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Iona Abbey on the Isle of Iona

Exploring Scotland’s Wild Isles: Shetlands, Orkneys & Inner Hebrides

Dublin - Edinburgh - Example 9 Day Cruise aboard National Geographic Explorer
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Discover the archaeological sites and untamed scenery of three Scottish Isles—Shetlands, Orkneys, and the Inner Hebrides—on this 9-day cruise aboard the brand-new National Geographic Explorer. Visit the "upside-down" Rathlin West Light, which was constructed between 1912 and 1917. Visit an old nunnery, a 13th-century abbey, and St. Oran's Chapel in Iona, which has a royal burial place. Pass the 180-meter-high sea cliffs of the Isle of Noss, which are home to tens of thousands of seabirds. Visit the Stone Age sites in Kirkwall, such as the 5,000-year-old hamlet of Skara Brae, made of stone slabs.
Ring of Brodgar is a unique stone circle in Scotland.Visit some of Europes oldest monumentsExperience celtic traditions and historyYou will be accompanied by a variety of sea birdsExplore the incredible arches of St. Magnus Cathedral.Bagpiper in ScotlandIona Abbey on the Isle of Iona
  • Witness the iron-age Midhowe Broch in Island of Rousay
  • Discover the 5,000 year old stone age site in Kirkwall
  • Walk along coastal cliffs to the storied ruins of Dunnottar Castle
  • Explore the Bronze Age ruins at the prehistoric settlement of Jarlshof
Activity Level: Relaxed

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Dublin, Ireland | Embark

  • Ship
  • 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Arrive in Dublin. More living museum than city, traces of Dublin’s past are on display at every turn. Discover the city’s medieval castles and cathedrals, one of the oldest universities in Europe, Trinity College, and perhaps enjoy a sip of Ireland’s famous brew, Guinness. Tour the city before embarking National Geographic Resolution in the late afternoon. Settle into life on board as we set sail for Rathlin Island.

Day 2: Rathlin Island

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Kick off your expedition on Rathlin Island, home to Northern Ireland’s largest puffin colony, as well as thousands of seabirds including guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, and fulmars. Visit the Rathlin West Light, the “upside down lighthouse” built between 1912-1917, and learn about the 40+ shipwrecks in the island’s surrounding waters. It is in a cave on Rathlin Island that Robert the Bruce, the famous Scottish King, is said to have taken refuge during a fight against the English in 1306, where he was inspired to keep up the struggle for Scottish independence.

Day 3: Iona, Scotland | Staffa

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Sail through the Sea of the Hebrides to the isle of Iona, the site of Scotland’s first Christian settlement. Venture into an ancient nunnery and a 13th-century abbey and explore St. Oran’s Chapel with its royal burial grounds, where Celtic high crosses mark the graves of generations of Scottish kings. In the afternoon, continue to Staffa, famed for its geometric basalt columns and deep-sea caves. Conditions permitting, zodiac into the awe-inspiring Fingal’s Cave, where Felix Mendelssohn was inspired to write his "Hebrides Overture." Atop the island, look for puffins coming to and from their burrows as they search for fish in the surrounding waters.

Day 4: Inverewe

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Anchor in Loch Ewe and bring your camera along as we stroll the winding paths of Inverewe Garden, created in 1862. Tempered by the warm Gulf Stream, these splendid gardens are home to hundreds of exotic sub-tropical plant species. Spot some Scottish wildlife as you meander through the gardens—red squirrels, otters, red deer, and golden eagles. Choose to kayak in the waters alongside the gardens for an alternative view.

Day 5: Noss & Lerwick, Shetland Islands

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Far from the hustle and bustle of the mainland, the Shetland Islands exude a languid remoteness that begs to be discovered. Sail past the Isle of Noss, known for its 180-meter-high sea cliffs teaming with tens of thousands of seabirds. Join our naturalist on deck to watch for gannets, guillemots, fulmars, and kittiwakes. Explore Lerwick, a town where Norse and Gaelic cultures intermingle, and see the countryside dotted with Shetland ponies. Then examine Bronze Age ruins at the extraordinary prehistoric settlement of Jarlshof, a UNESCO candidate which is part of "The Crucible of Iron Age Shetland." Later, take in a cacophony of birds as we walk to the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head.

Day 6: Papa Westray & Rousay, Orkney Islands

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The Vikings held a strategic foothold in the Orkney Islands for hundreds of years, and their Norse heritage is apparent in local legends and traditions that endure today. Start your day on the island of Papa Westray, the cradle of Christianity in Orkney. Visit Boniface Kirk, a church founded in the 8th century and surrounded by a picturesque graveyard, and Knap of Howar, a Neolithic farmstead that was occupied from 3,700 BC to 2,800 BC—earlier than similar houses found at Skara Brae. Then, discover the island of Rousay, where you’ll visit the iron-age Midhowe Broch and explore the woodland and water gardens of Trumland House.

Sail to Kirkwall later this afternoon and arrive at the Ring of Brodgar’s megaliths in time for sunset —when crowds have dispersed and the light is perfect to capture your best photos. Enjoy a whisky tasting this evening.

Day 7: Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Explore a treasure trove of Stone Age sites, including the 5,000-year-old stone-slab village of Skara Brae. Step inside the medieval St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, which took nearly 300 years to complete. Choose to join our naturalist on a birdwatching excursion, where you’ll have the opportunity to spot over 30 species of birds, including black-headed gulls, gannets, and guillemots

Day 8: Stonehaven

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
From the Orkney Islands, we'll make our way to the eastern shore of Scotland to Stonehaven. Choose a coastal cliff walk to explore the storied ruins of Dunnottar Castle, perched on a rocky promontory headland high above the North Sea. Steeped in history, this dramatic and evocative fortress dates to the 13th century with various parts being added over a period of 500 years. Alternatively, venture further down the coast to the cliffs at Fowlsheugh, where over 130,000 breeding seabirds spend the spring and summer months.

Day 9: Edinburgh | Disembark

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


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

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Per person starting at
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.
  • 8 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, 8 Dinners
  • 8 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)
  • 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



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