyeskyns tannery to learn about traditional leather making. Enjoy a guided tour of the workshop, seeing the traditional implements and understanding the lengthy hand finishing processes to create the world famous Highland hand-combed fleece exclusive to Skyeskyns.
Or visit one of the most renowned castles Hebridean/Scottish castles. You can either visit Eilean Castle, arguably one of the most recognizable castles in the world. Restored in the 1930s, three floors can be visited to understand the rich history of the castle and its clansmen. On this excursion some of the best Highlands home-baking will be offered at the Michelin-starred Kinloch Lodge. If you choose Dunvegan Castle, you will drive across the lovely Isle of Skye to its west coast. Dunvegan Castle has been continuously owned and used by the same family for over 800 years. The castle has been the seat of the Clan MacLeod chiefs since the 13th century. Explore the castle and the lovely gardens that surround the waterfall known as Rory Mor’s cascade.
Approach St. Kilda in the early morning. This remarkable and uninhabited archipelago some 50 miles beyond the Outer Hebrides is very rarely visited.
St. Kilda is one of the few places in the world to have received dual World Heritage status from UNESCO in recognition of its Natural Heritage and cultural significance. Silver Cloud will drop anchor off Village Bay on the island of Hirta. Weather conditions permitting, go ashore using Zodiacs to visit the westernmost landmass in the United Kingdom. St. Kilda once supported a population of over 200, but the last islanders left in the 1930s. Recent restoration work on the village by the National Trust for Scotland offers a marvelous link with the past.
The stunning cliffs and sea stacks are home to the most important seabird breeding colony in north-west Europe and during the late afternoon Silver Cloud will sail past two of the largest gannetries in the world.
Kirkwall and the Orkney Islands can offer some very different aspects of human history and use of the islands: you can choose to see the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Neolithic Heartland of Orkney, visiting the Ring of Brodgar, a huge ceremonial circle of stones dating back some 5,000 years, and the 5,000-year-old village of Skara Brae before returning to Kirkwall and the St Magnus Cathedral, built during the Viking reign of the islands.
You could also choose to head for the smaller South Isles, passing Scapa Flow, driving over the Churchill Barriers, built during World War II to protect Scapa Flow, to reach the island of Burray and stopping at Burray Village for delicious refreshments consisting of local produce including Bere Bannock (local bread) and local farmhouse cheese, Orkney Fudge and Orkney ice cream with a glass of wine or beer.
If you would like to taste something “more’ typical of Scotland and the Orkneys, then you might want to consider a visit to the Highland Park distillery, one of the world’s most northerly whisky distilleries. You will drive to the South Isles and will have an in-depth tour of the distillery and will get to taste whisky of 12, 15, 18 and 25 years of age. On the return you will have time to visit St Magnus Cathedral.
In the evening head out to a dinner and party in true Orcadian style. You will head out to West Mainland and will spend the evening at one of the country community halls. Seated at communal tables a buffet style supper will be served with local shellfish and Orkney beef. Local story-tellers will entertain with traditional tales of Orkney folklore. After dessert the area will be cleared for a mini-ceilidh. With the help of a traditional dance caller and a local band guests will learn traditional Orkney dances and get a chance to practice their new dance skills. If you need some inspiration (or courage) try the traditional Orkney Cog, a unique wooden drinking vessel filled with a warm spiced brew mix.
Explore the historical part of Lerwick during a walking tour. Starting from Victoria Pier, the heart of the Old Town, you will be seeing houses, warehouses, slipways and fish-drying sheds dating back to the 18th century, when Lerwick was the premier herring town in Northern Europe. You will also see the Up Helly Aa Exhibition with its replica Viking boat and colourful exhibitions, before seeing the fascinating Shetland Museum with its more than 3,000 artifacts. Enjoy refreshments and scones at the museum’s café.
If you are interested in Neolithic history, join the excursion to see the remarkable archaeological site of Jarlshof. The site contains a sequence of late Neolithic houses, a Bronze-Age village, an Iron-Age broch and wheelhouse, several Norse longhouses, a medieval farmstead and a 16th century house. Later see Shetland’s oldest lighthouse at Sumburgh Head, and look for the thousands of seabirds attracted by the cliffs. Puffins, fulmars, gannets, shags and guillemots can be seen during this time of the year.
You could also just head to Sumburgh Head, to spend more time looking for the birds and marine mammals that frequent this area.
If you want hiking, birding and history combined, join in for a visit to the uninhabited island of Mousa. There you will be doing a circular walk on the 1.5 square mile island to spot different birds and common and grey seals, and climb the Mousa Broch, an impressive Iron-Age fortress tower and is the best preserved of its type.
In the afternoon, Silver Cloud repositions to the Isle of Noss for Zodiac cruises along the spectacular cliffs and their bird colonies.
Geographically divided into two distinct areas, the miniscule 3.5 by 1.5-mile Fair Isle features high moorland areas and cliffs in the north and flatter, fertile lands in the south. More than 250 plant species are found on this small island. Due to the island’s phenomenal seabird collection, Britain’s most isolated inhabited island is protected by the Fair Isle Marine Environment & Tourism Initiative. Find a diversity of seabird species that may well be unequaled in all of Europe. Take the Zodiacs ashore to look for thousands of Atlantic Puffins, Northern Fulmars, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Razorbills, and Black Guillemots, with skuas and terns on the moorland. There’s also a small colony of Northern Gannets. With any luck, you might catch a glimpse of the endemic Fair Isle Wren. Islanders will accompany the group on the walk to the newly refurbished bird observatory. You can visit the museum and while you have tea and home-baking with the islanders in their community hall, have a look at the knitwear produced on the island. Crafts will be for sale if you wish to purchase.
Aberdeen brands itself as the “Energy capital of Europe”, but is mainly known as the “granite City”, based on the many buildings made out of locally quarried granite.
You can see a number of these impressive buildings during a panoramic drive to visit one of the largest indoor gardens in Europe, the David Welch Winter Gardens at Duthie Park. The gardens are home to a large collection of plants from around the world and include the Tropical House, Japanese Garden, Corridor of Perfumes, the Fern House, the Temperate House, and the Victorian Corridor. Choose the areas of interest to explore independently.
If you would like to visit a countryside garden and a castle, join the half day tour to visit the stunning Crathes Castle and its gardens. You will drive through Royal Deeside to see one of the most beautiful and well-preserved castles in Scotland and the walled garden which is home to beautiful borders, ancient yew hedges, a rose garden, a fountain and a glass house.
On a full day tour you can visit two of the finest castles of Royal Deeside: apart from Crathes Castle you will also get to visit Balmoral, a favorite Royal retreat and the Scottish home of the Royal family. As it is still used by the Royal family, Balmoral is only open for a short time each summer. You will see the gardens, exhibitions about the estate, its wildlife and Royal life; and you will also be able to visit the Ballroom, the castle’s largest room. Lunch will be had at a hotel near Balmoral.
From Eyemouth you can go south into England on a full day tour to see Lindisfarne and Alnwick Castle. The island of Lindisfarne can only be reached at low tide via a causeway and this will influence the timings today. Upon arrival on Holy Island, as Lindisfarne is also known, enjoy some free time to explore the village and Priory ruins before visiting Lindisfarne Castle. The iconic Alnwick Castle, the second-largest inhabited castle in England, has featured in many films and television such as Downton Abbey, and houses an enviable collection of fine art. The Castle Gardens are home to one of the country’s largest collections of European plants in striking geometric beds, themed gardens and a fabulous garden design. Lunch will be “Fish and Chips” at the Castle Friary.
Nature lovers will want to head out to St Abb’s Head on the Berwickshire coast. This National Nature Reserve offers extensive nature walks through rich grasslands along the rugged coastline. The dramatic cliffs provide spectacular vantage points to watch thousands of nesting guillemots, kittiwakes and Razorbills.
Art lovers will want to choose a visit to Floors Castle. Not only is it the largest inhabited house in Scotland, home to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe, it also houses an outstanding collection of fine art, 17th century French furniture, rare tapestries and porcelain. You can explore the grounds and beautiful gardens originating from a formal design laid out in the first half of the 18th century.
If you like literature you might decide to see Sir Walter Scott’s home, Abbotsford House. One of Scotland’s most fascinating places, you can explore the historic house and discover a treasure trove of intriguing objects and unusual artifacts which inspired Scott’s greatest novels and poems. Take time to wander through the beautiful formal gardens and tranquil woodlands before returning to Eyemouth.
Kingston upon Hull is the perfect starting point for an excursion to see York and York Minster. York was an important Roman city and part of the original city walls remain. After a short panoramic tour of York you will continue on to the celebrated York Minster, Northern Europe’s largest Cathedral. A guided tour will feature the highlights of the cathedral, including the famous 14th century stained glass.
Architecture and history lovers will have to choose if they want to see Castle Howard, one of Britain’s most impressive examples of British Baroque architecture and one of the highlights of British Gardens during a full day tour or the Burton Agnes Hall and Gardens on a half day tour. Castle Howard has annual displays of daffodils, rhododendrons, delphiniums and roses, while the delightful gardens of Burton Agnes Hall contain over 4,000 different plant species, including a jungle garden and a national collection of campanulas.
Art and plant lovers might prefer the National Collection of Hardy Water Lilies at Stewart’s Burnby Hall Gardens. This is the perfect time of the year to visit the 9 acres of beautifully laid out gardens and lakes. There are more than 80 varieties of water lilies and the setting is the biggest collection of hardy water lilies found in a natural setting anywhere in Europe.
At Ramsgate you will either embark on an excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Canterbury Cathedral or head for the medieval town of Sandwich and Dover Castle.
Apart from driving through the heartland of the county of Kent, known as the “Garden of England”, you will be visiting the historic and picturesque city of Canterbury with its labyrinth of medieval streets and quaint shops and the magnificent Norman cathedral.
If you choose Dover Castle, you will be first taken through the maze of ancient streets, gateways, churches and timber-framed houses of Sandwich’s Old Town. Dover Castle’s strategic location was already used in the Iron Age, and today you can enjoy exhibitions taking you back in time, to see the medieval tunnels, visit the ‘secret’ World War II tunnels, walk the Battlements and take in the fabulous views from the magnificent cliff top location.
Silver Cloud will pass the Tower Bridge and will be across from the impressive Tower of London in the very early hours of the morning.
During the day you can embark on a panoramic tour showing you the essential highlights London has to offer. The tour will pass St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s Column, and the National Gallery, continuing on towards Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park and The Mall. From London’s main ceremonial avenue travel down to Whitehall and Downing Street before entering Parliament Square. You will see the historic Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the immense structure of the magnificent Westminster Abbey. The tour then heads back down the Embankment towards Silver Cloud.
In the evening Silversea and the Royal Geographical Society have arranged for a very special reception at the Royal Geographical Society’s headquarter.
You will enjoy a reception across the ground floor of the Society, soaking up the atmosphere of the Map Room and Hall. You will then be escorted into the Ondaatje Theatre for a welcome by the Silversea’s representatives, Alasdair MacLeod, Head of Collection & Resources, RSG-IGB, and a guest speaker.
Following the welcome there will be an “Open House” style evening where guests can enjoy private views of the Society’s Collections in the Foyle Reading Room while refreshments will be served in the Fine Rooms of the Society’s historic home. From over two million items in its Collections, the specially curated exhibit will include artifacts, maps, photographs, archival and personal items used by famous Antarctic and Arctic explorers (including Scott, Shackleton, Mawson, Amundsen, Nansen and Peary), plus a selection of iconic pieces from the Society’s wider holdings which document world exploration over 500 years.
Following breakfast, 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