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.
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.
Once a stopping point for the Pilgrims on their way to America, Dartmouth has a great seafaring history. Wander through its narrow streets and examine fine buildings that recall its nautical past.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disembark in Bergen and transfer to the airport for your flight home.
A diverse team of experts, including naturalists, historians, and a National Geographic photographer, will accompany each expedition aboard the National Geographic Explorer. See one of the members of our extraordinary team below.
National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson is proud of his Celtic roots. A veteran of more than 40 articles for National Geographic magazine and National Geographic Traveler, Jim spent two years photographing the Celtic realm for the March 2006 National Geographic article "Celt Appeal." His photography has twice been featured on CBS News Sunday Morning, and ABC's Nightline profiled his environmental photography.
Jim will join the following departure:
May 11 - 25, 2014
This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.
Add a six day pre-trip extension in Wales. Explore the Welsh culture, castles, gardens, and abbeys, and take a scenic railway ride through the Snowdonia mountains. Please call for details.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single cabin in 2014, add $3,250 in Category 2 and $3,390 in Category 3. Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Round-trip economy airfare between New York/London and Bergen/ New York is $900 (subject to change).