Wild Scotland Cruise

Vicki Slinko
Hiking through the hills of St. Kilda.
Peter Juliff
Stone house on the shores of St. Kilda Scotland.
Al Bakker
Kayaking in Scotland.
Al Bakker
Sheep in the fields of Scotland.
Vicki Slinko
The Ring of Brodgar on the Orkney Islands.
Polar Pioneer's dining room.
Polar Pioneer's bar and lounge.
From the Hebrides in the west, to inhospitable windswept specks of land like St Kilda and Foula, and to the Orkney and Shetland islands in the north, explore the intriguing diversity of these wild islands on this unique European Arctic cruise. Plan to take in Neolithic sites scarcely changed in 5000 years, and ponder the mystery of huge monoliths that marked seasonal change. Visit remote crofting communities, picturesque villages, and castles that were once strongholds of Scottish clans. Hope to see some of the world’s largest seabird colonies - raucous places filled with gannets, fulmars, Arctic terns and delightful puffins. Or sit quietly in Zodiacs as seals play nearby in waters patrolled by whales and dolphins.

Day 1

Oban, West Scotland

Board the Polar Pioneer around mid-afternoon in Oban. After settling in set sail in the evening for your upcoming European Arctic cruise.

Days 2-3

  • Ship
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Western Isles & Highlands

From golden beaches to jagged peaks, bleak moors and heather clad hills, and from abandoned settlements to picturesque villages, days in the Hebrides will be packed with variety.

Explore remote lochs beneath some of Britain’s most untamed mountains, wander between bizarre rock formations of Skye’s Quiraing, watch for whales, dolphins, otters and seals, or land at an island reserve that is home to red deer and white-tailed sea eagles. Kayakers will be introduced to their craft and will be briefed for their adventures, before picking up paddles to circumnavigate tiny islets or paddle deep into narrow waterways that intersect this rugged terrain, while hikers may opt for panoramic views from summits and ridges.

Perhaps have the chance to sample single malt whisky at a distillery, or marvel at Fingal’s Cave, where the melodious sound of waves crashing against towering basalt pillars inspired Mendelssohnn’s Hebridean Overture.

The rugged island of Skye, named after the Norse word for cloud, is a hiker's paradise. It is a center of Gaelic culture, and some islanders still speak the language.

Hope to explore the plethora of options on other smaller islands to the west of Scotland, such as Barra, the Isle of Rum, Iona, and also visit some fascinating spots along the coast of the Scottish mainland.

Days 4-6

  • Ship
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Northwest Islands

Island hopping north and east, aim to visit tiny specks of land that bear the brunt of ferocious Atlantic storms. If weather and seas permit, hope to land at St Kilda, a World Heritage Site, where derelict crofts bear testament to the fortitude of hardy islanders that once dried seabirds for winter food. On Lewis, visit Carloway Broch, and stroll among a mini stone henge at Callanais. Home to breeding seals and vast seabird colonies, Flannan, North Rona and Foula boast spectacular cliffs, fantastic rock stacks, hidden beaches, and luxuriant heaths where sheep once grazed.

Exposed to the full ferocity of Atlantic gales, the inhospitable volcanic stacks of St Kilda boast Britain’s highest sea cliff (430 metres tall), and were once home to one of Britain’s most remote communities. The settlement’s last 36 residents were evacuated to the Scottish mainland in 1930, when the Scottish Office ceased to subsidize the community. The islanders had eaten seabird eggs, dried gannets and fulmars for winter food, and used their feathers, oil, bones and skins for fuel, tools and shoes. In favorable sea conditions it’s possible to land on Hirta, the largest island (2 miles by 1 mile), to visit derelict crofts and the ancient chape. One of Europe’s most significant seabird breeding colonies, with over 200,000 breeding pairs of all species, St Kilda is home to Britain’s largest colonies of gannets, fulmars and puffins. It remains home to Soay sheep, perhaps brought here by Stone Age man over 5000 years ago.

Days 7-8

  • Ship
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Shetland Islands

Britain’s most northerly islands lie almost 100 miles 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.

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 birds.

Days 9-10

  • Ship
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Orkney Islands

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 3 miles by 2 miles, 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. It attracts common species and also eastern rarities such as the lanceolated warbler. In summer, the cliffs teem with breeding fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, shags and puffins, and it is an excellent place to view seabirds at close range, especially puffins. The island also has over 250 species of flowering plants, including wetland flowers, rare orchids, alpine species and common wildflowers. Be welcomed by the hospitable villagers and perhaps take a hike or visit the museum.

Among Orkney’s archipelago of 70 windswept islands, lying 6 miles north of the Scottish mainland, a rich tapestry of archaeology, history and wildlife awaits. 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 the keen hikers aboard, while kayakers use paddle-power to explore sections of Orkney’s fascinating coastline.

Day 11

  • Breakfast

Aberdeen, Northeast Scotland

Upon arrival in Aberdeen, disembark and bid farewell to new found friends.
Please note that all of Polar Pioneer itineraries are at the mercy of weather conditions and not all landings are guaranteed. These itineraries are flexible and will change voyage to voyage, allowing the best chance to make the most of surprising wildlife displays and unexpected opportunities.

- Rates are quoted in U.S. dollars and represent costs per person, double or triple occupancy. Request the Twin or Triple Share Program where you are matched with a cabin mate of the same gender. Even if a cabin mate is not found for you, no single supplement will be charged.

- Single costs are 1.7 times the twin rate

Cruise fare includes:
- All entry fees to historic landings and historic sites.
- Ship's accommodation. All public areas are open to all passengers.
- All meals on board ship.
- Use of gumboots during the voyage.
- Daily cabin service.
- All shore excursions from the ship including Zodiacs.
- Lectures, videos, slide and film shows and guide services.
- Medical services. There is a resident doctor and well-equipped clinic on board.
- Port taxes and port charges imposed by government authorities.
- Pre-departure information and briefing.

Not included in cruise fare:
- Air transport to and from the ship.
- Visa, passport and vaccination charges and airport departure taxes.
- Hotels and meals not included in voyage itinerary.
- Optional excursions not included in the voyage itinerary.
- Laundry, postage, personal clothing, medical expenses, personal travel insurance and items of a personal nature such as bar charges and phone calls.
- Emergency evacuation charges.
- Kayaking surcharge, which covers use of kayaks and related equipment, and the services of an experienced kayak guide.