Those not interested in whisky will enjoy the abundant wildlife we encounter from the Treshnish Isles to the lonely and remote St. Kilda archipelago. In May, both destinations have teeming colonies of nesting seabirds such as puffins, kittiwakes and gannets. Whether from the ship’s decks, explorer boat cruising, or on foot, we may spot otters, seals, sea eagles, and golden eagles. We may even hear a corncrake amidst spring orchids in small island meadows.
Other highlights include a private, hosted visit to one of Scotland’s most ancient and scenic castles. As guests of clan chieftain Sir Lachlan MacLean, we will enjoy a private evening visit at Duart Castle, the clan’s home with history dating back 800 years. We will also see where Christianity arrived in Scotland from Ireland, and how Harris Tweeds are made in the Outer Hebrides.
- Day 1 Glasgow/Greenock (Scotland)
- Day 2 Belfast (Northern Ireland)
- Day 3 Peel, Isle of Man
- Day 4 Islay (Scotland)
- Day 5 Oban and Craignure, Isle of Mull (Scotland)
- Day 6 Isle of Iona & Treshnish Isles (Scotland)
- Day 7 Loch Scavaig & Isle of Canna (Scotland)
- Day 8 St. Kilda, Hirta Island (Scotland)
- Day 9 Stornoway, Lewis & Harris (Scotland)
- Day 10 Kirkwall, Orkney
- Day 11 Fair Isle, Shetland Islands
- Day 12 Lerwick, Shetland Islands (Scotland)
- Day 13 Bergen (Norway)
Our voyage starts in Glasgow (Greenock), which means “Dear Green Place” in Gaelic. The city has over 90 parks and gardens, is famous for its Victorian and art nouveau architecture, and is home to such institutions as the Scottish Ballet, Opera and National Theatre. You’ll definitely want to explore more of Glasgow before boarding MS Spitsbergen.
A city of industry and elegance, Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland - and the birthplace of the Titanic. It is also a gateway to glorious countryside with pretty villages, beautiful rugged coastline, pristine beaches, and breathtaking cliff-top walks. Experience the Giants Causeway, hike through spectacular scenery or explore what this impressive city has to offer.
The pretty seaside town of Peel was the island’s 14th century capital and seat of power to the King of Mann. Winding lanes of merchants’ houses bear witness to the 19th century fishing schooners built here and that traded from Ireland to Shetland. Peel Castle, connected by causeway reputedly built by Magnus Barelegs, King of Norway, dates from the 11th century. Museums in town display vintage motorbikes and cars, a direct connection to the Isle of Man’s famous modern high-speed racing scene.
Once the seat of the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles, this “whisky island” is world-renowned for its many distilleries and peaty single-malt whiskies. As a stop-off for wintering geese and migrating birds, there is good bird spotting. In the charming little town of Bowmore, there is a handful of small shops, an interesting round church, plus superb cliff-top walks and a well-known golf course
Known as the “Gateway to the Isles,” the small town of Oban reached its heyday when the railway arrived, adding life to a busy fishing port. Now a popular holiday spot, the Victorian buildings cluster round the port, ferries come and go, heading out to the distant Hebrides. Many cafés have seafood-focused menus, and the local distillery provides tours with sample drams of whisky.
This evening, we visit the Isle of Mull and are fortunate to enjoy a private guided visit of dramatic 800-year-old Duart Castle, one of very few castles remaining in the original family’s ownership. We will be hosted by Sir Lachlan MacLean, the clan chief himself. The castle houses much MacLean memorabilia, and our tour includes the kitchen, sea room, Edwardian bedrooms and a private reception in the banquet hall. The castle is very much the type of building you would expect a Highland chief to live in - austere and possessing an air of venerable durability.
World famous for its religious connections, Iona was settled in 563 AD by the Irish missionary, St Colomba. The much-restored Abbey remains a place of pilgrimage and peace. Wide views from the beach, known as “The Bay at the Back of the Ocean,” stretch west towards the Outer Hebrides.
We will explore the Treshnish Isles, a group of distinctive volcanic islands that are home to a wealth of wildlife, from nesting puffins to colonies of kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots and Atlantic grey seals.
Fingal’s Cave, immortalized by Mendelssohn’s glorious “Hebrides Overture,” is on the cave-riddled isle of Staffa, one of Scotland’s most famous islands. The basalt columns here are a northern extension of the Giant’s Causeway. Discovered by the Vikings and noted in 1772 by Sir Joseph Banks, the island has been visited by Queen Victoria, Sir Walter Scott and Samuel Johnson. Staffa is best viewed from the sea where the color of the water within the cave and the rising columns are at their most impressive
Surrounded by the high peaks of the Skye Cullins, Loch Scavaig leads to one of the most romantic and dramatic lochs in Scotland – freshwater Loch Coruisk. Painted by Turner and a popular destination for the Victorians, this is a powerful landscape promising great hiking and kayaking.
We next head to the Isle of Canna, which is the most sheltered of the “Small Isles” and known as “the Garden of the Hebrides.” Linked by causeway to the island of Sanday and its puffin colonies, Canna is green and grassy with delightful flora and butterflies. Once privately owned by Sir John Lorne Campbell, the island is now the property of The National Trust for Scotland
Any visit to this distant and wild archipelago, with its breathtaking sea cliffs, is totally weather-dependent. As a UNESCO double World Heritage site and “jewel in the crown” of the National Trust for Scotland, St. Kilda is an unforgettable experience. The outlying sea stacks and islands, which are the remains of a volcanic crater, provide ledges for thousands of nesting seabirds. Minke whales are frequently seen in the swirling waters around the archipelago.
Once home to Britain’s most remote island community, St. Kilda was evacuated in 1930 at the islanders’ own request after 5,000 years of continuous habitation. The tiny museum that remains is a record of how hard life was on this exposed island.
Originally a Viking settlement, Stornoway is the main town of the Western Isles and capital of the Isle of Lewis & Harris, the largest and most northerly island in the Outer Hebrides. A bustling harbor and waterfront with museums and art galleries are overlooked by handsome Lews Castle, which we invite you to explore with us. Further afield are the mills and cottages where the famously durable Harris Tweeds are woven. There are also tiny folk museums, the world-famous Callanish Standing Stones, and the mysterious Carloway Broch - the best-preserved fort in Scotland dating back more than 2,000 years
Kirkwall is the largest town and capital of the Orkney Islands. The first mention of a settlement here was in a Norse saga from 1046. The name Kirkwall derives from the Old Norse word “Kirkjuvagr” (Church Bay). Today, Kirkwall has a population of 8,500, and is one of the most attractive and well-preserved small towns in Scotland. The community is dominated by the famous St. Magnus Cathedral. A local saga tells the story of how Magnus, kidnapped from the islands, refused to fight with the Vikings or condone their violence. Magnus eventually returned home, only to be put to death for his pacifism, and the church was named in his memory.
Remote and lonely Fair Isle has high red-sandstone cliffs, gentle rolling fields, and is a vital stop for migrating birds. A permanent bird observatory was established here in 1948. Synonymous with unique knitwear with geometric designs possibly of Spanish or Scandinavian origin, the island also boasts a mini “Lighthouse Keepers” golf course and a friendly, self-sufficient population.
Lerwick is the main port in the Shetland Islands and by far the northernmost town of Scotland. Founded as a fishing village in the 17th century, Lerwick is today a bustling, cosmopolitan community. The old waterfront is still active with visiting yachts and working fishing boats. The surrounding area features some of Shetland's most attractive scenery and an extraordinary concentration of archaeological sites, including two remarkable Iron Age villages.
We bid farewell to the ship after a voyage of discovery. Before heading home, visit the fish market and stroll through Bergen´s historic harbor area with wooden houses dating back as far as the 1300s. You can also ascend nearby Mount Fløyen in a funicular tram for views over the city, fjords and surrounding mountains.
Included in Your Expedition
- Expedition cruise in a 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 onboard. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with very limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
- Complimentary reusable water bottle to use at water refill stations onboard
- English-speaking Expedition Team who organize and accompany activities onboard and ashore
- Range of included excursions
- Experts on the Expedition Team deliver in-depth lectures on a variety of topics
- Use of the ship’s Science Center which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
- Citizen Science program allows guests to assist with live scientific research
- Professional onboard photographer gives top tips and tricks for the best landscape and wildlife photos
- Use of the ship’s hot tubs, panoramic sauna and indoor gym
- Informal gatherings with the crew such as daily recaps and preparation for the day to come
- Escorted landings with small expedition boats
- Loan of boots, trekking poles, and all equipment for activities
- Complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket
- Expedition photographers help with your camera settings before landings
Not Included In Your Expedition
- International flights
- Travel protection plan
- Luggage handling
- Optional shore excursions with our local partners
- Optional small-group activities with our Expedition Team
- All planned activities are subject to weather and ice conditions
- Excursions and activities are subject to change
- Please ensure you meet all visa entry requirements
- No gratuities expected
|Year of refurbishment||2016|
|Shipyard||Estaleiro Navais de Viana do Castelo (POR)|
|Length||100.54 m/ 330 ft|
|Beam||18.0 m/ 59 ft|
Our new ship, MS Spitsbergen will take you on a voyage beyond the ordinary.