Embark Silver Explorer this afternoon, attend a mandatory safety briefing and depart on your exciting Silversea Expedition — “Remote Isles and Magical Fjords”. You will be introduced to your Expedition Team and receive a Zodiac briefing. Tonight you are invited to attend a special Welcome Aboard cocktail party.
This morning arrive at Iona Island. St Columba came here from Ireland in 563 AD and early Christianity spread through northern Britain from this remote island community. Forty-eight Kings of Scotland are buried here, including Duncan, Macbeth’s victim. Once ashore you will visit Iona Abbey, one of Scotland’s most sacred and historical sites. The abbey was restored during the early 20th century, and today the Iona Community continues the tradition of worship first established by St. Columba. The Tresnish Isles, protecting the western approaches to Mull, will be our afternoon’s destination. Lunga, the largest of them, has 2000-plus pairs of puffins that breed on the island’s plateau of short turf. Other birds include Storm Petrels, Manx Shearwaters and Black-legged Kittiwakes. Guillemots, puffins, Corncrakes and Razorbills breed on Lunga and nearby Harp Rock, but the island is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its abundant plant life! Many rare and endangered plants are native to Lunga. These include Primroses, Birdsfoot Trefoil, and orchids, Sea Campion, Thrift and Tormentil.
Approach St. Kilda at first light. It is a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some 50 miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. For some this will be a moving experience and almost a pilgrimage as you drop anchor off Village Bay on the island of Hirta. Weather conditions permitting, you will go ashore using Zodiacs to visit the westernmost landmass in the United Kingdom. St. Kilda once supported a population of over 200, but the last islanders left in the 1930s. Recent restoration work on the village by the National Trust for Scotland offers a marvelous link with the past. Later, cruise past two of the largest gannetries in the world.
Due to the rugged and inaccessible terrain in which it is located, Loch Ewe has always been an assembly point for maritime trade. Around 1610 the area at the head of Loch Ewe was urbanised around an iron furnace utilizing charcoal produced in the surrounding woodlands for fuel. Crofting villages which were established in the 1840s have always been quite small. From September 1942 onward Loch Ewe was used as an assembly point for the Arctic Convoys during World War II. Ships gathered here before sailing to Murmansk. Today land in with your Zodiacs to visit one of the most spectacular and unique sites on the West Coast of Scotland: Inverewe Garden — a botanical garden in the Scottish Highlands, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens in Scotland. The garden was created in 1862 by Osgood Mackenzie covering some 20 hectares (49 acres) and has over 2,500 exotic plants and flowers. There is a further 2,000 acres of land managed for recreation and conservation. The garden and estate has been the property of the National Trust for Scotland since it was given to the Trust in 1952. The garden is quite colorful from April through to late autumn. In the spring Inverewe is celebrated for its rhododendron collection which begin flowering in January and carry through most of the year. In summer the walled garden and borders come into their own with many exotic plants from all over the world which grow here thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream. Highlights include the most northerly planting of rare Wollemi pines, Himalayan blue poppies, olearia from New Zealand, Tasmanian eucalypts, and rhododendrons from China, Nepal and the Indian subcontinent.
Upon arriving in Stromness, head to west Mainland and into the Neolithic heartland of Orkney. This area is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its wealth of pre-historic archaeology. Visit the Ring of Brodgar, a huge ceremonial circle of stones dating from about 2700 BC and reminiscent of Stonehenge. Next visit the 5000-year-old excavated village of Skara Brae, whose remarkable dwellings were buried under sand and perfectly preserved until 1850 when they were revealed during a huge storm. Nearby, visit Orkney’s finest manor house, Skaill House, built in 1620 on top of an ancient graveyard. But just as important, in an area that is particularly rich in archaeology, the World Heritage Site designation protects the multitude of unexcavated sites that are dotted across the area.
Charming sandstone buildings line the waterfront of this historic seaport. Lerwick, the northernmost town in Scotland and the capital of Shetland, reflects its proximity to Norway with a delightful blend of Scottish and Scandinavian cultures. Your morning excursion travels through the rural townships of Fladdabister, and, conditions permitting, pause to admire the magnificent Mousa Broch, the tallest and best-preserved broch in the world. Take in the vistas of St Ninian’s Isle where the famous Pictish horde of silver dating from the 9th century was found in 1958 before arriving at the extraordinary archaeological site of Jarlshof. The site was uncovered by a violent storm in the winter of 1896/7, revealing a settlement site embracing at least 5,000 years of human history. The site contains a remarkable sequence of stone structures — late Neolithic houses, a Bronze-Age village, an Iron-Age broch and wheelhouses, several Norse longhouses, a medieval farmstead, and a 16th-century laird’s house. After touring the remains of these village settlements with your guide, enjoy some tea and biscuits at the Sumburgh Hotel. Keep a look out for Shetland’s famous ponies during our return journey back to Lerwick. In the afternoon, Silver Explorer will depart Lerwick to cruise and explore the Shetland Islands. Exploring the isle of Noss via the Zodiacs, your Expedition staff will point out gannets, puffins, guillemots, shags, kittiwakes, razorbills, fulmars and great skuas. Recognized as a National Nature Reserve since 1955, the Isle of Noss has one of Europe’s largest and most diverse seabird colonies. Perhaps you will even catch sight of the elusive otters that frolic in the surrounding waters.
Situated at the end of the innermost arm of the lovely Nordfjord, with steep mountains towering over both sides of the valley, Olden is one of the most charming and idyllic places in Western Norway. For this excursion you will depart by coach from the village center, passing an old (1759) church, the picturesque Floen and Olden Lakes, and the colorful farms of Rustøen. On both sides, numerous waterfalls descend from the ice field, and in front you will see the long white tongue of the Melkevoll Glacier. The road ascends through woodlands to the Briksdal Inn and the start of your nature trek. Norwegians measure mountain hikes in hours, not kilometres. Trails wind in and around natural obstacles of rock and rivers, making linear measurements altogether irrelevant. Your walk to the foot of the Briksdal Glacier will take about 45 minutes, during which you will cross a river, climb above a waterfall, and upon arriving, enjoy fantastic views of the Jostedals Glacier. The Briksdal Glacier itself is a study in color with its varied shades of blue and turquoise. You will listen for the thunderous sound of calving and soak in the serene setting before returning to the Briksdal Inn for a cup of coffee or tea and cakes.
On your approach to Geiranger you will cruise Storfjorden. South of the village of Helsem the large fjord branches towards the east and the south. The 26-kilometre (16 mi) long Sunnylvsfjord to the south is one of the innermost branches of Storfjord. The fjord ranges from 600 to 2,000 metres (2,000 to 6,600 ft.) wide and the fjord reaches 452 metres (1,483 ft.) below sea level at its deepest point. The famous Geirangerfjord branches off to the west from the Sunnylvsfjord. Of Norway’s many fjords, Geirangerfjord is doubtless the most beautiful. Impressive mountains, numerous waterfalls as well as farms clinging to the steep hillsides give the fjord its unique character. Your excursion takes you uphill past the wooden, octagonal Geiranger Church, through the wild Flydal valley where a scenic overview stop is made, and continues around hairpin bends to Lake Djupvatn, and the summit of Mount Dalsnibba (1,500 metres.) From here, there is an amazing panorama of mountains, waterfalls and lakes. Alternatively (and weather permitting) the more energetic can spend a few hours kayaking the quiet and spectacular Geirangerfjord with two-person kayaks. Geirangerfjord is one of nature’s masterpieces and on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Its description as “the world’s most beautiful fjord” is no exaggeration and it is amidst this dramatic mountain setting that you can experience some spectacular sea kayaking. Your kayaks provide an amazing perspective from which to view the cascading waterfalls and steep mountain walls that rise as high as 1500m.
Located halfway up the long Norwegian coast, Kristiansund is spread out across a swathe of rocky islands all linked together by bridges. Today take a scenic drive along Atlantic Ocean Road to Geitøya (goat-island) where you board a boat and shuttle across to Håholmen Island. The small island has been meeting place, home and working site for fishermen, seamen and traders through many centuries. The adventurer Ragnar Thorseth took over Håholmen from his grandfather who had been a permanent island resident until 1978. In Håholmen, learn about Mr Thorsten’s about voyages with Viking ship replicas and enjoy some refreshments before returning by boat to Geitøya. Your excursion concludes with an undersea drive through the 5-km-long Atlantic Ocean Tunnel between Averøy Island and Kristiansund Town, during which you will reach a depth of 250 metres below sea level! Alternatively, join members of the Expedition Team for a scenic nature trail hike. Situated on Averøya Island, Mount Gulltanna (Mount Golden Tooth) is 590 metres above sea level and, on a clear day, offers a grand view to the Atlantic Ocean Road along the coast and to the inland fjords inland. Your planned hike is 8km roundtrip, climbing to 390 meters above sea level from its start to the summit. This excursion option includes a drive through the undersea Atlantic Ocean Tunnel.
This afternoon you will board the Zodiacs and head ashore to rarely visited Torget Island. Get your camera and imagination ready for the island’s main attraction: the hat-shaped Torghatten Mountain with its legendary “troll hole”. While your on-board geologist will explain how the hole has been formed over thousands of years by the natural forces of erosion, your on-board historian will tell a much different tale: the Legend of Torghatten — a story of dueling trolls, beautiful maidens and magical chivalry. The Expedition Team will lead a variety of natural history hikes including an opportunity to enjoy the magnificent view from atop Torghatten (258m) before embarking the Zodiacs again for your return to the ship. The Vega Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a myriad of islands scattered in the Norwegian Sea and home to one of Norway’s largest Eider Duck colony. Of the 6,000 Vega islands, 59 were once inhabited by families that made their living from fishing and from eider down harvesting. Today, there are no year-round residents, but the population returns in the summer to continue the 1,500-year-old tradition of caring for the Eider Ducks and harvesting their precious down. The Eider Ducks return to their breeding ground in the Vega Archipelago every year and lay their eggs from May into June. In the fishing harbor of Nes, you will visit the Eider Duck Museum, which provides insight into the islander’s unique traditions as guardians of these birds and describes the process of producing eiderdown duvets. Nearby exhibitions detail the archipelago’s UNESCO status and document the history of Lånan — the largest egg and eiderdown farm in Helgeland. Before returning to the pier you will stop in at the Coastal Museum to have a look at their motor collection and later make a brief visit to see the Vega Church in Gladstad, a wooden church dating from 1864.
Various seabirds have found their home in Eggum, located on the western side of Vestvågøy Island. On your birding excursion you will see (if you are lucky) gannet, cormorant, Eider Duck, shag, Great Skua and Arctic Skua, Black Guillemot, kittiwake and Arctic Tern. En route, we pass the Borgpollen Bay where you may observe Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, Tufted Duck and scaup. Further on, during a stop by Lake Storied you have the possibility to see Black-tailed Godwit, Bluethroat, Slavonian Grebe and a variety of ducks. Alternatively, choose to visit the remarkably well-preserved Nusfjord Fishing Village. The building complex with the wharf and 52 structures — including 34 rorbu (fishermen dwellings) — dates mostly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You will also visit the Lofotr Viking Museum. Discovered in the 1980s when a farmer was plowing his land, excavations revealed the remains of the largest building ever (83 meters long) to be found from the Viking realm. You will tour the reconstructed long house and gain insight into the life of a Viking chieftain. This evening you will cruise with Silver Explorer in the Trollfjorden in the north of the Lofoten Islands, one of Norway’s narrowest and most spectacular fjords and home to the legendary troll. Only 2 kilometres long and 30 metres wide at its entrance, the fjord is dominated by the surrounding Vesteralen and Blafjellet mountain ranges. Be out on deck with an aperitif and enjoy the beautiful scenery as the Captain skillfully navigates our ship into and out of the fjord.
Following breakfast, disembark Silver Explorer.
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