The Celtic Seaways
Next DepartureMay. 21, 2020
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, Bus Excursion, Lectures, Tastings
- In pursuit of the Scottish gold. Spring cruise along Scotland, Orkney and Shetland - on board Ocean Atlantic.
The Scottish west coast, with its isolated islands, deep fjords, rugged hillside and dramatic castle ruins, is the embodiment of Scotland. The coast is also home to some of the most distinctive and famous whisky distilleries. North of the "mainland" lie the rugged and scenic islands of Orkney and Shetland, with active fishing communities and some of Europe's oldest cultural-historical memories. The spring cruise with Albatros Expeditions and Ocean Atlantic is therefore the ultimate journey for Scottish lovers – and for whisky hunters!
The journey begins in Dublin. Here, Albatros' lovely ship Ocean Atlantic will be waiting to become our home for the next week on the sea. Our first stop is in Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula. Afterwards, we’ll go to the beautiful city of Port Ellen on Islay Island, from where we’ll continue north to Oban and further to Portree on the legendary island of Skye. Our last two stops on the tour are on the windy Orkney islands, where we’ll find the oldest buildings in Europe and one of the world's best-known distilleries, Highland Park. Also along the way will be the Shetland Islands, the northernmost part of the British kingdom, with many varied bird species. The voyage ends in Aberdeen, in ‘Mainland Scotland’.
Albatros Expeditions' own vessel, MV Ocean Atlantic, is relatively small compared to traditional cruise ships. This excellent ice-class expedition vessel is built to tackle hard weather conditions in polar waters, while ensuring your comfort in well-appointed accommodations. Aboard, life is relaxed and cozy. Meals are prepared by professional chefs and served by friendly, helpful staff, who speak a variety of languages.
The cruise does not make any special requirements for you as a participant, but it is assumed that you are agile and good on your feet. Some landings will be made with the ship's Zodiac rubber boats, and this requires some agility to get in and out of. The journey takes place in the mild spring, and we expect calm sea, sun and temperatures of 10 to 15 degrees.
Boarding in Dublin
Our journey begins in Dublin, where MV Ocean Atlantic is located by a dock in the Liffey River. Boarding is in the afternoon, where the cabins are designated. After the mandatory security review and drill, we sail out through the mouth of the Liffey River towards the Irish Sea.
The small town of Cambeltown on the Kintyre peninsula
Campbeltown, on the peninsula "Mull of Kintyre", housed over 30 distilleries in the 1920s, and the city called itself "the world's whisky capital". Today there are only three distilleries left. We will be walking around the city and searching for remnants of honored distilleries before we visit one of the absolute pearls of Scotland's Whisky Producers, Springbank.
Beautifully located Port Ellen 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.
We use the ship's Zodiacs to land in the small port city of Port Ellen on Islay's south coast. Once in the town, a special excursion is arranged. By bus, we drive from Port Ellen to the east towards the first stop: Kildalton Cross, a 1300-year-old cross and one of the oldest testimonies of Christian communities in northern Europe. The cross is the only 100% well-preserved Celtic cross in Scotland and, as it stands in the middle of an ancient cemetery in the rugged Scottish countryside, it gives a very special atmosphere.
Like white beads on a string along the coast from Kildalton towards Port Ellen, stand three distilleries that have at least as many myths attached to them. The Three Bandits, Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin. All distilleries with world-class products. 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. A tasting is included in one of the distilleries. Back in Port Ellen, there is time for a short stroll before we return to Ocean Atlantic on our Zodiacs.
Classic Scotland: The city of Oban and the island of Mull
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 with good shopping opportunities. If you want more exercise, it is highly recommended to walk up to McCaigs 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.
Today it will be possible to participate in a special excursion to the island of Mull, located opposite Oban. Mull is perhaps one of the prettiest of the Inner Hebrides, a volcanic island with a dramatic geological history. The trip starts with a ferry ride of approx. 20 minutes over the Firth of Lorn Fjord, from where we travel by the narrow country road to Duart Castle, the Maclean clan headquarters in the 1300s. The tour continues along Sound of Mull to the town of Tobermory, which is undoubtedly the most idyllic fishing port in Scotland. From here, we return to Oban.
(The trip to Mull is part of the package and is not included in the price of the trip. Read more under price information).
The sailing trip from Oban is something extraordinary. We head out through Sound of Mull with Scotland for starboard and Mull on the backboard.
The legendary island of Skye and the main town of Portree
"You take the high road, and I take the low road" is a commonly sung quote from the Scottish group Runrig, who originate in the Isle of Skye.
The captain’s analysis of weather and climate will determine which route we choose for Portree on Skye. Our nightly sailing can either go through Sound of Sleat and Loch Alsh east of Skye, or we can sail west into an Irish sea and north of Skye. In any case, we will in the morning be in Portree, the island's largest city. It is beautifully situated, with colorful houses that surround the small nature harbor. Ocean Atlantic will go close to the harbor, sheltered from western winds on the east coast of the island. But the water is shallow, so we will use the ship's Zodiacs for easy and quick landing.
More beautiful islands are hardly found in Scotland, and it has Britain's largest concentration of mountain peaks.
Today's excursion allows you to experience the dramatic landscape dominated by sharp peaks in the Cuillins mountain rug. You just have to walk a short distance from the road before you have an uninterrupted view of the horizon around. Small rippling bees run into crystal clear lakes… and we must remember to mix some water on our whisky. We drive northwards to the MacLeod clan headquarters at Dunvegan Castle and, of course, also visit the only distillery on the Isle of Skye, Talisker, whose 18th whisky in 2007 was named Best Single Malt In The World.
(The trip around Skye is part of the excursion package and is not included in the price of the trip. Read more under price information).
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 early 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. But history goes even further back to one of the oldest European civilizations. Skara Brae, Northern Europe's Pompeii, was hidden for almost 5000 years before a massive storm revealed the ancient settlement. The 10 small homes are almost ready for moving into, fully furnished and with sanitation - all made in stone. After arriving at Kirkwall there is a bus ride to visit Skara Brae on a short excursion. Back in Kirkwall, we will visit Highland Park, considered by many to be the world's best distillery. On four occasions the golden drops from Highland have been voted the world's best. It is also Scotland's northernmost whisky.
(The excursion is part of the excursion package and is not included in the price of the trip).
The afternoon is free in Kirkwall before the evening departure north to the Shetland Islands and Lerwich.
Shetland Islands: The harbor and fishing town of Lerwich
Ocean Atlantic approaches Lerwich near the "Main Land" of Shetlands in the morning. The island of Shetland consists of more than 100 islands and shores, of which only 15 are inhabited year-round. The islands form the northernmost part of the British kingdom, located approximately 300 km north of the mainland of Scotland. This "central" location in the North Atlantic has through the ages led many to the islands, and the Scandinavian heritage still shines through dialects, folklore and place names.
In the morning it is possible to take a short bus ride out on the main island (not included in the travel price). We shall include a visit to Clickimin Broch, a unique example of the architecture of the Bronze and Iron Age. We’ll also look at Fort Charlotte more closely, built in 1665 - we will enjoy the great view of the old city from its fortress.
Afterwards, we will return to Lerwich and the ship in the middle of the day. The rest of the day is for enjoying at leisure before departing in the afternoon.
The journey ends in Aberdeen, Scotland.
The captain has led the ship southwards along the east coast of Scotland, and we’ll arrive in Aberdeen, Scotland's third-largest city. Today we’ll say farewell to the ship and its crew before departing for the airport and beginning the return journey.
Inclusions / Exclusions
- 7-night cruise in a shared outside double cabin with private bathroom/toilet.
- English-speaking guides.
- Zodiac landings.
- Near-port town walks with expedition team.
- Whisky tasking visits in Campbeltown, Islay and Lerwich. A tasting typically takes 1 hour.
- Bus transport on Islay from Port Ellen harbor to Kildalton Cross and a visit to one of The Three Bandits with whisky tasting. Return to Port Ellen.
- Bus excursion on Shetland from Lerwich.
- Information briefings and lectures by expedition team.
- Full board on the ship.
- Free coffee, tea and afternoon snacks on the ship.
- Taxes and tariffs.
- International flights to Dublin/from Aberdeen.
- Hotel accommodation in Ireland and/or Scotland.
- Travel insurance.
- Cancellation insurance.
- Extra excursions and activities not mentioned in the itinerary.
- Single room supplement.
- Meals not on board the ship.
- Beverages (other than coffee and tea).
- Tips for the crew (we recommend USD 14 per person per day).
- Personal expenses.
- Anything not mentioned under 'Price includes'.