Day 1 Oban West Scotland We board Polar Pioneer around mid-afternoon in Oban, after settling in we will set sail in the evening. Days 2 and 3 Western Isles and Highlands From golden beaches to jagged peaks, bleak moors and heather clad hills, and from abandoned settlements to picturesque villages, our days in the Hebrides will be packed with variety. We’ll explore remote lochs beneath some of Britain’s most untamed mountains, wander between bizarre rock formations of Skye’s Quiraing, watch for whales, dolphins, otters and seals, or land at an island reserve that is home to red deer and white-tailed sea eagles. Kayakers will be introduced to their craft and will be briefed for their adventures, before picking up paddles to circumnavigate tiny islets or paddle deep into narrow waterways that intersect this rugged terrain, while hikers may opt for panoramic views from summits and ridges. We may have the chance to sample single malt whisky at a distillery, or marvel at Fingal’s Cave, where the melodious sound of waves crashing against towering basalt pillars inspired Mendelssohnn’s Hebridean Overture. The rugged island of Skye, named after the Norse word for cloud, is a hikers’ paradise. It is a centre of Gaelic culture, and some islanders still speak the language. We also hope to explore the plethora of options on other smaller islands to the west of Scotland, such as Barra, the Isle of Rum, Iona, and also visit some fascinating spots along the coast of the Scottish mainland. Days 4, 5 and 6 Northwest Islands Island hopping north and east, we aim to visit tiny specks of land that bear the brunt of ferocious Atlantic storms. If weather and seas permit, we hope to land at St Kilda, a World Heritage Site, where derelict crofts bear testament to the fortitude of hardy islanders that once dried seabirds for winter food. On Lewis, we may visit Carloway Broch, and stroll among a mini stone henge at Callanais. Home to breeding seals and vast seabird colonies, Flannan, North Rona and Foula boast spectacular cliffs, fantastic rock stacks, hidden beaches and luxuriant heaths where sheep once grazed. Exposed to the full ferocity of Atlantic gales, the inhospitable volcanic stacks of St Kilda boast Britain’s highest sea cliff (430 metres tall), and were once home to one of Britain’s most remote communities. The settlement’s last 36 residents were evacuated to the Scottish mainland in 1930, when the Scottish Office ceased to subsidise the community. The islanders had eaten seabird eggs, dried gannets and fulmars for winter food, and used their feathers, oil, bones and skins for fuel, tools and shoes.In favourable sea conditions it’s possible to land on Hirta, the largest island (2 miles by 1 mile), to visit derelict crofts and the ancient chape. One of Europe’s most significant seabird breeding colonies, with over 200,000 breeding pairs of all species, St Kilda is home to Britain’s largest colonies of gannets, fulmars and puffins. It remains home to Soay sheep, perhaps brought here by Stone Age man over 5000 years ago. Days 7 and 8 Shetland Islands Britain’s most northerly islands lie almost 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland, at a similar latitude to the southern tip of Greenland, or Bergen in Norway. Kept relatively warm by the Gulf Stream, Shetland’s 100 islands experience almost 24 hours of daylight in summer. They abound with nature reserves and archaeological sites, and offer a taste of traditional island life. We plan to visit some of Shetland's best preserved and most complex archaeological sites of brochs, or fortified Iron Age towers, as well as some of the world’s largest colonies of sea birds. Days 9 and 10 Orkney Islands Mid way between Orkney and Shetland, Fair Isle houses a major European ornithological research station, and is also famous for knitwear and historic shipwrecks. About 3 miles by 2 miles, it is surrounded by impressive cliffs. The 70 or so islanders mostly live in traditional crofts on the more fertile low-lying southern part of the island. A bird watchers’ paradise, Fair Isle lies on the intersection of major flight-paths from Scandinavia, Iceland and Faroe. It attracts common species and also eastern rarities such as the lanceolated warbler. In summer, the cliffs teem with breeding fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, shags and puffins, and it is an excellent place to view seabirds at close range, especially puffins. The island also has over 250 species of flowering plants, including wetland flowers, rare orchids, alpine species and common wildflowers. We’ll be welcomed by the hospitable villagers and may take a hike or visit the museum. Among Orkney’s archipelago of 70 windswept islands, lying 6 miles north of the Scottish mainland, a rich tapestry of archaeology, history and wildlife awaits. We follow the passage of time – from 5000 year old World Heritage neolithic sites, past relics from wandering Vikings and reminders of World War 2 occupation, to present day crofting communities. Imposing sea cliffs teem with seabirds and cliff top paths and bleak moors beckon the keen hikers among us, while our kayakers use paddle-power to explore sections of Orkney’s fascinating coastline. Day 11 Aberdeen, Northeast Scotland On arrival in Aberdeen, we will disembark and bid farewell to new found friends. Wild Scotland: Discover the Wild History From the stone circles that are scattered across the islands of wild Scotland, which are thought to date back 5,000 years, to the mysterious ruins and iconic castles, we explore Scotland's isles and uncover stories of heroes, villains, fallen monarchs and bloody battles. We come across Neolithic settlements, Roman frontiers and hundreds more fascinating historical sites. Our Scottish historian, Carol Knott, will lead our historic adventures, sharing entertaining tales and interpreting the historical importance of the places, ruins and monuments we come across on this fantastic wild Scotland cruise.
Polar Pioneer is a small and sturdy expedition ship and a regular in polar waters. Built in Finland in 1985 as an ice- strengthened research vessel, she was refurbished in 2001 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.
|Kayaking Option||Kayaking Kayaking in the far-flung corners of the world is an experience guaranteed to refresh your soul. Led by experienced guides, paddling in small groups allows us the opportunity for intimate access to beautiful coastlines in some of the world's most remote destinations.||US$785|