Day 1 Glasgow, Scotland
Our voyage starts in Glasgow. MeaningDear Green Placein Gaelic, Glasgow boasts over 90 parks and gardens. Famous for its Victorian as well as art nouveau architecture, it is home to such institutions as the Scottish Ballet, Opera and National Theatre. This is definitely a city youll want to explore more before you board MS Spitsbergen.
Day 2 Belfast, Northern Ireland
A city of industry and elegance, Belfast is the birthplace of the Titanic, as well as being the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland. It is a gateway to a glorious countryside of pretty villages and a beautiful rugged coast with pristine beaches and breathtaking clifftop walks. Experience Giants Causeway, hike through spectacular scenery or explore what this impressive city has to offer.
Day 3 Peel, Isle of Man
A seaside town, the pretty port of Peel was the 14th century capital of the island and seat to the King of Mann. Winding lanes of merchants houses, bear witness to the 19th century fishing schooners built here which traded from Ireland to Shetland. Peel Castle, connected by causeway and reputedly built by Magnus Barelegs, King of Norway, dates from the 11th century. Museums in town display vintage bikes and cars; a connection to the more modern high-speed racing that occurs on the island.
Day 4 Islay, Scotland
Once the seat of the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles, this is whisky island, world renowned for its peaty single-malt whiskies and many distilleries. As a stop-off for wintering geese and migrating birds, there is good bird spotting. In the charming little town of Bowmore, there are a handful of small shops, an interesting round church, plus superb cliff-top walks and a well-known golf course.
Day 5 Oban and Craignure, Isle of Mull, Scotland
Known as the Gateway to the Isles, the little town of Oban reached its heyday when the railway arrived, adding to its life as a busy fishing port. Now a popular holiday spot, the Victorian buildings cluster round the port, ferries come and go, heading out to the distant Hebrides. Many cafs have seafood-focused menus, and the distillery provides tours to sample a local dram of whisky.
This evening we visit the Isle of Mull where we are fortunate to have a private guided visit to the dramatic 800-year-old Duart Castle, one of very few castles remaining in the ownership of the family. We will be hosted by Sir Lachlan MacLean, the Clan Chief himself. The Castle houses much MacLean memorabilia and our visit will include the kitchen, Sea Room and Edwardian bedrooms as well as a private reception in the Banqueting Hall. The Castle is very much the type of building you would expect a Highland Chief to live in; it is simply furnished, austere and has an air of no-nonsense solidity and age.
Day 6 Isle of Iona & Treshnish Isles, Scotland
World famous for its religious connections, Iona was settled in 563AD by the Irish missionary, St Colomba. The much-restored Abbey remains a place of pilgrimage and peace. Wide views from the beach, known as The Bay at the Back of the Ocean stretch west towards the Outer Hebrides.
We will explore the Treshnish Isles, a group of distinctive volcanic islands which are home to a wealth of wildlife, from nesting puffins to colonies of kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots and Atlantic grey seals.
Fingals Cave, immortalised by Mendelssohns glorious Hebrides Overture, is on the cave-riddled island of Staffa. The basalt columns here are a northern extension of the Giants Causeway. Discovered by the Vikings and also in 1772 by Sir Joseph Banks, viewed by Queen Victoria, Sir Walter Scott and Samuel Johnson, this is one of Scotlands most famous islands. It is best viewed from the sea where the colour of the waters within the cave and its rising columns are at their most impressive.
Day 7 Loch Scavaig and Isle of Canna, Scotland
Surrounded by the high peaks of the Skye Cullins, Loch Scavaig leads to one of the most romantic and dramatic lochs in Scotland freshwater Loch Coruisk. Painted by Turner and a popular destination for the Victorians, this is a powerful landscape promising great hiking and kayaking.
We head to the Isle of Canna, which is the most sheltered of the Small Isles, known as the Garden of the Hebrides. Linked by causeway to the island Sanday with its puffin colonies, Canna is green and grassy and has delightful flora and butterflies. Once privately owned by Sir John Lorne Campbell, the island is now the property of The National Trust for Scotland.
Day 8 St. Kilda, Hirta Island, Scotland
Any visit to this distant and wild archipelago, with its breathtaking sea cliffs, is totally weather-dependent. As a UNESCO double World Heritage Site and the jewel in the crown of the National Trust for Scotland, it is an unforgettable experience. The outlying stacs and islands, which are the remains of a volcanic crater, provide ledges for thousands of nesting seabirds. Minke whales are frequently seen around the swirling waters of the archipelago.Once home to Britains most remote island community, it was evacuated in 1930 at their own request after 5,000 years of continuous habitation. The tiny museum that remains is a record of how hard life was on this exposed island.
Day 9 Stornoway, Lewis & Harris, Scotland
Originally a Viking settlement, Stornowayis the main town of the Western Isles and the capital of the Isle of Lewis, which is the largest and most northerly of the Outer Hebrides. A bustling harbour and waterfront with museums and art galleries are overlooked by the handsome Lews Castle which we invite you to explore with us. Further afield are mills and cottages where hard-wearing Harris Tweed is woven. There are tiny folk museums, the world-famous Callanish Standing Stones, and the mysterious Carloway Broch – the best-preserved fort in Scotland dating back more than 2,000 years.
Day 10 Kirkwall, Orkney Yes / No
Kirkwall is the largest town and the capital of the Orkney archipelago. The first mention of a settlement here is in a saga from 1046, and the name Kirkwall derives from the Norse `Kirkjuvagr (Church Bay). Today, Kirkwall has a population of 8,500, and is one of the most attractive and well-preserved small towns in Scotland. The community is dominated by the famous St. Magnus Cathedral. A local saga tells the story of how Magnus, kidnaped from the islands, refused to fight with the Vikings or condone their violence. Magnus eventually returned home, only to be put to death for his pacifism, and the church was named in his memory.
Day 11 Fair Isle, Shetland Islands, Scotland
Lonely Fair Isle with its high red-sandstone cliffs and gentle rolling fields is a vital stop for migrating birds and has had a permanent Bird Observatory since 1948. Synonymous with unique geometric knitwear possibly of Spanish or Scandinavian origin, the island also boasts a mini Lighthouse Keepers golf course and a friendly, self-sufficient population.
Day 12 Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland
Lerwick is the main port of the Shetland Islands and by far the northernmost town of Scotland. Founded in the 17th century as a fishing port, today Lerwick is a bustling, cosmopolitan town. The old waterfront is still active with visiting yachts and working fishing boats. The area boasts some of Shetland’s most attractive scenery and an extraordinary concentration of archaeological sites, including two remarkable Iron Age villages.
Day 13 Bergen, Norway
We bid farewell after a voyage of discovery. Before heading home, wisit the fish market and stroll through Bergens historic harbour area, fronted by wooden houses dating back as far as the 1300s. You can also take a trip up to nearby Mount Flyen via funicular tram for views over the city and surrounding mountains.