From lively Oban, enter a world of booming sea caves, puffins, basking sharks and playful dolphins. History haunts the beautifully preserved Stone Age villages, ancient abbeys and abandoned castles that adorn headlands and windswept moors of the Hebridean Islands. World Heritage-listed St Kilda and its rocky outliers are home to breeding seals, some of Europe’s largest seabird colonies, fantastic sea stacks and derelict crofts, where hardy islanders, once lived. The Orkneys offer insight into WWII and a wee dram of Scotland’s finest. Birders find paradise in the Shetlands, where Viking influences prevail.
Day 1 – Oban
Day 2- 3 – Iona /
Day 4 – 6 – Hirta /St Kilda / Callanish Stones
Day 7 – 8 – Norway / Scotland / Shetland Isles
Day 9 – 10 – Orkney archipelago
Day 11 – Aberdeen
Polar Pioneer Ship – Polar Pioneer is a small and sturdy expedition ship. A regular in polar waters having initially been built in 1982 as an icestrengthened research vessel, she was refurbished in 2000 to provide a comfortable range of triple, twin and suite cabin options for a maximum of 54 expeditioners. Her excellent reputation for polar expedition cruising is due to her strength, maneuverability and size, allowing her to access areas where larger vessels simply can’t reach.
Days 2 – 3 – Overnight we travel to Iona, birthplace of Christianity in Britain and burial ground of early Scottish kings. At Staffa, we visit Fingal’s Cave, set amidst spectacular basalt columns, and learn why it inspired Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture. At the Cuillin Hills, spiritual heart of Skye, we follow a lonely track to Rubh’an Dunain, an ancient passage grave with a nearby Iron Age fort and stone-lined canal, possibly built by Vikings. Canna offers golden and sea eagles, and basking sharks, dolphins, grey seals and puffins.
Days 4 -6 – Conditions permitting, we land on Hirta, in remote St Kilda, home to Europe’s most important seabird colony and Britain’s highest sea stacks. We learn of the incredible islanders, who survived here for nearly 5000 years. On Lewis we visit the Callanish Stones, sombre slabs placed upright nearly 3000 years ago to mark burial sites. A Zodiac cruise takes us to Bostadh’s reconstructed Iron Age house. We aim to visit Sula Sgeir and North Rona, tiny islands inhabited by breeding seals and seabirds.
Days 7 – 8 – Closer to Norway than Scotland, the Shetland Isles played a strategic role in Viking conquests. We visit the capitol, Lerwick, and explore the complex Stone, Bronze and Iron Age settlement of Jarlshof, and on Mousa, the world’s best-preserved Iron Age structure known as a broch. Foula’s five dramatic peaks dwarf its crofting hamlets. Papa Stour’s coastline offers Zodiac exploration of dramatic caves.
Days 9 – 10 – Blessed with red, fertile soil, the Orkney archipelago has welcomed people since ancient times. From Kirkwall, we visit 5000-year old archaeological wonders like Skara Brae, excavated less than 100 years ago. We view relics of Viking occupation and World War II curiosities, include the exquisite Italian Chapel, built from scrap by Italian POWs. We sail past the giant sea stack Old Man of Hoy. On Papa Westray we see the Knap of Howar, the oldest standing dwelling in Europe and on to Fair Isle, a birdwatchers’ paradise, where the few inhabitants still live in traditional crofts.
Kayaking option Sea caves, basking sharks, dolphins and seals. Scotland as few have experienced it.
Historical Christian sites
Basking sharks, dolphins, seals
Isle of Skye
World-Heritage St Kilda
Seabirds on sea stacks
Iron Age brochs
Stone Age villages
Oban – Oban is a resort town within the Argyll and Bute council area of Scotland.
Iona – Iona is a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the Ross of Mull on the western coast of Scotland. It was a centre of Irish monasticism for four centuries and is today renowned for its tranquility and natural beauty. It is a popular tourist destination and a place for retreats.
St Kilda – St Kilda is an isolated archipelago 64 kilometres west-northwest of North Uist in the North Atlantic Ocean. It contains the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
Shetland Isles – Shetland also called the Shetland Islands, is a subarctic archipelago of Scotland that lies north-east of mainland Britain.
Orkney archipelago – Orkney (Scottish Gaelic: Arcaibh also known as the Orkney Islands is an archipelago in northern Scotland, 16 kilometres north of the coast of Caithness.
Aberdeen – Aberdeen is Scotland’s third most populous city, one of Scotland’s 32 local government council areas and the United Kingdom’s 37th most populous built-up area.