As a tiara of rough dark-brown rubies, small islands adorn the Scottish coastline. Each one is begging to tell you stories about a dramatic past reaching back millions of years to a birth from hot molten lava, millenniums to stone age dwellings – or just 12 years to create splendid single malt whiskies. This spring cruise with Ocean Atlantic is the ultimate journey in the exciting Scottish waters, complete with whisky, wildlife and spectacular landscapes!
DAY 1 BOARDING IN GREENOCK, PORT CITY OF GLASGOW
Our journey begins in Greenock, where MV Ocean Atlantic is located by
the dock. If you arrive early we recommend that you take a walk on the
Esplanade, which is a road right down by the water. From the road you
can see across the Clyde to the Highlands, Kilcreggan and Helensburgh.
Fine views to start our adventure with. Boarding is in the afternoon,
where the cabins are designated. After the mandatory security review
and drill, we sail out along the coast of Greenock that has seen
active fishing boats since as far back as year 1164.
DAY 2 BEAUTIFULLY LOCATED BUNNAHABHAIN DISTILLERY ON THE
ISLAND OF ISLAY
The smell of peat and smoke fills our nostrils as we approach Islay.
For decades, the peat has been the primary source of fuel on this
small Inner Hebride island. This, the most southernmost of the island
group is known as the Queen of the Hebrides. The island has around
3200 inhabitants and an impressive 130 miles of beautiful coastline.
We use the ship's Zodiacs to land at the Bunnahabhain distillery where
we will take a short tour of the distillery, learning about the
process of whisky making from start to finish. Afterwards a tasting is
well deserved. A visit including tasting typically takes 30 minutes.
Islay is probably best known for its malt whiskies and has a total of
eight working distilleries. Whisky is one of the most important
sources of income for the island. The whisky they produce is soft,
dry, smoked and dusty at the same time. For this reason, Islay is the
most visited of all the inner Hebrides in proportion to its size. Be
sure to be on the lookout for wildlife while we navigate around Islay
and the Hebrides, where seals, otters, geese, waders and golden eagles
amongst others, have their home.
DAY 3 THE PILGRIMAGE ISLAND OF IONA AND CLASSIC CITY OF OBAN
Today’s first visit will be steeped in Christian history as we visit
the small pilgrimage island of Iona. It is considered the birthplace
of Christianity in Scotland with the arrival of St. Columba in AD 563
and the founding of the Abbey. The Abbey’s long history is rich with
Viking attacks, foreign monks and even abandonment at one time, before
being reconstructed to its present state. Today, Iona remains a place
of pilgrimage and spirituality. Our visit entails a walk around the
small town and free time around the Abbey. The capital on the Scottish
west coast is Oban. A picturesque Scottish harbor town called "The
Gate of the Hebrides", Oban offers typical Scottish city life. If you
want more exercise, it is highly recommended to walk up to McCaig’s
Tower, built in the 19th century. A monument that resembles the
Colosseum of Rome. Whisky is of course present here: In Oban, clearly,
they have ‘Oban’, a small town distillery with a big whisky production
(open every day, including Sundays). A more historical visit could be
the Oban War and Peace museum that has excellent displays depicting
Oban over the years (not only during the war). After our afternoon
visit, we continue northbound towards Staffa.
DAY 4 THE SMALL ISLANDS OF STAFFA AND RÙM. FINGALS CAVE AND
Venturing south around Mull during the night, we come upon a truly
marvelous natural oddity. We plan to land at the small isle of Staffa.
The islands hexagonal basaltic pillars were formed many million years
ago, and look breathtaking as we inspect them. If the weather
conditions allow it, we will make our way into Fingal’s cave. Staffa
is uninhabited but many visitors come to see the natural wonders and
formations. One such guest was the composer Felix Mendelssohn. So
inspired by the sounds and views, that the composition “the Hebrides”
was composed shortly after his visit. We will see if we can spot
puffins, herring gulls or other flyers whilst we traverse the
wonderful little island. While navigating the waters to Staffa and
beyond, we must keep our eyes open for sightings of dolphins,
porpoises and minke whales, who are all regular guests of this area in
the warm periods. After our first stop of the day, we set our sights
on the more northernly isle of Rúm. The mountain filled island allows
us to take a walk in the nature or join our group tour to the famous
Kinloch Castle. Easily the most famous building on the island, the
castle was built by George Bullough who inherited the whole island
from his father. The island was a private sporting estate from
1845-1957. If you opt to take a walk, the rugged landscape offers
great trails and views. We board our ship and now set off towards the
remote St. Kilda.
DAY 5 TOWERING AND REMOTE HIRTA IN ST. KILDA ARCHIPELAGO.
PUFFINS, DESERTED VILLAGES AND UNESCO HERITAGE.
Today we arrive to the dramatic and isolated island of Hirta, famous
for its highest sea cliffs in the United Kingdom. We have traversed 45
miles west of the Outer Hebrides coast to reach this most remote part
of the United Kingdom. The uninhabited island has remnants of human
heritage, in the shape of medieval villages and architecture. The
islands were mainly used for seabird hunting and grazing. The last 36
St Kildans left on 29 August 1930 because life had become too
difficult on the remote archipelago. Today there is summer residents
in a mix of staff from owners National Trust for Scotland, volunteers
and scientists. The volcanic archipelago that consists of the islands
of Hirta, Dun, Soay and Boreray has made its way on the UNESCO world
heritage list, holding a dual status of both natural and cultural
treasure. The spectacular natural landscapes, hidden coves, rugged
terrain and bird rich coasts are what we will spend our time on during
our visit. St Kilda is a breeding ground for many important seabird
species. So we will be on the lookout for northern gannets, Leach’s
petrels, puffins and the northern fulmar, and if we are extremely
lucky, we may find the endemic St Kilda wren pecking for insects in
the thick vegetation around the cliffs and rocky slopes. When seaborne
our eyes are as always peeled for sea mammals, which in these areas
also could include humpbacks and even orcas. In the afternoon, we
continue our voyage towards the Outer Hebrides.
DAY 6 PORT OF STORNOWAY, OPTIONAL LEWIS EXCURSION WITH THE
CALLANISH STANDING STONES & WILDLIFE ALONG THE SHIANT ISLES
As our Jewels of the Scottish isles continues, we navigate through
the northwestern part of Scotland. We find ourselves in the remote
string of islands known as the Outer Hebrides, herein lies the Isle of
Lewis and Harris, a rugged and bleakly beautiful land of heather and
moor, loch and stream; home to the main harbor town of Stornoway.
Arriving to the main town in the early morning, we offer an optional
excursion that takes us along the wild scenery of the Outer Hebrides
and ancient history in the form of the Neolithic Callanish Standing
Stones. Expect the guides to share many stories behind the sights we
pass. (The excursion is part of the excursion package and is not
included in the price of the trip). Back in Stornoway we board the
ship to sail during lunch, so we can circumnavigate the Shiant islands
before setting off towards the Orkney islands. The Shiant isles
translate from gaelic to something like “enchanted isles”. The
privately owned islands has large populations of seabirds and its
protected marine area make it what some would call “paradise for
observations”. We spend some time on the breathtaking scenery before
we move on.
DAY 7 ORKNEY ISLANDS AND HISTORIC KIRKWALL - POSSIBILITY OF
VISITING SKARA BRAE
During the night we’ll have sailed out into the waters between Outer
and Inner Hebrides, and in the morning we’ll reach the town of
Kirkwall on the windy Orkney off the mainland of Scotland. Orkney is
old Norse for the "seal islands", and, like the other North Atlantic
islands, Orkney has a rich Viking story. We depart Kirkwall and head
into the west of Mainland, Orkney’s largest island. Along the way we
will pass through rolling gentle landscapes into the Neolithic
Heartland of Orkney, an area designated as a World Heritage Site due
to its wealth of pre-historic archaeology. Passing the Standing Stones
of Stenness, we will stop at the 5000 year old ceremonial circle: the
Ring of Brodgar. From here we continue to as history goes even further
back to one of the oldest European civilizations. Skara Brae, Northern
Europe's Pompeii, which was hidden for almost 5000 years before a
massive storm (150 years ago) revealed the ancient settlement. The 10
small homes are almost ready for moving into, fully furnished and with
sanitation - all made in stone. Back in Kirkwall, we will visit one of
the local distilleries for a tasting of some of the northernmost drops
in Scotland. A fitting end to an excursion with such an amazing
historical backdrop. (The excursion is part of the excursion package
and is not included in the price of the trip). In the afternoon we
departure south to Aberdeen.
DAY 8 THE JOURNEY ENDS IN ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND.
The captain will lead the ship southwards along the east coast of
Scotland, and we’ll arrive in Aberdeen, Scotland's third-largest city.
At this time we’ll say farewell to the ship and its crew before
departing for the airport and beginning the return journey.