Day 1 Portsmouth, England
Embark the Silver Explorer this evening and depart on your exciting expedition – “Remote Islands of Britain & Ireland”. 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.
Day 2 Honfleur, France
The whole town is virtually an outdoor museum, full of half-timbered houses and cobbled streets. In the 19th century, Honfleur attracted a steady stream of Impressionist artists who took their inspiration from the town’s picturesque setting. Museums, shops, cafés and the famous Old Port add to the attraction of this lovely city.
Your call at Honfleur allows for a visit to Arromanches and some of the most important locations involved in the historic events of 1944. The D-Day landings, which took place on the beaches of Normandy, involved the largest military operation in history. In the early morning of June 6, swarms of Allied landing craft hit the Normandy beaches and tens of thousands of soldiers invaded the coast of France. The Battle of Normandy that followed led to the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation, but not without severe casualties including 37,000 killed.
Arromanches was the site of the prefabricated Mulberry Harbour, which enabled some 2½ million soldiers to land in France. The remains of the port can still be seen. Visit the Musée du Débarquement (Invasion Museum) in Arromanches and, following lunch, the American Cemetery. The cemetery is located above Omaha beach, which was the site of the heaviest of the American casualties, and known as ‘bloody Omaha’ (the film Saving Private Ryan was based on the Omaha invasion). Here, more than 9,000 white marble crosses and Stars of David stand in perfect alignment on a plateau above the beach. A memorial contains the Tablets of the Missing, and a map outlines the battle sites of the Normandy Beaches. The cemetery is immaculately preserved and has a reflecting pond and chapel for silent prayer. Continuing on to Pointe du Hoc, see the positions the German soldiers held and the remaining observation posts, shelters, trenches and anti-aircraft platforms.
Day 3 Guernsey & Sark, Channel Islands
Today, spend the morning on Guernsey – the Island of Flowers. During the years 1940 to 1945, the Channel Islands were under German occupation, and many of the massive concrete towers, gun emplacements and bunkers remain today. First visit the German Occupation Museum, which includes a life-sized street, bunker rooms, an armory of weapons and communications equipment, as well as files of local propaganda newspapers. Next drive around the winding coastal road to see one of the many WWII gun casements and visit the charming Little Chapel before returning to St Peter Port.
Alternatively, guests may choose to explore Guernsey’s natural beauty. Your walking tour begins Icart Point, a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the south coast cliffs and small coves. Following your local guide around the point and down into Saints Bay valley, have fantastic views of the Peastacks, Petit Port, Moulin Huet and the small fishing harbour at Saints Bay. Your walk continues past one of 15 granite towers built in Napoleonic times to defend the islanders from the French. A long, gradual climb takes you to the Hotel Bon Port, which offers great cliff top views along with delicious cream tea.
In the afternoon, Silver Explorer will reposition to anchor off the Isle of Sark. As you approach the picturesque coastline of steep cliffs, keep watch for peregrine falcons, dolphins and porpoises. Stepping ashore is like stepping back in time, as there are no automobiles on the island; locals get around by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle or the only motor vehicle permitted on the island – a tractor affectionately known as “The Toast Rack” which will transport you to the top of Harbor Hill. At the top of the hill, a horse and carriage awaits to take you on a gentle, hour-long exploration of this unique island. Your tour proceeds at a lazy trot past granite farmhouses and green pastures, making a stop at La Coupee, a narrow isthmus that joins the two islands of Great Sark and Little Sark together. This high natural land bridge offers spectacular views from approximately 300 feet above the sea.
Day 4 Saint Malo, France
Near the top of any traveler’s must-see list is a visit to the legendary Mont Saint Michel – a spectacular granite tidal island, its abbey soaring high above the sea, situated on the border between Normandy and Brittany, and one of the first sites to obtain UNESCO World Heritage listing. Upon arrival, stroll through the narrow streets of the medieval village and up to the Abbey. During your guided visit, learn that monastery was found by the 10th century as the result of a dream vision, three centuries later the Abbey was added.
Day 5 Tresco, Isles of Scilly, UK
To many, Tresco is the most attractive of the Isles of Scilly, especially with its Abbey Gardens – home to 20,000 exotic plant species from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa. Botanist and plant collector Augustus Smith began the gardens in the 1830s on the site of an old Benedictine Abbey by channeling the weather up and over a network of walled enclosures built around the Priory ruins. He carved three terraces from the rocky, south slope and, in this way, maximized Tresco’s mild gulf stream climate. Here, there are generally more hours of sunshine and less rainfall than the UK average, yet many of these plants would stand no chance on the Cornish mainland, less than 30 miles away. Today tender ashore for a guided tour of this world-renowned attraction.
Day 6 St Davids & Skomer Island, Wales, UK
Your day begins with a drive through the beautiful Welsh countryside to visit St Davids – Britain’s smallest city. At its heart is a fabulous 12th-century cathedral built in a hidden depression below the town square in the hope that Norse invaders would pass without noticing it. The cathedral floor slopes three feet upwards and the pillars lean drunkenly (though not precariously!) as the result of an earthquake in 1248. Spend some free time exploring the city’s maze of tiny streets and be sure to take a look at the extensive ruins of the 12th-century Bishop’s Palace. Please note that St David’s Cathedral is still in use today, and closures are possible at short notice due to funeral ceremonies, christenings, etc.
This afternoon enjoy a Zodiac cruise to explore the cliffs of small Skomer Island off the southwest coast of Wales. Accessible only by boat, Skomer has a large population of breeding seabirds that include Manx shearwaters, guillemots, razorbills, great cormorants, black-legged kittiwakes, Atlantic puffins, European storm-petrels, common shags, Eurasian oystercatchers and gulls, as well as birds of prey including short-eared owls, common kestrels and Peregrine falcons. The island is also home to grey seals, common toads, slow-worms, a breeding population of glow-worms and a variety of wildflowers. The Skomer vole, a sub-species of Bank vole, is endemic to the island. And harbor porpoises can usually be seen in the surrounding waters.
Day 7 Dublin, Ireland
Have your camera ready for today’s scenic tour in the County of Wicklow, known as the “Garden of Ireland” for its domed granite mountains, deep glens and wooded valleys. Tour the 6th-century monastic ruins of Glendalough and learn of its history as a famous school with thousands of students. One of Europe’s finest examples of Round Tower architecture can be found here, as well as a cathedral, stone churches and decorated crosses. Following lunch, visit the Mount Usher Gardens. Laid out along the banks of the River Vartry, Mount Usher has been designed in the Robinsonian style. Trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants have been introduced from all parts of the globe and are planted in harmony with woodland and shade plants, all elegantly set off by the crystal waters of the river.
Alternatively, join your onboard historian and local guides to see Dublin’s highlights. Dublin is the capital of the Irish Republic and particularly rich in 18th-century architecture. Visit the Old Parliament House, which is now Trinity College. Founded in 1592, it is Ireland’s oldest college and houses the world famous Book of Kells, a hand illuminated manuscript of the Gospels. Continuing your tour, pass Georgian squares and Dublin Castle en route to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Founded in 1190, St. Patrick’s is perhaps best known for its association with Jonathan Swift, who was Dean here from 1713 to 1745. Other tour sites include: The Customs House; River Liffey; National Gallery of Ireland; St. Stephen’s Green; The Mansion House; the Four Courts, Ireland’s courts of justice; and the General Post Office, scene of the 1916 rising and birthplace of the Irish nation. Enjoy some free time in Dublin city before returning to the Silver Explorer.
Day 8 Portrush, Northern Ireland
Your drive along the spectacular and unspoilt Antrim Coast takes you to your first stop for the day – the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. Upon arrival, hike uphill following a winding and bumpy pathway with wonderful vantage points, ultimately arriving at the rope suspension bridge. The path is over half a mile long with wonderful vantage points to stop and take in the natural beauty. For those not fearful of heights, step out onto the bridge as it sways high above the steep cliffs and crashing waves.
Epic struggles between warring Gaelic families caused many castles to be built in defensive positions along the North Antrim coast, and your next visit will be to Dunluce Castle. The rambling ruins of the 17th-century castle with its towers and gables cling precariously to a black basalt crag, and is dramatically surrounded by terrifyingly steep drops. Enjoy a guided tour of the castle before re-boarding the coach for a short drive to lunch.
Following lunch, experience the Giant’s Causeway – one of Northern Ireland’s most famous landmarks. Legend has it that the Irish giant, Finn McCool, constructed the causeway so he could cross the sea to Scotland and thus be with his lady love. In reality, the Causeway’s 40,000 stone columns, mostly hexagonal, formed millions of years ago with the cooling of molten lava. For centuries, visitors have marveled at the rugged symmetry of the columns and their ability to withstand the unbridled ferocity of Atlantic storms. Formed over 50 million years ago, UNESCO has recognized this unique site with World Heritage status.
Day 9 Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland
This morning, arrive at Tobermory and notice first its charming and brightly colored waterfront buildings. It is a small town and easy to explore on your own. Spend the morning snapping photos and shopping for that perfect souvenir, leaving time of course to stop into a local pub for some refreshment.
During lunch the Silver Explorer will reposition to the west coast of the Isle of Mull. Making full use of your ship’s shallow draft and the fleet of Zodiac boats, plan to land directly on the shores of Duart Castle – a most impressive way to approach the ancestral home of the Clan Maclean and to recognize the power of the castle’s clifftop position in guarding over the Sound of Mull. In 1911, Sir Fitzroy Maclean repurchased and restored the castle, which is now occupied by Sir Lachlan Maclean, 28th chief of the clan Maclean. If available, Sir Lachlan Maclean himself will guide you around his fascinating 400-year-old castle home. Alternatively, tour of the castle with a guide, walking through the ancient keep, visiting the dungeons where officers of Tobermory’s Spanish Galleon were imprisoned, and stepping back through the ages in the exhibition of clan history.
Day 10 Holy Isle & Isle of Arran, Scotland
Upon your arrival at Holy Island, be welcomed by a member of the community who will introduce you to the island’s past and present. The recorded history of Holy Isle goes back to the 6th century and it has changed hands several times over the last few decades but is now primarily home to a great many bird species, from seabirds and waders to woodland varieties and even birds of prey. Seals are a common sight in the water and on the rocks. Keep an eye out for dolphins and porpoises too! There are many varieties of flora to note as you walk the island’s footpaths, exploring at your leisure.
For the final shoreside experience of your voyage, visit Brodick Castle and Country Park – the very image of a Victorian ‘Highland’ estate. Here learn of its 600-year history as you tour the house, and enjoy some leisure time to admire its stunning views and formal walled garden.
Day 11 Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland
Following breakfast, disembark the Silver Explorer.