Explore Scotland's wild islands, home to some of the world's largest seabird colonies, including adorable puffin and noisy Arctic tern. The Scottish isles are a bird watcher's paradise with species such as fulmar, kittiwake, guillemot, gannet and shag too. Your ship will get you as close to these sightings as possible, but you can also take to the water in Zodiacs to really get the most out of your wildlife experiences. Seal will frolic close to you and you may encounter whale and dolphin swimming around you. Back on land, discover ancient sites, huge monoliths and remote, picturesque villages in the Hebrides, Shetlands and little-visited tiny isles surrounding the mainland. This is a diverse exploration of rugged and remote Scottish islands, from a unique vantage point. Visit St. Kilda - a World Heritage Site Zodiac cruise through spectacular lochs - home to seal, dolphin and basking shark. On the Shetland Islands - uncover captivating history through a visit to an Iron Age broch.
Arrive in Edinburgh (EDI) and transfer to your group hotel. Upon check-in, the reception staff will provide you with your Expeditions cabin tags. Please fill out the luggage tags clearly, showing your name and cabin number so that your luggage is delivered to your cabin. Spend time at your own leisure before the briefing in the early evening, enjoy a welcome drink and meet fellow your expeditioners.
After check-out, discover Edinburgh on a sightseeing tour before transferring to Oban, where our expedition team will welcome you aboard the Greg Mortimer at approximately 4.00 pm. You will have time to settle into your cabin before the briefings begin. We will set sail along Scotland's northwest coast in the evening.
From golden beaches to jagged peaks, bleak moors and heather clad hills; from abandoned settlements to picturesque villages, our days in the Hebrides archipelago will be packed with variety. We may explore remote lochs beneath some of Britain's most untamed mountains and wander between unusual rock formations. We may watch for whale, dolphin, otter, seal, and the increasingly rare basking shark. Possibly we will land at an island reserve that is home to red deer and white-tailed sea eagle.
Early the next morning we will aim for the tiny island of Iona. Barely 5 kilometres / 3 miles long, Iona is renowned as the birthplace of Christianity in Britain. It is also a burial ground of early Scottish Kings. The Irish monk, St Columba and twelve disciples, landed here and founded a monastery in 563 AD. From this base, St Columba set about converting Scotland and much of Northern England to Christianity. On Staffa, we hope to have the chance to explore Fingals Cave, where the melodious sound of waves crashing against towering basalt pillars inspired Mendelssohnns Hebridean Overture. We may enter the cave in Zodiacs, or clamber ashore to walk into the mouth of the cave. On shore we will also find Puffin in abundance. The rugged island of Skye, named after the Norse word for cloud, is a hiker's paradise. It is a centre of Gaelic culture, and some islanders still speak the language. Hopefully, there will also be the time and right conditions to explore options on other, smaller islands to the west of Scotland, such as Barra, the Isle of Rum and Iona. It may also be possible to visit some fascinating spots along the coast of the Scottish mainland. To the south of the Cuillin hills we may visit Rubha an Dunain, a small uninhabited peninsula on the southwest corner of Skye commanding an impressive view of the sea routes nearby. As a result of its strategic position we can see archaeological remains-from a Neolithic chambered cairn, to a Viking canal and more recent black houses. Depending on weather conditions, we may choose to visit the small island of Canna in search of the rare basking shark, common seal and bird cliffs.
From the Inner Hebrides we make our way to the Outer Hebrides - also known as the Western Isles - that stretch for 20o kilometres and look out on their western side to the Atlantic Ocean. Our first stop is at the Isle of Lewis, the largest and northern-most island in the Outer Hebrides. We plan to make a stop at Callanais, where archaeology buffs will be keen to see the fascinating group of Standing Stones, dating from around 3,000 BC. Nearby we may visit Bostadh House, a remarkable reconstruction of an Iron Age dwelling tucked away just above a beautiful white beach.
Weather permitting we plan to land at the isolated archipelago and World Heritage site of St Kilda, where derelict crofts bear testament to the fortitude of islanders who once tended the unique Soay sheep and harvested seabirds for food and to pay their rent in the form of wool, meat and feathers. The isles hold Europe's most important seabird colony and is home to Britain's highest sea stacks or rock columns.
Island hopping northeast, we aim to visit tiny specks of land that bear the brunt of violent Atlantic storms and rarely see visitors. Home to breeding seals and some of Europe's largest seabird colonies, Sula Sgeir, North Rona and Flannan boast spectacular cliffs, fantastic rock stacks, hidden beaches and luxuriant heaths where sheep once grazed.
Britain's most northerly islands lie almost 160 kilometres north of the Scottish mainland, at a similar latitude to the southern tip of Greenland, or Bergen in Norway. Kept relatively warm by the Gulf Stream, Shetland's 100 islands experience almost 24 hours of daylight in summer. They abound with nature reserves and archaeological sites, and offer a taste of traditional island life.
We plan to visit some of Shetland's best preserved and most complex archaeological sites of brochs, or fortified Iron Age towers, as well as some of the world's largest colonies of sea bird. Hermaness National Nature Reserve, close to Britain's most northerly point, is a place of bird cries and sea smells - of myth and mist. The cliffs rise 170 metres above the Atlantic. During summer they are alive with the cacophony of over 100,000 breeding seabird: kittiwake, shag, snipe, dunlin, golden plover and Arctic skua, making this one of Europe's most diverse colonies. The grasslands, moors and cliff tops are a tapestry of colourful wildflowers - gentians, heather, orchids and thrift are a few of the species here. We hope to visit the rocky islet of Muckle Flugga, Britain's most northerly point, situated only 274 kilometres from Norway. With its mile-long seabird cliffs, the Island of Noss is a National Nature Reserve, where we also hope to make a stop. In breeding season the sound of around 150,000 birds and chicks fills the air. Millions of years of wind and ice have honeycombed thousands of nesting ledges in sandstone cliffs almost 200-metres high. Resident seals and visiting otters feed in dense kelp around the shores.
Mid way between Orkney and Shetland, Fair Isle houses a major European ornithological research station, and is also famous for knitwear and historic shipwrecks. About 4.8 kilometres by 3.2 kilometres, it is surrounded by impressive cliffs. The 70 or so islanders mostly live in traditional crofts on the more fertile low-lying southern part of the island. A bird watchers' paradise, Fair Isle lies on the intersection of major flight-paths from Scandinavia, Iceland and Faroe. In summer, the cliffs teem with breeding fulmar, kittiwake, guillemot, gannet, shag and puffin. The Isle is an excellent place to view seabird, especially puffin at close range. Fair Isle also has over 250 species of flowering plants, including wetland flowers, rare orchids, alpine species and common wildflowers. We'll be welcomed by the hospitable villagers and may take a hike or visit the museum. Grey and common seals inhabit these waters around Fair Isle, while sharp eyes may spot harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, orca and minke whale.
Among Orkney's archipelago of 70 windswept islands, lying 9.6 kilometres north of the Scottish mainland, a rich tapestry of archaeology, history and wildlife awaits. You follow the passage of time - from 5000 year old World Heritage neolithic sites, past relics from wandering Vikings and reminders of World War II occupation, to present day crofting communities. Imposing sea cliffs teem with seabirds and cliff top paths and bleak moors beckon keen hikers. At the Knap of Howar on Papa Westray lies the earliest known house in Northern Europe, occupied by Neolithic farmers over 5,000 years ago. At the east end of Scapa Flow remnants from World War II include an Italian Chapel, created by Italian prisoners of war made out of two Nissen huts, and the Churchill Barriers, constructed on the orders of Winston Churchill to keep out U-Boats. Discover the rich history in Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Islands. Initial impressions are misleading, as the harbour area looks modern, but the narrow winding streets and lanes of the old town, which have remained relatively unchanged over the centuries are appealing. Explore magnificent St Magnus Cathedral built from red and white sandstone and considered the finest medieval building in the north of Scotland before popping across the road to Tankerness House and Gardens, a restored 16th century former manse, now housing the Orkney Museum featuring archaeological artefacts from Neolithic times to the Vikings. The exhibition is a great way to whet your appetite for the archaeological gems you will find on the mainland including the unique and well-preserved 5,000-year-old semi-subterranean village of Skara Brae. Everything west of Kirkwall is known as West Mainland, an area of rich farmland, rolling hills and moorland, with dramatic cliffs along the Atlantic coastline. Some of the main archaeological attractions we may see include the standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and the chambered tombs of Maes Howes that to this day still have unresolved mysteries. One of the mainland's main attractions is Skara Brae, the best-preserved Stone-Age village in northern Europe, located in the spectacular white sands of the Bay of Skaill. Revealed in 1850 after a storm below away the dunes, the site dates from approximately 5,000 years ago and was occupied for about 600 years, showing a unique picture of the lifestyle of the original inhabitants.
Upon arrival in Aberdeen, you will disembark the ship for onward travel.
11 Break Fast(s) 9 Lunch(es) 10 Dinner(s)
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