- Ride Zodiacs for a close-up view of the unique geometric basalt columns of Staffa, a tiny island in the Inner Hebrides.
- Peer into the past in the prehistoric homes of Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands and Jarlshof in the Shetland Islands.
- Venture to the Aberdeenshire countryside to learn about Scottish Highland traditions, including a visit to a Highland cattle farm or local whisky distillery.
- Explore history and contemporary life on the lively streets of Dublin.
From the lively streets of Dublin to the rolling hills of the remote Shetland Islands, encounter vivid histories and stunning scenery on a voyage from Ireland to Edinburgh by way of the Scottish Isles. Discover archaeological sites and wild landscapes steeped in ancient mythology in the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Tour medieval castles and early Christian sites, and encounter colonies of puffins and other seabirds on rugged Rathlin Island.
This trip is operated in collaboration with Lindblad Expeditions.
Depart for Dublin on an overnight flight and transfer to the city center upon arrival. On a city tour, discover Dublin Castle and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and see Ireland’s oldest university, Trinity College. Embark our ship in the late afternoon and settle into life on board as we set sail for Northern Ireland.
National Geographic Resolution or National Geographic Explorer for the entire voyage
Our first port of call is Rathlin Island, a small, rugged island off Ireland’s northern coast that is home to tens of thousands of seabirds and fewer than 200 humans. Discover one of Ireland’s largest puffin colonies among craggy coastal cliffs and sea stacks, and spot other species including gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes, and fulmars. Visit the Rathlin West Light, known as the “upside-down lighthouse,” which was built into the sea cliffs more than a century ago, and learn about the dozens of shipwrecks found beneath the surrounding waters. Scottish king Robert the Bruce famously took refuge in a cave on this island in the early 14th century before returning to Great Britain to fight for Scottish independence.
Sail toward the Inner Hebrides to the isle of Iona, the site of one of Scotland’s first Christian settlements. Venture into an ancient nunnery and a 13th-century abbey, and see the royal burial grounds of St. Oran’s Chapel, where Celtic high crosses mark the graves of generations of Scottish kings. In the afternoon, continue to Staffa, famed for its geometric basalt columns and caves. Conditions permitting, ride a Zodiac into the awe-inspiring Fingal’s Cave, where Felix Mendelssohn was inspired to write his "Hebrides Overture." Go ashore to look for Atlantic puffins coming to and from their burrows as they search for fish in the surrounding waters.
Anchor in Loch Ewe for a visit to Inverewe Garden. Tempered by the warm Gulf Stream, these splendid gardens are home to hundreds of exotic subtropical plant species. Stroll along the winding paths, and if you wish, paddle a kayak in the surrounding waterways for another perspective.
Cruise north to the far-flung Shetland Islands, an archipelago of about a hundred islands and islets. Sail past the Isle of Noss, where 600-foot sea cliffs teem with seabirds. Join our naturalist on deck to observe gannets, guillemots, fulmars, and more. Go ashore in Lerwick, a town where Norse and Celtic cultures intermingle, and see the countryside dotted with Shetland ponies. Then examine Bronze Age ruins at the prehistoric settlement of Jarlshof, which reveal 4,000 years of near-continuous settlement. Later, take in a cacophony of puffins, guillemots, and razorbills as we walk to the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head.
The Vikings held a strategic foothold in the Orkney Islands for hundreds of years, and their Norse heritage is apparent in local legends and traditions that endure today. Start your day on the island of Papa Westray, the cradle of Christianity in Orkney. Visit the eighth-century Boniface Kirk and its picturesque graveyard, as well as the Knap of Howar, a Neolithic farmstead that was occupied from 3,700 BC to 2,800 BC—making it the oldest stone dwelling in this part of Europe. On the island of Rousay, explore the Iron Age Midhowe Broch and the extensive woodlands and water gardens that surround Trumland House. Sail to Kirkwall later this afternoon and arrive at the Ring of Brodgar in time for sunset—when crowds have dispersed, and the afternoon light sets off the ancient megaliths. Enjoy a whisky tasting this evening.
Discover the 5,000-year-old stone-slab village of Skara Brae, a UNESCO World Heritage site where remarkably well-preserved dwellings offer clues into everyday life during the Stone Age. In Kirkwall, step inside the medieval St. Magnus Cathedral, founded by the Vikings and completed only after 300 years. Choose to take a birdwatching excursion with our naturalist, and look for some 30 species of birds, including black-headed gulls, gannets, and guillemots.
Start off the day with a panoramic drive through “the Granite City” before exploring Aberdeenshire’s countryside. Visit a local Highland cattle farm and a sustainable farm shop, where you will learn about its award-winning products and practices. Alternatively, dive into Highland traditions with a visit to a local whiskey distillery followed by a visit to the Gordon Highlanders Museum. Transfer back to the ship later this afternoon and enjoy your last evening at sea.
Disembark in Edinburgh after breakfast and transfer to the airport for your flight home.