Legendary History & Wild Nature: British Isles

Dates:
10 May - 22 May 2021
Days: 13

Embarkation: Plymouth (England)
Disembarkation: Edinburgh (Scotland)
M/v Sea Spirit

For those who go off the beaten path, there are places in the British Isles where nature is still wild and history can be touched.

This expedition-style voyage from Plymouth to Edinburgh is your chance to discover some of the British Isles’ most historically significant and wildlife-rich destinations. Cruising aboard our small, luxury expedition ship is the perfect way to visit difficult-to-access locations where tourist value far exceeds tourist numbers.

We begin with beautiful Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. In Scotland, we explore early Christian history on the peaceful Isle of Iona, magnificent archeological sites in the Orkney Islands, and exciting birdlife on Shetland’s beautiful Fair Isle.

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Per person

Triple Suite Main Deck Suite Classic Suite Superior Suite Deluxe Suite Premium Suite Owners Suite
US$ 5 995 US$ 8 395 US$ 8 895 US$ 9 095 US$ 10 195 US$ 11 195 US$ 14 295
US$ 4 496 US$ 6 296 US$ 6 671 US$ 6 821 US$ 7 646 US$ 8 396 US$ 10 721

Book now and take advantage of 25% off for all Suites! The offer is available for new bookings only.

Cruise rates are quoted per person and based on passengers sharing a cabin. Single supplement: 1.7 for Main Deck and Classic, Superior Suite; 2 for Deluxe, Premium, and Owner’s Suite.

Expedition leader

DR. HUW LEWIS-JONES

Huw is a historian of exploration, culture, photography and the environment, with a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of award-winning books but is happiest when out in wild nature. Huw was Curator at the Scott Polar Research Institute and the National Maritime Museum in London. His books include In Search of the South Pole, The Crossing of Antarctica, Ocean Portraits, The Conquest of Everest, winner of the History Award at the Banff Mountain Festival, Across the Arctic Ocean, and Explorers’ Sketchbooks, an art history of discovery and adventure. His books now have been published in 14 languages.

As an experienced polar guide, over the last decade Huw has wandered on both sides of Antarctica and in the Arctic, from the Ross Sea and the Southern Ocean, to Siberia, Greenland and the North Pole. His research interests are equally wide-ranging, from Admiral Nelson and Captain Cook, through whaling and Heroic Age expeditions, to pioneering photography and even Inuit Art. Back in Britain, Huw regularly appears on television and radio as a historian and cultural commentator, in the BBC documentaries Wilderness Explored, Of Ice and Men, Antarctica’s Forgotten Hero, Battle for the Himalayas, and most recently the PBS Nova special Franklin’s Lost Ships.

Special guest

Dan Brown

Ornithologist

Dan is a nomadic British naturalist who has spent his entire life searching for weird and wonderful wildlife around the world. He grew up in Bangor University’s botanic garden where a passion for birds, mammals, invertebrates in fact any form of nature developed. As a teenager he spent six weeks exploring the Drakensberg Mountains of Lesotho and was part of the first youth expedition to the Antarctic at 18 following in Shackleton’s footsteps to South Georgia and Elephant Island. After studying Ecology at the University of East Anglia, Norwich he became a professional Ornithologist and Ecologist publishing two books on British birds whilst also undertaking work as varied as studying Basking Sharks and marine mammals along Scotland’s West coast and identifying biodiversity values in lowland Guinea.

Dan now works all around the world as a lecturer, naturalist, photographer, consultant ecologist and scientific advisor to the BBC natural history unit. When not working Dan heads off in search of exciting wildlife in hard to reach places from Snow Leopards in Tibet to Sand Cats in the Sahara.

Itinerary

Day 1: Embarkation in Plymouth, England

Welcome to Plymouth, where you’ll be transferred to the ship from London’s Heathrow Airport or a central Plymouth location. A charming port city in southwest England, its rich maritime heritage sets the mood for the beginning of our exciting voyage. In the afternoon we welcome you aboard the deluxe expedition ship M/V Sea Spirit. Welcome to Plymouth, where your group transfer to the ship from either London’s Heathrow Airport or a central Plymouth location is included. A charming port city in southwest England, its rich maritime heritage sets the mood for the beginning of our exciting voyage. In the afternoon we welcome you aboard the deluxe expedition ship M/V Sea Spirit.

Day 2: Tresco, Scilly Isles, England

The Isles of Scilly is a group of small islands off the coast of Cornwall boasting mild weather, secluded beaches, enchanting wildlife and a relaxed lifestyle. On the lovely, sand-fringed island of Tresco, Bronze Age burial sites and romantic 17th-century castle ruins reveal a long and dramatic history. On the hallowed grounds of a Benedictine abbey we discover the exquisite Tresco Abbey Garden with its spectacular collection of more than 20,000 exotic plants from all corners of the world. Here we also find the Valhalla Museum, a collection of colorful figureheads salvaged from the islands’ shipwrecks. Delightful cafés and local shops enrich your experience even further.

Day 3-4: Republic of Ireland

We are planning to visit the he Saltee Islands. The larger island Great Saltee is the most famous bird sanctuary in Ireland. These Islands are privately owned and are one of the world’s major bird sanctuaries. The Saltees are a haven for sea birds, nurturing an impressive array of birds, from Gannets and Gulls to Puffins and Manx Shearwaters. They also lie on an important migratory route and a popular stopping-off place for spring and autumn migrants. 

Dunmore East is a popular tourist and fishing village in County Waterford on Ireland’s southeastern coast. From here it is a short journey through scenic countryside to the House of Waterford Crystal. Here you can take a guided tour of the factory to see the master craftsmen at work as well as the world’s largest collection of their wares. Also nearby is Mount Congreve, a magnificent 18th-century Georgian estate and botanical gardens containing thousands of plant species on 70 acres of intensively planted woodland and a four-acre walled garden.

Day 5: Llandudno, Wales

Our port for today is the vibrant seaside town of Llandudno in the north of Wales. From here we embark on a scenic overland tour of Snowdonia National Park. We drive through some of the wildest and most dramatic landscapes in Britain as we discover craggy mountains, stunning waterfalls, crystal clear lakes, dense woodlands and flowering meadows. Snowdonia is also renowned for wildlife including otters, water voles, wild ponies and rare birds such as dotterel and peregrine falcon. We enjoy a delightful stop at the charming and distinctively Welsh town of Betws-y-Coed in the Gwydyr Forest.

Visit to the Conwy Castle is also on our list. UNESCO considers Conwy to be one of «the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe», and it is classed as a World Heritage site. Divided into an Inner and an Outer Ward, it is defended by eight large towers and two barbicans, with a postern gate leading down to the river, allowing the castle to be resupplied from the sea.

Day 6: Northern Ireland

Today we disembark at the small seaside resort town of Portrush in Northern Ireland. We travel overland to the world-famous Giant’s Causeway. Here we discover a geological masterpiece—40,000 closely packed hexagonal basalt columns of varying heights descending like a staircase into the sea. According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. In this area we are also able to spot various seabirds such as fulmar, petrel, cormorant, shag, redshank, guillemot and razorbill.

Day 7: Inner Hebrides, Scotland

Weather permitting, we also plan to visit the uninhabited island of Staffa. This island of volcanic origin is easily recognized by its striking colonnade of hexagonal basalt pillars. Here we hope to explore the island’s most famous feature, Fingal’s Cave. Reaching deep into the island, the undulating sea plays upon the stunning matrix of columnar basalt to create an eerie melody which was the inspiration for Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture. The rugged island also provides nesting sites for seabirds including guillemots, razorbills and puffins.

Today we also explore beautiful and serene Iona, a small island in the Inner Hebrides just off the Isle of Mull in western Scotland. At the gorgeous Iona Abbey, founded in 563 AD, we are spellbound by one of Scotland’s most historic and sacred sites and indeed one of the oldest Christian religious centers in Western Europe. The adjacent graveyard is said to be the final resting place of numerous medieval kings, including Macbeth. In addition to its historical and religious significance, Iona is well known for its soul-soothing tranquility, white sand beaches and excellent birdwatching.

Day 8: Outer Hebrides, Scotland

The Outer Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles, are a chain of dramatically rugged islands off the west coast of mainland Scotland. The most isolated of these is St Kilda. This remote and storm-ravaged island was continuously inhabited for at least two millennia by peoples of extraordinary hardiness. But as the modern world closed in after World War I, the remaining inhabitants chose to evacuate. Now we find only their rough stone buildings and distinctive storehouses called cleitean, all set amidst some of the most dramatic island scenery in the British Isles. Nature-lovers will be delighted, as the island is home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds, two early types of sheep, and over 130 species of flowering plants.

Day 9: Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

Today we have an opportunity to visit the historic port of Kirkwall we embark on an overland tour of Mainland, the largest of the Orkney Islands off the northeastern coast of Scotland. Attractions such as the well-preserved 5000-year-old village site at Skara Brae and the ancient Ring of Brodgar within the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Heart of Neolithic Orkney” showcase the world-class cultural heritage of the island. Back in the charming village of Kirkwall we also find the impressive Saint Magnus Cathedral, built in the Romanesque style by Vikings in the 12th century. You will also have free time to roam the old streets of Kirkwall and enjoy its unique atmosphere before we head to our next destination.

Day 10-11: Shetland Islands

On the uninhabited island of Mousa we find the famous Broch of Mousa, the finest preserved Iron Age fortification in the British Isles. At over 40 feet tall, this 2,000-year-old round tower is the tallest broch still standing and is among the best-preserved prehistoric buildings in Europe. The island itself supports a rich diversity of plant life and is also known for grey and common seals, Arctic terns, and a significant colony of storm-petrels.

We come alongside at the port of Lerwick on Mainland, the largest of the Shetland Islands. On a walking tour of this historic town we visit the award-winning Shetland Museum to learn all about Shetland’s fascinating heritage and culture. From here we take a scenic overland coach ride through the fertile countryside of Dunrossness to discover Shetland’s best destinations. Birders will relish the opportunity to visit the historic lighthouse at Sumburgh Head, the southernmost point of Mainland Shetland. These rugged cliffs attract thousands of seabirds and the grassy slopes above are particularly great for enjoying close encounters with puffins amongst beautiful wildflowers. Also on the itinerary is Jarlshof, one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the British Isles. Here we discover beautifully preserved stone structures spanning 5,000 years of human settlement, including Bronze Age oval houses, Pictish wheelhouses, an Iron Age broch, a Viking longhouse and a mediaeval farmhouse.

On Fair Isle—an isolated island of rolling moorlands and rugged coastlines—one is easily enchanted by historic crofts, picturesque lighthouses, and friendly locals. The island is famous among birders for its abundance of British birds and for its numerous records of eastern rarities and migrants. Fair Isle is also one of Europe’s best places to watch seabirds, especially puffins, at close range. Additionally, the island is notable for the abundance and diversity of its wildflowers. Seals are also commonly seen in its bays. Finally, during our visit it will be possible to see and purchase articles hand-knitted in the intricate and distinctive style for which Fair Isle has been celebrated for hundreds of years.

Day 12: Bass Rock, Scotland

  Bass Rock is an uninhabited island in the outer part of the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland. This bastion of volcanic rock, also known as “the Bass”, plays host to over 150,000 northern gannets in the breeding season, making it the world’s largest colony of these magnificent birds. The island’s steep walls are white with guano and the sky all around is darkened by the vast multitude of seabirds in flight. Our voyage is perfectly timed to coincide with this amazing spectacle—truly one of the wildlife wonders of the world.

Day 13: Disembarkation in Leith (Edinburgh), Scotland

After breakfast on board Sea Spirit we say farewell in Leith, Edinburgh’s vibrant port district. We provide transfers to the airport or to Edinburgh city center if you wish to spend more time in the wonderful capital of Scotland.

Itinerary, landings and all other activities during the cruise depend strongly on weather conditions and are subject to the decisions of the Expedition Leader and the Captain of the vessel. Encounters with any mentioned wildlife cannot be guaranteed.

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