Summary : Witness some of Europe’s largest seabird colonies—puffins, gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes, and more—crowding the dramatic cliffs and rocky offshore islands. Visit Giant’s Causeway where some 40,000 closely-packed hexagonal columns descend like a staircase into the sea. Discover important Neolithic monuments—the Standing Stones of Stenness; the Ring of Brodgar; and Skara Brae, a well-preserved Stone Age village. Explore a variety of architectural wonders, from Mousa’s Iron Age broch and 12th-century Iona Abbey to the magnificent St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.
Activities : Birding, Culture
$12,480 to $40,880
Board your independent overnight flight to London.
Check in to the Hilton London Paddington Hotel, with the rest of the day at leisure to explore the city on your own. Gather at the hotel this evening for a welcome reception and dinner.
After breakfast, depart via train for Portsmouth. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before a tour of this famous port city. This afternoon board Le Dumont d'Urville.
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.
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 lush, subtropical gardens of the medieval Tresco Abbey.
The Ballinskelligs Priory was founded in the 12th century by monks who moved to the mainland from Skellig Michael after numerous Viking attacks. A number of buildings still remain, including a church, tower house, parts of the cloister, a large domestic hall, and cemetery, most of which dates from the 15th century. On a clear day, views across the bay are simply spectacular.
From the village of Dunmore East, drive through scenic countryside to Waterford. Options today include a visit to the renowned House of Waterford Crystal 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. These islands attract a variety of birds to their craggy masses; on Great Saltee Island (permission pending) search for puffins, murres, razorbills, gannets, and more of the 47 bird species recorded here.
Enjoy a leisurely morning on board, as the ship cruises to Port St. Mary on the Isle of Man. Board the Isle of Man Steam Railway, the single remnant from the extensive Victorian system that served the main centers on the island. Ride through quaint and picturesque villages to the southern resort of Port Erin.
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. After lunch, go ashore on the Isle of Islay for a tour of the Ardbeg Distillery.
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 the monastery suffered repeated attacks by Vikings over the centuries and the original was destroyed, it 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
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.
Arrive in the capital city of Kirkwall on Mainland Island in the Orkneys today for visits to the magnificent St. Magnus Cathedral and some of the island’s major archaeological sites. 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.
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 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.
One of the most isolated settlements in the British Isles, Fair Isle 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.
Disembark in Aberdeen this morning, and enjoy a scenic train ride to Edinburgh. Check in to your hotel for a special farewell dinner and overnight.
Transfer to the airport for your independent homeward flight, arriving in the USA the same day.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to weather conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Emergency medical coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $25,000 is included in the cost of this expedition, as well as evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $100,000. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions.
Optional Post-Trip Extension: Scotland (5 days); $3,890 per person double occupancy; $4,980 single occupancy
Spends time in Braemar, Pitlochry, and Edinburgh.
One pre-cruise hotel night in London; one post-cruise hotel night in Edinburgh; train from London to Portsmouth; train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh; arrival and departure transfers on group dates; shipboard accommodations; WiFi; $80 gear certificate; all meals onboard ship; soft drinks, beer, and wine with lunch and dinner onboard ship; gratuities; limited emergency medical and evacuation coverage*. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; excess baggage charges; airport arrival and departure taxes; transfers for independent arrivals and departures; passport and/or visa fees; travel insurance; items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar charges, spa, alcoholic beverages (other than listed above), Internet/fax/telephone charges; extensions; fuel surcharge may apply.
*Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency medical coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $25,000 is included in the cost of this expedition, as well as evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $100,000. Insurance is underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA. The policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions. All coverages may not be available in all states. Please note this coverage does not cover you against trip cancellation or for additional days of travel prior to and/or after the expedition trip dates. ExpeditionTrips strongly advises all clients to purchase travel insurance which includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage for the entire duration of your trip.
Photos ©: Tom Sharpe, Jim Wilson, Zegrahm Expeditions