Ancient Isles: England, Ireland, and Scotland

  • Trip Type:Expedition Cruise
  • 15 Days | London to Bergen
  • Group Size: Max 148

Expedition Details


The windswept shores of England, Ireland, and Scotland offer a wild and beautiful landscape scattered with fascinating monuments and charming villages. Aboard the National Geographic Explorer, trace the path of the Vikings and the Celts from the Isles of Scilly to Norway. Witness prehistory juxtaposed with the present as you encounter the ancient relics of the Aran Islands, the early Christian settlements of Iona, and the beehive huts of Skellig Michael. Discover the unique culture and illustrious history of Scotland’s Hebrides, and marvel at Stone Age ruins on the Orkney Islands. From the unlikely subtropical gardens of Tresco Abbey to the ruins of the Shetland Islands, an extraordinary voyage awaits.

Trip Highlights

  • Search for whales, dolphins, and seals as we explore wild isles aboard the National Geographic Explorer, and see vast seabird nesting sites.
  • Visit Macbeth’s gravesite at Iona’s 13th-century abbey, and ride a Zodiac into the dramatic cave on Staffa that inspired Mendlessohn’s “Hebrides Overture.”
  • Peer into the past in the prehistoric homes of Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands and visit Jarlshof, a 4,000-year-old settlement in the Shetland Islands.
  • Wander through timeless coastal villages including Fowey in Cornwall, England and Dingle, Ireland.

Itinerary - 15 Days

Days 1 & 2 — U.S./London, England/Embark

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.
(May 8: L,D)

Day 3 — Portsmouth

Sail to Portsmouth, the naval port from which the Allied invasion was launched on D-Day. Delve into Britain's nautical history here. See the H.M.S. Victory, which helped defeat the French at Trafalgar, and the Tudor warship Mary Rose, deployed by King Henry VIII.

Day 4 — Fowey, Cornwall/Eden Project

Stroll the medieval streets of this charming coastal town where explorers Drake and Raleigh set sail. Then visit the Eden Project, an innovative nature center with vast biomes. In the afternoon, visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan, left derelict after WWI and recently restored, or choose to explore the quaint town center.

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 flourish.

Day 6 — Cobh, Ireland

Arrive in colorful Cobh, a Cork County seaport steeped in maritime history. Visit the Cobh Heritage Centre, which features a fascinating exhibition on Irish history, including exhibits on maritime, naval, and military history; the potato famine and Irish emigration; and the ill-fated Titanic, which made its final port of call in Cobh.

Day 7 — Skellig Rocks/Valentia Island/Dingle Peninsula

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. Then visit Valentia Island, known for its dramatic cliffs. Spend the afternoon exploring the picturesque seaside village of Dingle.

Day 8 — Inishmore/Aran Islands

Continue to the Aran Islands, known for their peculiar limestone moonscapes and Gaelic culture. Disembark at Inishmore, the largest of the islands, and pay a visit to Dun Aengus, an astonishing Celtic ring fort perched on the edge of a cliff. Consisting of concentric walls, the site's purpose is still an enigma.

Day 9 — Exploring Northwestern Ireland

Today we discover the wild and windswept region of northwestern Ireland. Explore the dramatic landscapes of counties Sligo and Donegal, which inspired the works of W.B. Yeats, and delve into local history and folklore.

Day 10 — Iona and Staffa, Inner Hebrides, Scotland

Disembark at Iona, site of Scotland’s first Christian settlement, and 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. Continue to Staffa, an island famed for its geometric basalt columns and deep-sea caves. Ride a Zodiac to the awe-inspiring Fingal’s Cave, the inspiration for Felix Mendelssohn’s "Hebrides Overture."

Day 11 — 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.

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.

Day 13 — Shetland Islands

Dock at the Shetland Islands, an archipelago of about 100 islands and islets that is characterized by its rich cultural traditions and dramatic landscapes. Explore one of the many remote islands in the region.

Day 14 — Shetland/At Sea

Drive through a rolling landscape dotted with Shetland ponies. Discover the prehistoric settlement of Jarlshof—which reveals 4,000 years of near-continuous settlement—and examine Bronze Age ruins and Viking longhouses. Spend a leisurely afternoon onboard as we sail across the North Sea to Norway.

Day 15 — Bergen, Norway/U.S.

Disembark in Bergen and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Expedition Team

Accompanying each expedition is a diverse team of experts--from naturalists to regional specialists — who will share their knowledge and insights on the wildlife, landscapes and local culture. The expert featured below will be part of the expedition team on the date noted.

Jim Richardson

Jim  RichardsonPhotographer Jim Richardson has produced more than 40 stories for National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler magazines. Jim’s work on environmental issues for National Geographic magazine has covered topics ranging from feeding the planet to protecting our night skies from light pollution. Proud of his Celtic roots, Jim has focused on the British Isles, Ireland, and especially Scotland for the last 20 years, including two years photographing the Celtic realm for the March 2006 National Geographic article "Celt Appeal.” More recently, he covered the Scottish Moors for the May 2017 National Geographic article “Who’s Moors Are They?” He also shot and wrote “My Scottish Obsession" for National Geographic Traveler, as well as stories on Orkney, Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides, the Inner Hebrides, and Scottish Whisky Country. In 2015, Richardson was voted as the National Geographic "Photographer's Photographer" by the Society's assignment photographers. Jim teaches and speaks internationally, and is co-founder of Eyes On Earth, which mentors young environmental photographers. Published widely, Jim has also been profiled on CBS News Sunday Morning and ABC's Nightline, and was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate for his contributions to environmental and cultural understanding. He looks forward to sharing this part of the world with travelers on this expedition.

Jim will join the following departure:

May 07 - 25, 2019

Lindblad/National Geographic Logo

This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.


  • May 07 - 25, 2019

Expedition Cost

Category 1 $14,890
Category 2 $15,630
Category 3 $16,590
Category 4 $16,990
Category 5 $20,260
Category 6 $23,630
Category 7 $27,180
Category A Solo $19,540
Category B Solo $21,990

Activity Level

Light or Moderate

Travelers can choose between a light or moderate activity level. For a light level of activity, they should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.

For a moderate level, travelers should be prepared for multiple hours of physical activity (e.g. hiking, kayaking, biking) each day.

Click here for a description of all activity levels.