Expedition Overview

Expedition Overview

  • Search for whales, dolphins, and seals, and see vast seabird nesting sites, as we explore wild isles aboard the National Geographic Explorer.
  • Visit Macbeth’s gravesite at Iona’s 13th-century abbey, and ride a Zodiac into the dramatic cave on Staffa that inspired Mendlessohn’s “Hebrides Overture.”
  • Peer into the past in the prehistoric homes of Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands and visit Jarlshof, a 4,000-year-old settlement in the Shetland Islands.
  • View the megaliths of the Ring of Brodgar in the parish of Stenness on the Ness of Brodgar.



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 operated in collaboration 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.

Meals Included:Day 2 (Lunch, Dinner)

National Geographic Explorer for the entire voyage

Day 3: Portsmouth

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.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Arrive in this charming coastal town where explorers Drake and Raleigh set sail. Visit the Eden Project, an innovative nature center with vast biomes or choose to explore the Lost Gardens of Heligan, left derelict after WWI and recently restored. In the afternoon, discover Fowey's quaint town center or join our naturalists on a hike through the scenic countryside.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5: Isles of Scilly

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.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 6: Cobh, Ireland

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.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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. Spend the day exploring the picturesque seaside village of Dingle.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8: Inishmore/Aran Islands

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.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we discover the wild and windswept region of northwestern Ireland. Explore the dramatic landscapes of county Donegal and delve into local history and folklore.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 10: Iona and Staffa, Inner Hebrides, Scotland

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."

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 12: Orkney Islands

Built in the era of Stonehenge, the sites of Orkney reveal a sophisticated Stone Age culture. This morning, set out on a birdwatching tour. From puffins to white-tailed eagles, Orkney's birdlife is remarkably varied. Or take a walking tour of Kirkwall, Orkney’s largest town. 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.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 13: Shetland Islands

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.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 14: Shetland/At Sea

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.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 15: Bergen, Norway/U.S.

Disembark in Bergen and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Meals Included:Breakfast