The windswept shores of England, Ireland, and Scotland offer a wild and beautiful landscape scattered with fascinating monuments and charming villages. Aboard the National Geographic Explorer, trace the path of the Vikings and the Celts from the Isles of Scilly to Norway. Witness prehistory juxtaposed with the present as you encounter the ancient relics of the Aran Islands, the early Christian settlements of Iona, and the beehive huts of Skellig Michael. Discover the unique culture and illustrious history of Scotland’s Hebrides, and marvel at Stone Age ruins on the Orkney Islands. From the unlikely subtropical gardens of Tresco Abbey to the ruins of the Shetland Islands, an extraordinary voyage awaits.
This trip is offered in partnership with Lindblad Expeditions.
Depart on an overnight flight to London and embark the National Geographic Explorer on the Thames River. As we sail out of London, stand on deck to catch a panoramic glimpse of London's iconic landmarks.
Sail to Portsmouth, the naval port from which the Allied invasion was launched on D-Day. Delve into Britain's nautical history here. See the H.M.S. Victory, which helped defeat the French at Trafalgar, and the Tudor warship Mary Rose, deployed by King Henry VIII.
Stroll the medieval streets of this charming coastal town where explorers Drake and Raleigh set sail. Then visit the Eden Project, an innovative nature center with vast biomes. In the afternoon, visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan, left derelict after WWI and recently restored; or choose to explore Fowey's quaint town center.
According to Arthurian legend, the Isles of Scilly are all that remain of Lyonnesse, a land off Cornwall that vanished beneath the Atlantic. Meander through Tresco Abbey Gardens, where an astounding variety of subtropical plants flourish.
Arrive in colorful Cobh, a Cork County seaport steeped in maritime history. Visit the Cobh Heritage Centre, which features a fascinating exhibition on Irish history, including exhibits on maritime, naval, and military history; the potato famine and Irish emigration; and the ill-fated Titanic, which made its final port of call in Cobh.
Rising abruptly from the sea, the rocky isle of Skellig Michael was once an important center of Celtic Christianity. See the beehive huts of its seventh-century monastery, clinging to the jagged peak 600 feet above the sea. Then visit Valentia Island, known for its dramatic cliffs. Spend the afternoon exploring the picturesque seaside village of Dingle.
Continue to the Aran Islands, known for their peculiar limestone moonscapes and Gaelic culture. Disembark at Inishmore, the largest of the islands, and pay a visit to Dun Aengus, an astonishing Celtic ring fort perched on the edge of a cliff. Consisting of concentric walls, the site's purpose is still an enigma.
Today we discover the wild and windswept region of northwestern Ireland. Explore the dramatic landscapes of counties Sligo and Donegal, which inspired the works of W.B. Yeats, and delve into local history and folklore.
Disembark at Iona, site of Scotland’s first Christian settlement, and venture into an ancient nunnery and a 13th-century abbey. Examine the Celtic high crosses that mark the burial grounds of kings such as Duncan and MacBeth. Continue to Staffa, an island famed for its geometric basalt columns and deep-sea caves. Ride a Zodiac to the awe-inspiring Fingal’s Cave, the inspiration for Felix Mendelssohn’s "Hebrides Overture."
Visit the Outer Hebrides, where Scottish Gaelic is still widely spoken and artisans weave traditional woolen fabrics. Weather permitting, explore the cottages of remote St. Kilda, a UNESCO World Heritage site inhabited from the Bronze Age to the 20th century. Later, see the neolithic Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis.
Built in the era of Stonehenge, the sites of Orkney reveal a sophisticated Stone Age culture. View the megaliths of the Ring of Brodgar, and glimpse an ancient way of life in the 5,000-year-old stone-slab village of Skara Brae. Step into the medieval St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, which took nearly 300 years to complete.
Dock at the Shetland Islands, an archipelago of about 100 islands and islets that is characterized by its rich cultural traditions and dramatic landscapes. Explore one of the many remote islands in the region.
Drive through a rolling landscape dotted with Shetland ponies. Discover the prehistoric settlement of Jarlshof—which reveals 4,000 years of near-continuous settlement—and examine Bronze Age ruins and Viking longhouses. Spend a leisurely afternoon onboard as we sail across the North Sea to Norway.
Disembark in Bergen and transfer to the airport for your flight home.
- Bergen Extension1 days from $980
Overlooking the blue waters of Norway’s southwestern fjords, Bergen was once an important center of the bustling maritime economy ruled by the powerful Hanseatic League. Step into the city’s historic corners as you explore a medieval stave church and the colorful Bryggen wharf, and take in spectacular views from the top of Mount Fløyen.
Depart the U.S on an overnight flight and arrive in Bergen the following morning. Settle into our hotel, then set out to explore Norway’s second-largest city. This colorful seaside community was once a Viking stronghold, and later an important trading center of the Hanseatic League, which dominated commercial activity in northern Europe in the late Middle Ages. Step inside the intricate wooden Fantoft Stave Church, originally constructed in the Middle Ages and painstakingly rebuilt following a suspicious 1992 fire. Board a funicular and soar up to the summit of Mount Fløyen, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the sparkling sea.
After breakfast, explore the city’s maritime history, beginning with a tour of Bryggen. This colorful wharf is composed of Hanseatic buildings that have been destroyed and then rebuilt in their original style over the years. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is one of Norway’s most iconic urban areas from the Middle Ages. At the historic Maritime Museum, view artifacts of Norway’s seafaring past from an elegant Viking longship to artful scale models of various boats. This afternoon, embark our ship to begin your expedition.