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Colorful sunset over the Scottish Highlands

Ancient Isles: England, Ireland, and Scotland

Example 12 Day Cruise aboard National Geographic Explorer
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Embark on a 12-day cruise from Portsmouth to Edinburgh aboard the National Geographic Explorer. Exploring the enduring Celtic and Viking influences in local culture and language. Visit the ancient Fingal's Cave on Staffa Island and observe a thriving puffin colony. Explore the 12th-century Iona Abbey, a cornerstone of Scottish Christianity. Venture into the wild, windswept outer isles of Ireland and Scotland and witness important seabird nesting sites. Unearth the ancient Ring of Brodgar and the 5,000-year-old Skara Brae village on Orkney.
Rocky shores of the AtlanticBig Ben on a sunny day in LondonSkellig Michael boasts some of the most beautiful views in all of IrelandRing Of Brodgar, OrkneyColorful sunset over the Scottish Highlands
Highlights
  • Explore the beautiful places where Celtic and Viking influences still thrive
  • Sail around magical Skellig Michael
  • Zodiac cruise into Fingal’s Cave in Scotland
  • Discover the seabird colonies of Scotland's Outer Hebrides
Places Visited
Activity Level: Relaxed
Involves minimal physical effort and is typically associated with leisurely activities. Activities are low-intensity or last less than a few hours each day.
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Windsor, England | Portsmouth | Embark

Arrive in London and spend the morning in the countryside of Windsor, known for its royal heritage and grand estates. This afternoon, transfer to Portsmouth to embark on your journey around the British and Irish Isles.

Day 2: Fowey

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Arrive in the Cornish port of Fowey (pronounced "Foy") this afternoon. Visit the Eden Project, a collection of immense eco-garden biomes set within a 34-acre bowl, celebrating sustainability and botanical innovation. Alternatively, experience the grandeur of the Estates of Cornwall on a visit to the houses of Pencarrow and Lanhydrock. For those wishing for a more relaxed afternoon, spend time on your own in the village of Fowey or join the field staff for an expeditionary outing in the area.

Day 3: Isles of Scilly

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Revel in flourishing subtropical beauty at Tresco Abbey Garden, planted in the 19th century around the ruins of a Benedictine abbey in the Isles of Scilly. Today, it’s matured into a priceless botanical sanctuary for thousands of exotic species from across the southern hemisphere—from Brazil to New Zealand, Myanmar to South Africa. Yet here it is, on an islet just 28 miles off the Cornwall coast.

Day 4: Cobh, Ireland

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Arrive in this colorful port city on one of the world’s largest natural harbors, intimately tied to maritime history and the great Irish emigration. Visit the Cobh Heritage Centre and learn about the momentous events that took place here—from the 1912 departure of the Titanic to the successful rescue of passengers from the torpedoed Lusitania and the millions of Irish who departed these shores in search of a better life. Enjoy an afternoon of Irish traditions, from music to sports, with locals.

Day 5-6: Wild West Coast of Ireland

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Over the next two days, enjoy the windswept landscapes of western Ireland. Be on deck as you sail past Skellig Michael, the protected Celtic Christian hermitage where beehive huts and the remains of a seventh-century monastery still stand. Then, get photo tips from the National Geographic Photography Expert as you sail past the uninhabited Blasket Islands, on which you can observe a wide array of birds, including storm petrels, shearwaters, terns, gulls, and auks. Your exploration continues on land through the southern corner of Ireland with its cozy local pubs, cultural centers, and country walks.

Day 7: Iona and Staffa, Inner Hebrides, Scotland

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Visit the sacred island of Iona and its 13th-century abbey, long revered as a Christian pilgrimage site and believed to be where the Book of Kells originated. Several Scottish kings, including the actual Macbeth, are buried in the royal graveyard here. Later, weather permitting, explore uninhabited Staffa Island, famed for its perfect six-sided volcanic basalt columns and dramatic Fingal’s Cave. On Staffa, join one of the naturalists to learn about and observe a large puffin colony.

Day 8: Outer Hebrides

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Explore the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, which boast incredible seabird colonies. Conditions permitting, you can make a landing at St. Kilda, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and nature preserve. Uninhabited since 1930, the traditional stone village left behind by the island’s final residents now lies in ruins. But active occupants do remain: a huge population of gannets, domesticated sheep now gone wild, puffins, and wrens.

Day 9: Shetland Islands

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The Shetlands are characterized by deep-seated cultural traditions and dramatic landscapes. Far north and near enough to Norway to speak Scottish with a Scandinavian accent, this 100-island archipelago has never been fully tamed by those who live here. Explore these rural islands with their mix of ponies, ruins, and windswept pastures.

Day 10: Orkney Islands

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Options this morning include a birdwatching trek in quest of Orkney’s remarkably varied birdlife or a walking tour of Kirkwall, Orkney’s capital and a showplace of ancient Viking history thanks to its proximity to Norway. Later, discover the Stone Age megaliths of the Ring of Brodgar and the 5,000-year-old stone slab village of Skara Brae. And step inside the majestic St. Magnus Cathedral, a sandstone landmark that took three centuries to build.

Day 11: Aberdeen

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Start off the day with a panoramic drive through "the Granite City" before exploring Aberdeenshire’s countryside. Choose to visit a local Highland cattle farm, where you can learn about its award-winning products and practices. Or, dive into Highland traditions with a visit to the Gordon Highlanders Museum. Transfer back to the ship later this afternoon and enjoy your last evening at sea.

Day 12: Edinburgh | Disembark

  • 1 Breakfast
Disembark in Edinburgh after breakfast and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Ship/Hotel

National Geographic Explorer

National Geographic Explorer's dining room.
Relax in the luxurious sauna aboard the National Geographic Explorer.
Relax in the National Geographic Explorer's lounge.

Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
$10,887
Rates are subject to change without notice. Book early to get the best rate.
National Geographic Explorer's Category 1 Cabin.
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Cat 1
Main Deck with one or two portholes. #301-308
National Geographic Explorer's Category 2 Cabin.
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Cat 2
Main Deck with window. #317-320, 335-336.
National Geographic Explorer's Category 3 Cabin.
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Cat 3
Main Deck with Window #313-316, 321-328, 337-340,342, 344, 346, 348, 350.
National Geographic Explorer's Category 4 Cabin.
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Cat 4
Upper and Veranda Decks with Window. # 103-104, 107-108, 201-202, 204-207, 210, 212, 217, 226, 228.
National Geographic Explorer's Category 5 Upper Deck Cabin.
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Cat 5
Upper Deck with Balcony. #209, 211, 214, 216, 218, 220-222, 224.
National Geographic Explorer's Category 6 Cabin.
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Cat 6
Veranda Deck Suite #101-102; Upper Deck Suite with Balcony #213.
Luxurious Catagory 8 Suite
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Cat 7
Upper Deck Suite with Balcony. #215, 219, 230.
National Geographic Explorer's Category SA and SB.
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Cat SA
C Deck Solo - Cabins 309-312, 329-334. Single cabins with window.
National Geographic Explorer's Category SA and SB.
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Cat SB
Upper and Veranda Decks with Window. #105-106, 203, 208.

Notes

Travelers under the age of 18 save $500 per person.

Rates are capacity-controlled and are subject to change without notice.
Included
  • 11 Breakfasts, 10 Lunches, 11 Dinners
  • 11 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Non-Alcoholic Beverages
  • All airport transfers mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Use of snorkeling equipment, wet suits, and kayaks (where available)
  • Services of the expert expedition team and guest speakers
  • Shore excursions, sightseeing, entrance fees, and special access permits
  • Taxes, service charges, and tips (except for ship’s crew, at guests’ discretion)
Excluded
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Additional Hotel Nights 
  • Private Transfers
  • Expedition Extensions 
  • Laundry 
  • Air transportation (except when indicated in the itinerary, as included)
  • Passport, visa, and immigration fees
  • Special and unique excursions such as scuba diving, flightseeing, etc. (where offered)
  • Alcoholic beverages (alcohol is included on select ships)
  • Items of personal nature
  • Phone and Internet Service
  • Gratuity for ship’s crew, at guests’ discretion (crew tips are included on select ships
  • We strongly recommend our guests to take Travel Protection Plan. A Plan with comprehensive coverage to protect you from cancellation fees, costs incurred due to trip delays/interruption, damaged or lost baggage, medical assistance, and evacuation during your travels

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