The Celtic Seaways 2021
Next DepartureMay. 21, 2021
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, Bus Excursion, Kayaking, Lectures, Photography, Tastings, Trekking, Wildlife observations, Zodiac
In pursuit of the Scottish gold. Spring cruise along Scotland, Orkney and Shetland - onboard Ocean Atlantic.
The Scottish west coast, with its isolated islands, deep fjords, rugged hillside and dramatic castle ruins, is the embodiment of Scotland. The beautiful coast is also home to distilleries, wildlife and the distinct Scottish culture. 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 the ultimate journey for lovers of all things Scottish!
The journey begins in Dublin. Here, Albatros Expeditions’ lovely ship Ocean Atlantic will be waiting to become our home for the next week at sea. Our first stop is in historical Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula. Afterwards, we’ll go to the beautiful Islay Island and taste the local golden whisky, from where we’ll continue north to Oban and further to Portree on the legendary island of Skye. Our last two stops take us to the northernmost part of the British kingdom. First landing will be at the windy Orkney islands, where we’ll find the oldest buildings in Europe and some of Scotland's best-known distilleries. Our next call will be the Shetland Islands, with its many varied bird species. Our 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 staterooms 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 Campbeltown 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 and stories. The town has a few other sights like the Campbeltown Cross, with fine medieval carvings and Celtic designs, as well as a Heritage Centre where visitors can learn more about the local history.
Close to the Gulf Stream, the temperature is generally above the UK average, which can be confirmed by the many streets and gardens with unprotected palm trees (maybe not what most would expect to find in Scotland!).
Beautiful island of Islay with tasting of local whisky
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 Hebrides island. This, the southernmost of the island group is known as the Queen of the Hebrides. The island has around 3200 inhabitants and an impressive 130 miles of beautiful coastline.
We use the ship's Zodiacs to land at the Bunnahabhain distillery where we will take a short tour of the distillery, learning about the process of whisky making from start to finish. Afterwards a tasting is well deserved. A visit including tasting typically takes 30 minutes.
Islay is probably best known for its malt whiskies and has a total of eight working distilleries. Whisky is one of the most important sources of income for the island.
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.
Be sure to be on the lookout for wildlife while we navigate around Islay and the Hebrides, where seals, otters, geese, waders and golden eagles amongst others, have their home.
The pilgrimage island of Iona & the classic city of Oban
Today’s early visit will be steeped in Christian history as we visit the small pilgrimage island of Iona. It is considered to be the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland with the arrival of St. Columba in AD 563 and the founding of the Abbey. The Abbey’s long history is rich with Viking attacks, foreign monks and even abandonment at one time, before being reconstructed to its present state. Today, Iona remains a place of pilgrimage and spirituality. Our visit entails a walk around the small town and free time around the Abbey. After our morning visit, we continue along the Isle of Mull towards Oban.
The capital on the Scottish west coast is Oban. Being a picturesque Scottish harbor town nicknamed "The Gate of the Hebrides", Oban offers typical Scottish city life. If you want more exercise, it is highly recommended to walk up to McCaig’s 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 (open every day, including Sundays). A more historical visit could be the Oban War and Peace Museum that has excellent displays depicting Oban over the years (not only during the war).
The sailing trip from Oban is something truly extraordinary. We head out through the Sound of Mull with mainland Scotland starboards and Isle of Mull on the portside.
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 the sea of the Hebrides 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 natural 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 can hardly be 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 Cuillin’s mountain rug. As we depart the charming port and drive across the lovely Island of Skye to its west coast to the castle of Dunvegan; seat of the Clan Macleod chiefs since the 13th Century. One of the greatest and most renowned among the Hebridean strongholds, Dunvegan Castle is the only one to have been continuously owned and occupied by the same family over a period now spanning 8 centuries. Within the castle are priceless heirlooms and treasures which have come down through the hands of the chiefs of MacLeod since medieval times.
(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.
We depart Kirkwall and head into the west of Mainland, Orkney’s largest island. Along the way we will pass through rolling gentle landscapes into the Neolithic Heartland of Orkney, an area designated as a World Heritage Site due to its wealth of pre-historic archaeology. Passing the Standing Stones of Stenness, we will stop at the 5000-year-old ceremonial circle: the Ring of Brodgar. From here we continue to as history goes even further back to one of the oldest European civilizations. Skara Brae, Northern Europe's Pompeii, which was hidden for almost 5000 years before a massive storm (150 years ago) revealed the ancient settlement. The 10 small homes are almost ready for moving into, fully furnished and with sanitation - all made in stone.
Back in Kirkwall, we will visit one of the local distilleries for a tasting of some of the northernmost drops in Scotland. A fitting end to an excursion with such an amazing historical backdrop.
(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 Lerwick.
Shetland Islands. The harbor and fishing village of Lerwick
Ocean Atlantic approaches Lerwick near the "Mainland" 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.
Once securely docked at the port, we depart through Lerwick towards Scalloway for a short scenic drive. From the elevated position we can enjoy the view of the charming village and the imposing Scalloway Castle. After a short photo stop, we continue eastwards through the area that is locally known as the “Black Gates” – an area where peat is still cut to use as fuel.
Following the road northwards our main destination of Clickimin Broch is only a short drive. There will be free time to discover this well preserved and restored Broch and learn more about life in the Iron Age.
(The excursion is part of the excursion package and is not included in the price of the trip).
Afterwards, we will return to Lerwick 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 voyage ends in Aberdeen, Scotland
The captain will lead the ship southwards along the east coast of Scotland, and we’ll arrive in Aberdeen, Scotland's third-largest city. At this time we’ll say farewell to the ship and its crew before departing for the airport and beginning the return journey.
Skye: Bus from Portree to the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland: Dunvegan Castle. Return to Portree with views of the Cuilin Mountains along the way.
Orkney: Bus to the neolithic settlement: Skara Brae. Return to Kirkwall for a spirit tasting.