Find Expedition
  • St Kilda, Scotland
    St Kilda, Scotland
  • The comical Atlantic Puffin
    The comical Atlantic Puffin
  • Kayaking the wild coasts
    Kayaking the wild coasts
  • Ring of Brodgar
    Ring of Brodgar
  • St Kilda, Scotland
    St Kilda, Scotland
  • Atlantic puffins
    Atlantic puffins
  • Mousa Broch
    Mousa Broch
  • Scottish sheep
    Scottish sheep

Wild Scotland Cruise: Polar Pioneer

From the Hebrides in the west, to inhospitable windswept specks of land like St Kilda and Foula, and to the Orkney and Shetland islands in the north, explore the intriguing diversity of these wild islands. Take in Neolithic sites scarcely changed in 5000 years, and ponder the mystery of huge monoliths that marked seasonal change. We’ll visit remote crofting communities, picturesque villages and castles that were once strongholds of Scottish clans. We hope to see some of the world’s largest seabird colonies, raucous places filled with gannets, fulmars, arctic terns and delightful puffins. Or sit quietly in Zodiacs as seals play nearby in waters patrolled by whales and dolphins. These rugged islands and intricate waterways are also a paradise for hikers and sea kayakers.
  • Ruggedly beautiful Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Islands
  • Some of the world’s largest seabird colonies
  • Legendary St Kilda and Foula
  • Remote Scottish communities, picturesque villages and castles
  • 5000 year old Neolithic sites
  • Intricate waterways for sea kayakers to explore
  • Zodiac cruising in waters rich with seals, whales and dolphins

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.

Expedition Vessel: Polar Pioneer

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.

For full information about this vessel click here:

deckplans for ship

Dates, Costs & Booking

Choose Date

Choose Number of Berths & Category

Date Selected: 21st Jun 2018

Adult (1) US$7500
Sub total US$7500

Expedition Options

Name Description Price
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

Essential Information

Prices and Share Policy Prices quoted are per person in US$, based on twin-share. Single occupancy is 1.7 times the twin share price. No single travel fees apply if you are willing to share your cabin (triple & twin cabins only). Fuel surcharge may apply in the event of significant fuel price increases. No refund for unused services. Deposits Reservations require a deposit of $2500 per person at the time you receive a booking confirmation from Expeditions Online. A payment link will be sent to you and this may be paid by major credit card. Bookings within 90 days of departure require full payment. Final Payments Balances are due 90 days prior to departure. You will be invoiced at the appropriate time. Balance payments can be made by bank transfer or on request by major credit card, subject to a 2% surcharge. Cancellations All requests for cancellation must be received in writing to Expeditions Online. Cancellations made before 90 days of voyage departure are subject to a non-refundable deposit of $2500, however your deposit may be transferred towards a different voyage on board Polar Pioneer at a fee of $500. Transfers are subject to availability and are only valid on voyages that depart within 12 months from date of transfer. You must pay the difference between the original booked price and the price of any transferred booking including the new deposit amount. If cancellation occurs less than 90 days prior to departure, you will be required to pay for the full cost of the trip. We strongly recommend that you obtain adequate trip cancellation insurance. Booking Terms Please read carefully the General Booking Conditions for Expeditions Online. This voyage is operated by Aurora Expeditions and you additionally travel under their terms and conditions as the operator as well as of the Shipping Company/transport carrier. Details will be forwarded to you at the time of booking along with a separate Booking Form.


  • All entry fees to historic landings and historic sites
  • Ship's accommodation.
  • All public areas are open to all passengers.
  • All meals on board ship. All shore excursions from the ship including Zodiacs.
  • Lectures, videos, slide and film shows and guide services.
  • Medical services. There is a resident doctor and well-equipped clinic on board.
  • Port taxes and port charges imposed by government authorities.
  • Pre-departure information and briefing.


  • Air transport to and from the ship, not mentioned above.
  • Visa, passport and vaccination charges and airport departure taxes.
  • Hotels and meals not included in voyage itinerary.
  • Optional excursions not included in the voyage itinerary.
  • Laundry, postage, personal clothing, medical expenses, personal travel insurance and items of a personal nature such as bar charges and phone calls.
  • Emergency evacuation charges.
  • Kayaking surcharge, which covers use of kayaks and related equipment, and the services of an experienced kayak guide.