The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides

The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides

The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides

The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides

Travel information 11 days MS Spitsbergen
April 14, 2023
April 24, 2023
May 4, 2023
Price from $ 5,670
$ 5,103
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

Join our Hebridean adventure aboard our expedition ship, MS Spitsbergen, as we visit some of the most remote, romantic, and rugged Scottish islands.

Adventure, at your own pace

Making full use of the ship’s fleet of small boats (RIBs), you’ll enjoy a truly rewarding and memorable cruise. Opportunities abound for exploring remote islands and wandering lonely beaches at your own pace, immersed in the wild beauty of the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

Leaving Glasgow, our first island will be the Isle of Arran, considered ‘Scotland in miniature’, featuring a little bit of everything you’d want to see in a Scottish island. Then it’s off to the Isle of Islay, with its nine whisky distilleries. Then, mystical Iona awaits you, before we witness the wildlife of the uninhabited Treshnish Isles. The far-flung UNESCO World Heritage Site of St. Kilda, evacuated by humans and returned to the wild, will amaze you.

Island odyssey

Turning back east, we’ll call at Stornoway. Here, you can see Harris Tweed being woven before we drop anchor at the amazing wildlife-rich Shiant Isles. Next, we’ll walk the shores of the dramatic Loch Coruisk, on mountainous Skye, before sailing to the jagged Isle of Eigg and onto colorful Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull.

On the final leg, you’ll enjoy the unspoiled beauty of Colonsay before returning to our point of departure: the stylish city of Glasgow. During the cruise, your knowledgeable Expedition Team will help you get the most out of your island-hopping odyssey.

The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides
  • Day 1
    Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland

    Setting sail from a stylish city of culture

    Estimated time of departure is 10:00 PM

    Our Scottish Isles expedition begins in Glasgow. Set against a backdrop of splendid Victorian architecture, Glasgow has reinvented itself as a stylish and exciting city, full of museums, galleries, and lively spots to eat, drink, and shop. This is definitely a city you’ll want to see more of if you have any spare time before the day of embarkation. Consider adding an extra night and get to know the proud city of Edinburgh, uniting history and beauty. And, see Glasgow’s architectural gems with the magnificent 12th-century cathedral and revolutionary Art Nouveau buildings. The same tour is also offered as an optional Post-Program.

    Your comfortable expedition ship, MS Spitsbergen, will be ready and waiting for you. Once you board the ship and check in, you’ll receive your complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket. This may come in handy with the unpredictable weather we can expect to encounter along the way. Take time to settle into your cabin and explore the ship before attending a mandatory pre-departure safety drill.

    There, you’ll be greeted by your friendly Expedition Team. They’ll prepare you for the exciting days ahead. But their first priority is taking you through important health and safety principles to ensure the health and safety of you and your fellow explorers throughout the cruise.

    With that, we’re off! MS Spitsbergen will set sail from Glasgow, heading north into the Atlantic on our circular cruise to explore the remote Scottish isles.

    Stretch your legs on deck and explore the different areas of the ship, your home-away-from-home for the next 11 days. Enjoy your first dinner in one of the ship’s excellent restaurants—one of many more delicious meals to come. Raise your glass and join the Captain and crew in a toast to an enjoyable expedition.

    This is an expedition cruise, so the order of stops may change, depending on local circumstances.

    Day 1
    Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland

    Setting sail from a stylish city of culture

  • Day 2
    Isle of Arran, Scotland

    A Microcosm of Scotland

    Warmed by the North Atlantic Drift, the high peaks of this sheltered island are a haven for wildlife. Dramatic mountains? Check. Famous distillery? Check. Good hiking trails? Check. Indeed, it’s an authentic microcosm of Scotland. Brodick town has its 16th-century red sandstone castle, while the ruined castle of Lochranza was once a royal hunting lodge.

    You can feel the unique atmosphere of the beautiful isle of Arran as soon as you step onto it. More sheltered than the outer Scottish islands, Arran is covered in rich purple heather, green and brown low hills, and is sourced by numerous streams and small rivers. Hiking is a must here, especially the popular route, Goat Fell.

    Visit Brodick Castle and Gardens overlooking the Firth of Clyde in the island’s main town and get a sense of the aristocratic life of yesteryear. It’s the quintessential island castle. In the grounds, you’ll find a woodland and formal garden to explore and relax in.

    The Machrie Moor stone circle lies a bit further away. The moor is littered with Neolithic treasures, including burial cairns, cists, and standing stones, but most visitors make a bee line for the stone circle. Marvel at the huge upright slabs and the skill and technique the ancients must have used to get them there.

    Drop by the Isle of Arran Distillery for a tour of the production process, rounded off with a snifter of their distinctive malt. All malts are unique. Arran’s whisky starts life as pure water, cascading down through six waterfalls to reach the distillery. Try it for yourself!

    As you travel around the island, spot Scotland’s ‘big five’ wildlife draws: the golden eagle, red deer, red squirrel, otter, and seal—all of which live on Arran.

    • Included Brodick Castle with Shuttle
    Day 2
    Isle of Arran, Scotland

    A Microcosm of Scotland

  • Day 3
    Islay, Scotland

    Land of Scottish Whisky

    Heighten your spirit of discovery on this island, famed for its whisky, wildlife, and woolen garments.

    Islay isn’t called ‘whisky island’ by coincidence. There are nine working distilleries here, and their peaty single malts are sold around the world. One of the larger islands, there are 130 miles of coastline here, along with numerous quiet, sandy beaches.

    History abounds on Islay, with ancient monoliths and a stone circle showing traces of inhabitants on the island in Neolithic times. Islay later became known as the Lordship of the Isles. Explore the enigmatic settlement at Finlaggan, the island’s most important archeological site, where you can even spot a number of Celtic crosses.

    Islay is also a wildlife paradise, with over 200 species of birds. These include oystercatchers, gannets, terns, shags, and cormorants, as well as buzzards, hen harriers, and even golden eagles. You might spot dolphins and basking sharks from the beaches, and even the occasional otter, if you’re patient.

    Delight in the charming town of Bowmore, whose shops, interesting round church, and several cozy pubs and restaurants are worth a visit. It’s probably the only place in the world with ‘Hebridean pizza’—‘peat-za’—topped with crab and lobster.

    Bowmore is full of art and handicrafts, and you can visit potters, quilters, and artists in their workshops. Visit Islay Woolen Mill, near Bridgend, which made tartan clothes for Mel Gibson in Braveheart, and Liam Neeson’s kilt in Rob Roy.

    No trip to Islay would be complete without a visit to one of its famous distilleries. Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, Ardbeg, and Bowmore are among the best known.

    • Included Islay Coastal Walk 
    Day 3
    Islay, Scotland

    Land of Scottish Whisky

  • Day 4
    Isle of Gigha, Scotland

    ‘The Good Isle’

    Tiny Gigha (pronounced Gee’a) is a little sandy slice of paradise. Nicknamed ‘Good Isle’, this tiny island is owned by the 163 residents, all of whom aim to create a ‘good life’ for themselves. It’s a place of quiet beaches, peaceful walks and tranquil views.

    There’s only one village on Gigha and that’s Ardminish, on the east coast. Pay a visit to Achamore House, about a mile to the south, which is set among fifty acres of woodland gardens. It was once home to Sir James Horlick. Sir James created a colorful and impressive display of rhododendron flowers (aka azaleas), along with malted wheat drink we all know him for.

    Work up an appetite with a walk along the coast and visit some of the white sandy coves. Then drop in on the quaint Boathouse Restaurant for a bite of lunch. This award-winning eatery is right on the shore. The chef serves up a range of tasty and fresh Scottish seafood, paired with a great wine list.

    Gigha is a small island (measuring only 6 miles long) and you can easily get around it on foot. If bike hire is available from the village shop, getting around on two wheels is tons of fun. You may want to head up to the turquoise waters and amazing views of the back-to-back twin beaches of Bagh Rubha Ruaidh and Bagh na Doirlinne.

    Before heading back to the ship, stock up on the locally made snacks and treats for sale at honesty boxes by the roadsides all over the island, as well as the village store. The welcoming locals produce a distinctive waxed fruit cheese—give it a try!

    • Included Achamore Gardens
    Day 4
    Isle of Gigha, Scotland

    ‘The Good Isle’

  • Day 5
    Isle of Iona & Treshnish Isles, Scotland

    Pilgrims and puffins

    Famed for its mystical Christian associations, Iona is a peaceful little island off the coast of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. The restored abbey here is a place of pilgrimage and peace. There’s much more to see here, though, including picturesque beaches, wonderful wildlife, and beautiful St. Columba’s Bay.

    Iona has been a center for Christian worship since the 6th century, but the abbey was sacked several times by Vikings between 795 and 825. Today you can explore this sacred site, including the restored church. Supposedly, 48 early Scottish kings are buried in the graveyard, alongside Irish and Norwegian kings—see if you can find them!

    From the abbey, take the popular hike uphill to Dun I (pronounced “Dun Eee”). You’ll be at Iona’s highest point, where you can see St. Columba’s Bay and the Treshnish Isles. Look for the ‘Natural Well’ (a.k.a. the ‘Well of Eternal Youth’) and splash your face with its allegedly miraculous waters. You can find it in a cleft between two rocks as you walk downhill, facing north.

    Next, it’s off to the remote beauty of the Treshnish Isles. This group of distinctive skerries are home to a wealth of wildlife, including Atlantic puffins, colonies of black-legged kittiwakes, razorbills, and common guillemots, as well as Atlantic gray seals. Did you know that puffins can live for over 30 years?

    Fingal’s Cave, immortalized through Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, is on the cave-riddled island of Staffa and is noted for its amazing natural acoustics. The basalt columns inside are a northern extension of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. On a calm, clear day, we might even be able to land and see the color of the water inside the cave, though its rising columns can also be viewed from the sea.

    • Included Self-Guided Exploration of Iona Abbey
    Day 5
    Isle of Iona & Treshnish Isles, Scotland

    Pilgrims and puffins

  • Day 6
    St. Kilda, Hirta Island, Scotland

    Reclaimed by Nature

    One word sums up the tiny, rocky St. Kilda: Wild. As such, our visit to this storm-tossed archipelago—whose sea cliffs and the boiling seas surrounding it will take your breath away—totally depends on the weather.

    Visiting St. Kilda is an unforgettable experience. This UNESCO double World Heritage Site is the jewel in the crown of the National Trust for Scotland The outlying stacks and islands, which are the remains of a volcanic crater, provide ledges for thousands of nesting seabirds. What’s more, minke whales are sometimes seen in the swirling waters surrounding the rocky outcrops.

    Once home to Britain’s most remote island community, in 1930, after 4,000 years of continuous habitation, the people living on St Kilda’s Hirta Island were evacuated at their own request. The tiny museum that remains is a record of how hard life was on this exposed island.

    Once you set foot on St. Kilda, you’ll soon see that the island is far from deserted. It’s home to a multitude of seabirds, including over 60,000 pairs of Northern Gannets—the second largest gannet colony in the world! There’s a good chance you’ll spot many other seabirds as well, including Atlantic puffins, northern fulmars, common guillemots, and black-legged kittiwakes. You’ll see why St. Kilda is considered one of the most important seabird colonies in Europe.

    Birdlife aside, you might spot other island inhabitants, as well. An ancient breed of sheep, the Soay sheep, lives wild here, as do a number of other rare species, including the St. Kilda mouse and the St. Kilda Wren. See if you can spot them!

    Explore the abandoned village and see the distinctive ‘cleits’, circular stone buildings used to store peat, eggs and smoked puffins. Then head back to MS Spitsbergen and its nicer dining options.

    • Included St. Kilda Nature Landing
    Day 6
    St. Kilda, Hirta Island, Scotland

    Reclaimed by Nature

  • Day 7
    Stornoway and Shiant Isles, Scotland

    The Capital of the Outer Hebrides

    The Isle of Lewis & Harris is famed for its pristine beaches, Neolithic sites, and tweed workshops. Originally a Viking settlement, Stornoway is the main town on Lewis & Harris—a single island with two names, denoting the north and south parts. It’s the largest and most northerly island in the Outer Hebrides.

    Check out Lews Castle, with an impressive Gothic-revival style, overlooking Stornoway Harbor. Wander the grounds and catch unbeatable views of the inky blue seas, or drop in for a wee dram in the castle’s very own whisky bar.

    Harris is famed for its woolen tweed fabric. Peruse the tweed jackets, pants, and hats that are for sale in the shops all over the island—perfect for gifts or mementos. After visiting the castle and its museum, and visiting some shops, blow the cobwebs off with a walk.

    No visit to Lewis & Harris is complete without seeing the Callanish Standing Stones (Calanais in Gaelic), a magical ring of monoliths whose origins are shrouded in mystery.

    Later in the afternoon, we explore the Shiant Isles, a tiny archipelago set in the Minch strait. There is only one habitable structure here: a simple bothy (open-use refuge) for sleeping in. Privately owned since 1937, these wild and beautiful islands are one of the most important breeding colonies for seabirds in Europe.

    Hundreds of thousands of seabirds arrive here each spring and summer to breed, including 10% of the UK’s Atlantic puffins and 7% percent of the UK’s razorbills, as well as European shags, common eiders, northern fulmars, and common guillemots. At this time of year, the birds throng in surrounding waters or nest on volcanic ledges. Keep your eyes open for the ‘bully’ of the seabird world, the Great Skua!

    • Included Lews Castle Walk
    Day 7
    Stornoway and Shiant Isles, Scotland

    The Capital of the Outer Hebrides

  • Day 8
    Loch Scavaig and Isle of Eigg, Scotland

    The Beauty of Loch Coruisk

    Beneath the dramatic peaks of the Cuillin Mountains, Loch Scavaig, on the Isle of Skye, leads to one of the most beautiful and dramatic freshwater lochs in Scotland: Loch Coruisk. Painted by Turner and a popular destination for the Victorians, this powerful and romantic landscape will get your heart racing.

    Walking boots are a must, given the sometimes soggy conditions. Even so, there are several great walks running alongside the loch. The name Coruisk means ‘Cauldron of Water’. You might feel like you’re in an epic fantasy film as you set foot upon its shores. Surrounded on three sides by craggy peaks, you may get the feeling of being in a lost world. As the poet Tennyson described, it’s ‘the wildest scene in the Highlands’.

    Later, we head to the remote and craggy Isle of Eigg, one of the least visited of the Western Isles. Just five miles long by three miles wide, the island has a fascinating 8,000-year history and is home to incredible wildlife.

    Eigg has been inhabited for over 8,000 years and is now owned by the local community. The island has Iron Age forts, a 6th-century church, and an interesting but turbulent clan history to learn about.

    Birders are in for a treat, given the 130 bird species recorded here. You might spot the golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, red throated diver and the stonechat. You can often spot seals, dolphins, and porpoises near the shoreline.

    Enjoy strolls along white sand beaches like Bay of Laig or take a longer walk to a quartz beach where the sand sings! On a clear day, hike to the top of An Sgurr, the rocky outcrop that dominates the island. Your reward is the stunning views across the Minch to the Outer Hebrides.

    • Included Nature Landing
    • Included Loch Scavaig Landing and Hike
    Day 8
    Loch Scavaig and Isle of Eigg, Scotland

    The Beauty of Loch Coruisk

  • Day 9
    Sound of Mull, Scotland

    The Clash of Clans

    Today, we drop anchor in the Sound of Mull. From here, we explore the picturesque town of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, and Loch Sunart.

    The Isle of Mull is a large island of sweeping moors, dotted with tiny hamlets and castles. Tobermory, a charming, deep-water fishing port, is the island’s main town. It’s instantly recognizable by the row of brightly-colored Georgian houses that line the waterfront in the tiny bay.

    Nestled beneath steep hills, this welcoming town offers a good variety of cafés, restaurants, bookshops, and craft stores. Visit the town’s whisky distillery and pop into the tiny Mull museum for a snapshot of local history. Take a stroll around the loch in Aros Park and see the Baliscate Standing Stones.

    The Isle of Mull is a magnet for birders, especially those with a keen eye for eagles. It not only has the highest breeding density of golden eagles in Europe, but has also successfully nested 20 pairs of white-tailed eagles, which can often be seen soaring above the island’s indented coastline.

    Loch Sunart lies inland across from Tobermory, protected by the rugged point of Ardnamurchan. The deep, sheltered waters of this long and narrow loch make it ideal for sea kayaking and fishing, while its shores offer tranquil walks along woodland trails. The mix of Atlantic salt water and fresh water runoff creates an ecosystem that attracts plenty of wildlife, especially otters.

    Mingary Castle guards the entrance to the loch. This 13th-century castle is a hexagonal fortification with nine-foot-thick stone walls, now converted into a luxury hotel. A succession of clans have fought over the castle throughout the centuries, as it is prized for its strategic location and access to the Sound of Mull.

    Day 9
    Sound of Mull, Scotland

    The Clash of Clans

  • Day 10
    Isle of Colonsay, Scotland

    Birds, beaches and Botany

    Today, we enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the Isle of Colonsay. Incredible coastal walks await, along endless stretches of white sand! Kiloran Bay and Plaide Mhòrare are particular highlights, with breathtaking views of the neighboring islands on a clear day. Your solitude will be interrupted only by seabirds, seals, the occasional otter, and maybe a cow.

    Enjoy wonderful kayaking in the surrounding waters and you may even catch sight of whales, porpoises, and dolphins as you paddle.

    Colonsay’s variety of natural habitats attracts an enormous range of marine life, plants, and birds. You might spot choughs, red northern divers and eagles. Listen for the rasping rattle of the rare and elusive corncrake, the most famous of the island’s avian inhabitants! Fulmars, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and shags are among the birds that nest on the west coast’s dramatic cliffs.

    Scalasaig is home to around 135 people, and is thus the main hub on the island. It hosts basic amenities, a microbrewery, and even an 18-hole golf course!

    The central part of the island and Colonsay’s sheltered bays benefit from an almost subtropical climate, allowing over 400 species of flora to bloom, including sea samphire and the rare orchid, the hooded ladies’ tresses (spiranthes romanzoffiana). Colonsay House, a beautiful Georgian country house, stands at the heart of the island, surrounded by a woodland garden.

    If you don’t mind getting your feet wet, make the trip at low tide across The Strand mudflats to Oronsay on the south of the island. After a 2.5-mile walk, you’ll reach the well-preserved stone ruins of Oronsay Priory, a 14th-century Augustine monastery marked by a large Celtic cross. There, you’ll find cloisters and carved gravestones. Keep your eyes open for choughs and corncrakes while you’re there.

    • Included Colonsay Gardens
    Day 10
    Isle of Colonsay, Scotland

    Birds, beaches and Botany

  • Day 11
    Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland

    ‘Dear Green Place’

    Estimated time of arrival is 8:00 AM

    Our island-hopping expedition ends where we started: in Glasgow. Even though you’ve spent the past 11 days enjoying wonderful experiences, you should consider staying in Glasgow to see some of the things you may have missed before you departed on your expedition cruise. If you have more time, t’s worth extending your stay by booking our optional Post-Program. Stay overnight in a historic and chic hotel and visit Edinburgh Castle, home of Scottish kings and queens for centuries.

    Glasgow’s compact downtown area is easy to navigate and offers plenty of shopping and dining options. You can walk up to the East End and visit Glasgow Cathedral, a shining example of Gothic architecture. Behind it, you can explore the 19th-century necropolis, filled with Victorian tombstones.

    Head west from the city center to admire the eclectic art and natural history collections of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Housed in a grand sandstone building set in the lush grounds of Kelvingrove Park, it’s a must-see destination. Pass by Glasgow Harbour, down by the Clyde, and you’ll run into the striking Riverside Museum, designed by Zaha Hadid. Berthed alongside this impressive transport museum, you will find the tall ship Glenlee.

    Architecture and design enthusiasts should seek out the works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh dotted across the city. The unique Glasgow Style that he helped make famous, along with his wife Margaret MacDonald, is heavily influenced by Art Nouveau and is distinguishable by its simplicity and stylized forms. House for an Art Lover and the Mackintosh House are great places to visit to learn more about this creative architect and designer.

    There’s no better to round off your journey of discovery around Scotland’s wonderful isles!

    Day 11
    Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland

    ‘Dear Green Place’



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What's Included

Included in Your Expedition

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in the cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurant Aune
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with very limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to fill at onboard water refill stations
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organizes and guides activities, both on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard activities

  • Experts from the Expedition Team present detailed lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use of the ship’s Science Center, which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • The Citizen Science program, which allows guests to contribute to current scientific research projects
  • The onboard professional photographer will give tips and tricks for taking the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • The ship has hot tubs, a sauna with a view, and an indoor gym
  • Participate in informal gatherings with the crew, such as daily recaps and the next day’s preparations

Landing activities

  • Escorted landings with small boats (RIBs)
  • Loan of boots, trekking poles, and all equipment needed for the activities
  • Complimentary wind- and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition photographers help you configure your camera settings

Not Included In Your Expedition

  • International flights
  • Travel protection
  • Baggage handling
  • Optional shore excursions with our local partners


  • All planned activities are subject to weather and ice conditions
  • Excursions and activities are subject to change
  • Please ensure you can meet all entry and boarding requirements
  • No gratuities are expected

* For the sailing on April 24, 2023, the ports of Stornoway and St. Kilda will be reversed

Longyearbyen, Svalbard - MS Spitsbergen
Photo: Genna Roland
A large ship in the water
A large bed in a room
Your Ship

MS Spitsbergen

Year built 2009
Year of refurbishment 2016
Shipyard Estaleiro Navais de Viana do Castelo (POR)
Passenger capacity 180
Beds 243
Car capacity 0
Gross tonnage 7,344
Length 100.54 m
Beam 18 m
Speed 14.5 knots
Longyearbyen, Svalbard - MS Spitsbergen
Photo: Genna Roland

MS Spitsbergen will take you on a cruise beyond the ordinary. She cruises along the Norwegian coast from September to May and becomes part of our Global Expedition sailings the rest of the year.

Read more about MS Spitsbergen

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Photo: Stefan Dall / Hurtigruten
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