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Discover ancient cultures of the Orkney islands

Jewels of the Scottish Isles

Example 8 Day Cruise aboard Ocean Atlantic
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This 8-day spring cruise aboard Ocean Atlantic is the ultimate journey in the exciting Scottish waters, complete with whisky, wildlife and spectacular landscapes. Your journey begins in the port of Greenock on the Scottish West Coast. Head for your first landing on the island of Islay, home to several world famous brands of peaty whiskies. Further north to Oban and Iona and onwards to Staffa and Rùm with their dramatic displays of volcanic eruptions. Continue to the Outer Hebrides to make landings on remote Hirta in the St. Kilda archipelago and on Lewis in the town of Stornoway. North of the mainland lie the rugged and scenic islands of Orkney, home to some of Europe’s oldest preserved dwellings – and Scotland’s northernmost whisky factory. The voyage ends in Aberdeen, mainland Scotland.
Greenock, ScotlandIsle of Iona, ScotlandIona Abbey on the Isle of IonaExplore the enchanting city of GlasgowSeabirds flying over dramatic ocean island cliffs St KildaVisit Neolithic sites of the Orkney islandsDiscover ancient cultures of the Orkney islands
Highlights
  • Visit the island of Islay, home of the famous brands of peaty whiskies
  • Tour the famous Kinloch Castle in northernly isle of Rúm
  • Discover Christian history at the small pilgrimage island of Iona
  • Enjoy the picturesque Scottish harbor town in Oban
Places Visited
Trip Type:
  • Small Ship
Activity Level: Relaxed
0

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Greenock | Embark

Our journey begins in Greenock, where MV Ocean Atlantic is located by the dock. If you arrive early, it is recommended that you take a walk on the Esplanade, a road right down by the water. From the road, you can see across the Clyde to the Highlands, Kilcreggan, and Helensburgh. Fine views to start our adventure with.
Boarding is in the afternoon, where the cabins are designated. After the mandatory security review and drill, sail out along the coast of Greenock that has seen active fishing boats since as far back as the year 1164.

Day 2: Islay

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The smell of peat and smoke fills our nostrils as we approach Islay. For decades, peat has been the primary source of fuel on this small Inner Hebrides island. This, the most southernmost of the island group, is known as the Queen of the Hebrides. The island has around 3200 inhabitants and an impressive 130 miles of beautiful coastline.

We use the ship's Zodiacs to land at the Bunnahabhain distillery, where you take a short tour of the distillery, learning about the process of whisky making from start to finish. Afterward, a tasting is well deserved. A visit including tasting typically takes 30 minutes.

Islay is probably best known for its malt whiskies and has a total of eight working distilleries. Whisky is one of the most important sources of income for the island.
The whisky they produce is soft, dry, smoked, and dusty at the same time. For this reason, Islay is the most visited of all the inner Hebrides in proportion to its size.
Be sure to be on the lookout for wildlife while we navigate around Islay and the Hebrides, where seals, otters, geese, waders, and golden eagles, amongst others, have their home.

Day 3: Iona | Oban

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Today’s first visit is steeped in Christian history as we visit the small pilgrimage island of Iona. It is considered the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland with the arrival of St. Columba in AD 563 and the founding of the Abbey. The Abbey’s long history is rich with Viking attacks, foreign monks and even abandonment at one time, before being reconstructed to its present state. Today, Iona remains a place of pilgrimage and spirituality. Your visit entails a walk around the small town and free time around the Abbey.

The capital on the Scottish west coast is Oban. A picturesque Scottish harbor town called "The Gate of the Hebrides", Oban offers typical Scottish city life. If you want more exercise, it is highly recommended to walk up to McCaig’s Tower, built in the 19th century. A monument that resembles the Colosseum of Rome. Whisky is of course present here: In Oban, clearly, they have ‘Oban’, a small town distillery with a big whisky production (open every day, including Sundays). A more historical visit could be the Oban War and Peace museum that has excellent displays depicting Oban over the years (not only during the war).

After our afternoon visit, continue northbound towards Staffa.

Day 4: Staffa | Isle of Rúm

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Venturing south around Mull during the night, come upon a genuinely great natural oddity. Plan to land at the tiny isle of Staffa. The island's hexagonal basaltic pillars were formed many million years ago and look breathtaking as we inspect them. If the weather conditions allow it, make our way into Fingal’s cave. Staffa is uninhabited, but many visitors come to see the natural wonders and formations. One such guest was the composer Felix Mendelssohn. They were so inspired by the sounds and views that the composition “the Hebrides” was composed shortly after his visit. See if you can spot puffins, herring gulls, or other flyers while you traverse the wonderful tiny island.

While navigating the waters to Staffa and beyond, keep your eyes open for sightings of dolphins, porpoises, and minke whales, who are all regular guests of this area in the warm periods.

After our first stop of the day, set your sights on the more northernly isle of Rúm. The mountain-filled island allows us to walk in nature or join our group tour to the famous Kinloch Castle. The most prominent building on the island, the castle, was built by George Bullough, who inherited the whole island from his father. The island was a private sporting estate from 1845-1957.

If you opt to take a walk, the rugged landscape offers excellent trails and views.

Board your ship and now set off towards the remote St. Kilda.

Day 5: St. Kilda

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Please arrive at the picturesque and isolated island of Hirta, famous for its highest sea cliffs in the United Kingdom. Traversed 45 miles west of the Outer Hebrides coast to reach this most remote part of the United Kingdom. The uninhabited island has remnants of human heritage in the shape of medieval villages and architecture. The islands were mainly used for seabird hunting and grazing. The last 36 St Kildans left on 29 August 1930 because life had become too difficult on the remote archipelago. Today, there are summer residents in a mix of staff from National Trust for Scotland owners, volunteers, and scientists.

The volcanic archipelago consisting of Hirta, Dun, Soay, and Boreray has made its way on the UNESCO world heritage list, holding a dual status of both natural and cultural treasure. The spectacular natural landscapes, hidden coves, rugged terrain, and bird-rich coasts are what we will spend our time on during our visit.

St Kilda is a breeding ground for many important seabird species. So be on the lookout for northern gannets, Leach’s petrels, puffins, and the north fulmar, and if you are fortunate, you may find the endemic St Kilda wren pecking for insects in the thick vegetation around the cliffs and rocky slopes. When seaborne, your eyes are always peeled for sea mammals, which could also include humpbacks and even orcas in these areas.

In the afternoon, continue your voyage towards the Outer Hebrides.

Day 6: Stornoway

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
As our Jewels of the Scottish isles continue, navigate through the northwestern part of Scotland. Find yourself in the remote string of islands known as the Outer Hebrides, herein lies the Isle of Lewis and Harris, a rugged and bleakly beautiful land of heather and moor, loch and stream; home to the main harbor town of Stornoway.

Arriving at the main town in the early morning, an optional excursion takes you along the wild scenery of the Outer Hebrides and ancient history in the form of the Neolithic Callanish Standing Stones. Expect the guides to share many stories behind the sights we pass.
(The excursion is part of the excursion package and is not included in the trip's price).

Back in Stornoway, board the ship to sail during lunch, so you can circumnavigate the Shiant islands before setting off towards the Orkney Islands.
The Shiant isles translate from Gaelic to something like “enchanted isles.” The privately-owned islands have large populations of seabirds, and its protected marine area makes it what some would call “paradise for observations.” Spend some time on the breathtaking scenery before moving on.

Day 7: Kirkwall

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
During the night you have sailed out into the waters between Outer and Inner Hebrides, and in the morning reach the town of Kirkwall on the windy Orkney off the mainland of Scotland. Orkney is old Norse for the "seal islands", and, like the other North Atlantic islands, Orkney has a rich Viking story.

Depart Kirkwall and head into the west of Mainland, Orkney’s largest island. Along the way pass through rolling gentle landscapes into the Neolithic Heartland of Orkney, an area designated as a World Heritage Site due to its wealth of pre-historic archaeology. Passing the Standing Stones of Stenness, stop at the 5000 year old ceremonial circle: the Ring of Brodgar. From here, continue to as history goes even further back to one of the oldest European civilizations. Skara Brae, Northern Europe's Pompeii, which was hidden for almost 5000 years before a massive storm (150 years ago) revealed the ancient settlement. The 10 small homes are almost ready for moving into, fully furnished and with sanitation - all made in stone.

Back in Kirkwall, visit one of the local distilleries for a tasting of some of the northernmost drops in Scotland. A fitting end to an excursion with such an amazing historical backdrop.
(The excursion is part of the excursion package and is not included in the price of the trip).

In the afternoon, depart south to Aberdeen.

Day 8: Aberdeen | Disembark

  • 1 Breakfast
The captain leads the ship southwards along the east coast of Scotland, and arrive in Aberdeen, Scotland's third-largest city. At this time say farewell to the ship and its crew before departing for the airport and beginning the return journey.

Ship/Hotel

Ocean Atlantic

Theater
Coffee Lounge
Mudroom

Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
$2,590
Category G
Select a Date
Category G - Single
Size 9-10 m². Cabins feature a single bed, private bathroom, and a porthole. Located on Columbus Deck (Deck 4).
Category F
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Category F
Size 18-21 m². Large Inside Triple Cabin, featuring a double or two single beds, and a fold-out single bed, a relaxing sitting area, and a bathroom with a bathtub, and a porthole. Located on Marco Polo Deck (Deck 5).
Category E
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Category E
Size 18-21 m². Large Inside Cabin, featuring a double or two single beds, a relaxing sitting area, and a bathroom with a bathtub. Located on Marco Polo Deck (Deck 5).
Category D
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Category D
Size 11-12 m². Featuring two single beds, private bathroom, and a porthole. Located on the Columbus Deck (Deck 4).
Category C
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Category C
Size 12-13 m². This Standard Cabin has two single beds, private bathroom, and a window. Located on the Marco Polo Deck (Deck 5).
Category B
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Category B
Size 20-23 m² Featuring a double bed or two single beds, a sofa bed that enables triple accommodation, a relaxing sitting area, private bathroom and windows. Partly obstructed view. Located on the Magellan and Hudson Deck (Deck 7 & 8).
Category A
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Category A
Size 19-24 m². Featuring a double bed or two single beds, a relaxing sitting area, a private bathroom, and windows. Located on the Marco Polo Deck (Deck 5).
Premium Suite
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Premium Suite
Size 35 m². These 2-room suites are designed with a large double bed or two twin beds, an elegant living room, a large private bathroom, and windows. Located on the Marco Polo Deck (Deck 5).

Notes

INCLUSIONS
  • 8-day/7-night cruise in a shared outside/inside double stateroom with private bathroom/toilet in the category chosen
    • English-speaking expedition team.
    • Zodiac landings.
    • Whisky tasting on the island of Islay.
    • Near-port town walks with expedition team.
    • Information briefings and lectures by expedition team.
    • Full board on the ship.
    • Free coffee, tea and afternoon snacks on the ship.
    • Special photo workshop.
    • Welcome and farewell cocktails.
    • Digital visual journal link after voyage, including voyage log, gallery, species list and more!
    • Taxes and tariffs.
EXCLUSIONS
  • International flights to Glasgow /from Aberdeen.
  • Hotel accommodations in Scotland, before or after the cruise.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Cancellation insurance.
  • Extra excursions and activities not mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Single room supplement.
  • Meals not on board the ship.
  • Beverages (other than coffee and tea).
  • Tips for the crew (we recommend USD 14 per person per day).
  • Personal expenses.
  • Anything not mentioned under 'Price includes'.
OPTIONAL EXCURSIONS (Please contact your trip planner):
Orkney: Bus to the neolithic settlement: Skara Brae. Return to Kirkwall for a spirit tasting.
Lewis Island: Bus excursion to Callanish Neolithic Standing Stones and wild Hebridian landscapes

Map

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Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!
Meyer Smolen
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