The windswept shores of Scotland, Ireland, and England offer a wild and beautiful landscape scattered with ancient monuments and charming villages. On board the National Geographic Explorer, trace the path of the Vikings and the Celts from the Isles of Scilly to Norway. From the unlikely subtropical gardens of Tresco Abbey to the ruins of the Shetland Islands, discover the treasures of the British and Irish Isles.
Venture into evocative ancient ruins on the isle of Iona and explore
caves lined with geometric basalt columns on Staffa.
Peer into the past in the pre-historic homes of Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands and visit Jarlshof, a 4,000-year-old settlement in the Shetland Islands.
Gaze up at Ireland's soaring Cliffs of Moher and see the Celtic fort at Dun Aengus on the Aran Islands.
Discover timeless coastal villages including Fowey in Cornwall and Dingle, Ireland.
Itinerary - 15 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./London, England
Depart on an overnight flight to London and embark the National Geographic Explorer on the Thames River. As we sail out of London, stand on deck to catch a panoramic glimpse of London's iconic landmarks. (D)
Day 3 — Portsmouth
Set sail to Portsmouth, the naval port from which the D-Day Invasion was launched. Delve into Britain's nautical history here, and see the HMS Victory, which helped defeat the French at Trafalgar. (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Fowey Island/Eden Project
Wander through the medieval streets of this charming coastal town where explorers Drake and Raleigh set sail. Then visit the Eden Project, an innovative nature center, or stroll through the Lost Gardens of Heligan. (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Isles of Scilly
According to Arthurian legend, the Isles of Scilly are all that remain of Lyonnesse, a land off Cornwall that vanished beneath the Atlantic. Meander through Tresco Abbey Gardens, where an astounding variety of tropical plants flourishes.
Day 6 — Skellig Rocks and Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
Rising abruptly from the sea, the rocky isle of Skellig Michael was once an important center of Celtic Christianity. See the beehive huts of its seventh-century monastery, clinging to the jagged peak 600 feet above the sea. After lunch, explore the ancient sites of beautiful Dingle Peninsula and wander through the village of Dingle. (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Cliffs of Moher/Aran Islands
Admire the towering Cliffs of Moher as you cruise beneath them this morning. Continue to the Aran Islands, known for their peculiar limestone moonscapes and Gaelic culture. Visit Dun Aengus, an astonishing pre-historic stone fort perched on the edge of a cliff. Consisting of concentric walls, the site's purpose is still an enigma. (B,L,D)
Day 8 — County Donegal
Explore the fishing harbor of Killybegs, gateway to the Donegal's famous woolen mills, or discover some of the region’s ancient archaeological sites. Sail past the 2,000-foot cliffs of Slieve league. (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Iona and Staffa, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
On Iona, venture into an ancient nunnery and a 13th-century abbey. Examine the Celtic high crosses that mark the burial grounds of kings such as Duncan and MacBeth. This afternoon, dock at Staffa, an island famed for its great geometric basalt columns and deep-sea caves. It was here that Felix Mendelssohn was inspired to write his "Hebrides Overture." (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Outer Hebrides/St. Kilda/Callanish
Visit the Outer Hebrides, where Scottish Gaelic is still widely spoken and artisans weave traditional woolen fabrics. Weather permitting, explore the cottages of remote St. Kilda, a UNESCO World Heritage site inhabited from the Bronze Age to the 20th century. Later, see the neolithic Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis. (B,L,D)
Day 11 — Inverewe Gardens/Ullapool
Stroll the winding path of Inverewe Gardens past towering rhododendrons and rare flowers. Tempered by the warm Gulf Stream, these delightful gardens are an incongruous hub of subtropical color—grown at the same latitude as St. Petersburg! Continue to the tidy little fishing port of Ullapool nestled among the hills, and spend the afternoon exploring its charming lanes. (B,L,D)
Day 12 — Orkney Islands
Built in the era of Stonehenge, the sites of Orkney reveal a sophisticated Stone Age culture. View the megaliths of the Ring of Brodgar, and glimpse an ancient way of life in the 5,000-year-old stone-slab village of Skara Brae. Step into the medieval St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, which took nearly 300 years to complete. Stop for a garden walk at the historic Balfour Castle on Shapinsay Island. (B,L,D)
Day 13 — Fair Isle/Mousa
Land at Fair Isle this morning and visit the isolated bird research station, located on the migration flyway. You may choose to hike to a nearby beach to look for basking seals. Then, on the uninhabited island of Mousa, see one of the best examples of an Iron Age broch, or stone tower. (B,L,D)
Day 14 — Shetland Islands
Dock at the Shetland Islands, an archipelago of about 100 islands and islets. Drive through a rolling landscape dotted with Shetland ponies. Explore the ruins at Jarlshof, which reveal 4,000 years of near-continuous settlement. (B,L,D)
Day 15 — Bergen, Norway/U.S.
Disembark in Bergen and transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)