This 11-day itinerary to and from Glasgow takes in the incredible scenery and charming towns of the inner and outer Hebrides, plus a beautiful freshwater lake and many off-the-beaten-path destinations. You'll be transfixed by the raw natural beauty of the Treshnish Isles, Iona and Skye, while UNESCO-listed St Kilda gives new meaning to ‘wild abandon’. Visit castles, historic homes and standing stones and experience Scotland's cultural notes with whisky, tartan and tweed.
This unique cruise sets sail from Greenock onboard MS Spitsbergen and visits the Isle of Arran, the Isle of Gigha, Islay, Iona and the Treshnish Isles, St. Kilda, Stornoway, and the Shiant Isles, the Isle of Eigg, the Isle of Mull and the Isle of Colonsay. This in-depth exploration of the Scottish Isles is the perfect way to tick off so many in one 11-day trip.
Your voyage starts in Glasgow. Meaning ‘Dear Green Place’ in 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 you’ll want to explore more before you board MS Spitsbergen
Warmed by the North Atlantic Drift, this sheltered island with its high peaks, is a haven for wildlife. Dramatic mountains, a distinctive distillery and good hiking all add to a microcosm of Scotland. Brodick town has its 16th-century red-sandstone castle whilst the ruined castle of Lochranza was once a royal hunting lodge.
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 with no corners, plus superb cliff-top walks and a well-known golf course.
Tiny Gigha (pronounced Gee’a) is the ‘Good Isle’ and is owned by the islanders. Dairy cows produce a distinctive cheddar-type cheese, whilst Achamore House, set in fifty acres of woodland gardens, was once the home of Sir James Horlick who created a colourful and impressive display of rhododendrons.
Your adventure continues to Iona, off the coast of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. You can visit the restored 6th century abbey, one of Scotland's oldest and most sacred Christian pilgrimage sites. Or enjoy a hike with the Expedition Team up Dùn I for breathtaking views of St Columba's Bay - and take a sip from the 'Well of Eternal Youth'.
Next, we sail to the Treshnish Isles – home to Atlantic Puffins, razorbills and Atlantic grey seals. At nearby Fingal's Cave, you'll marvel at the hexagonal basalt columns, superb natural acoustics, and mesmerising coloured waters.
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 stacks 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 Britain’s 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
Originally a Viking settlement, Stornoway is 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. 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.
Late afternoon you'll explore the Shiant Isles. Privately owned since 1937, this tiny archipelago set in the midst of the Minch, the area of sea between the Outer Hebrides and Skye, has numerous colonies of nesting seabirds. Puffins, razorbills, shags, eider ducks and guillemots all throng the surrounding waters, perching on volcanic ledges above basking sharks and seals.
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 Eigg to spend the rest of our day on this craggy island. Settled in prehistoric times, it was once the seat of the Lord of the Isles but is now owned by its inhabitants. The island has Iron Age forts, a 6th-century church, and turbulent clan history with a massacre of 395 MacDonalds in a sea-shore cave. Rising sheer above the island is the crest of the ‘Sgurr of Eigg’ offering a great hike and stunning views across the waters of the Minch to the Outer Hebrides.
Brightly-coloured Georgian houses line the waterfront in the picturesque fishing port of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. Learn about the local heritage at the whisky distillery and Mull Museum, or stroll around the loch in Aros Park and see the Baliscate Standing Stones.
The Isle of Mull is a magnet for birders, with the highest breeding density of Golden Eagles in Europe, while White-tailed Eagles can often be seen soaring above the coast. We'll also explore Loch Sunart, a Marine Protected Area known for otters, dolphins and porpoises, and stop by Mingary Castle.
Day 10 : Isle of Colonsay
Take a coastal walk on the Isle of Colonsay, and enjoy breathtaking views from Kiloran Bay and Plaide Mhòr. Or go for a paddle in a kayak, and you may catch sight of whales, porpoises and dolphins.
Flora also thrives on Colonsay, with over 400 species blooming. You’ll see some of them in the woodland gardens of Colonsay House. It's a paradise for birdwatchers, with choughs, Red Northern Divers, eagles, fulmars, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and shags among the birds you can spot. Be sure to listen out for the rattle of the elusive corncrake.
Your voyage ends back in Glasgow, home to more than 20 museums and galleries, including the magnificent Kelvingrove Art Gallery and the Riverside Museum. Many of these are housed in distinctive Victorian buildings, some designed by renowned architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. This is definitely a city you’ll want to explore more before you head home.
10th April 2024 - 19th April 2024
20th April 2024 - 29th April 2024
30th April 2024 - 9th May 2024
10th May 2024 - 19th May 2024
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