Atlantic puffin

Wild Scotland

Nature & Wildlife
Small Ship Cruises
Atlantic puffin

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Wild Scotland

History comes to life as you view important Neolithic monuments—the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and Skara Brae—and other architectural wonders, from Mousa’s Iron Age broch and 12th-century Iona Abbey to the magnificent St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.

Daily Itinerary

Wild Scotland

  • Day
    1

    Belfast, Northern Ireland

    Check in to the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast, with the rest of the day at leisure to explore the city on your own. Gather at the hotel this evening for a welcome reception and dinner.           

  • Day
    2

    Belfast / Portrush, Giant's Causeway / Embark the Greg Mortimer / Isle of Islay

    Depart overland for Portrush for a visit to the World Heritage Site of Giant’s Causeway. This three-mile section of coastline is a geological masterpiece—some 40,000 closely-packed hexagonal columns of varying heights line the coast and descend like a staircase into the sea. Embark the Greg Mortimer and, after lunch, go ashore on the Isle of Islay for a tour of the Ardbeg Distillery.  

  • Day
    3

    Staffa, Inner Hebrides / Iona

    Weather permitting, spend the morning exploring the uninhabited island of Staffa by Zodiac and its most famous feature, Fingal’s Cave. The cave’s peculiar rock formations and unusual coloring are a delight to behold, and the wonderful echo of the sea from within served as the inspiration for Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture.  

    In 563 AD the Christian missionary, St. Columba, built a monastery on Iona and spread Christianity throughout Scotland. Though the monastery suffered repeated attacks by Vikings over the centuries and the original was destroyed, it was rebuilt each time and some of these later buildings still stand. Visit the monastery site; the nearby cemetery of St. Oran, where numerous Scottish kings are buried; and the 12th-century Iona Abbey.  

  • Day
    4

    St Kilda, Outer Hebrides / Flannen Islands

    Spend the morning at St. Kilda, once home to a small community, evidenced by abandoned houses and cleits, beehive-shaped cells where goods were stored. Spend the afternoon cruising among the Flannan Islands—puffins, fulmars, murres, and kittiwakes should be plentiful.  

  • Day
    5

    Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

    Arrive in the capital city of Kirkwall on Mainland Island in the Orkneys today for visits to the magnificent St. Magnus Cathedral and some of the island’s major archaeological sites. Visit the enigmatic Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and Skara Brae, a remarkably well-preserved Stone Age village buried in sand some 4,500 years ago. Return to Kirkwall for an afternoon walking tour of this charming city.

  • Day
    6

    Lerwick, Shetland Islands / Isle of Noss / Mousa

    This morning, enjoy a guided walking tour of Lerwick, capital of the Shetland Islands, which are steeped in Norse heritage. After the tour there will be free time to stroll the narrow streets and browse the many shops, or raise a pint at the local pub. After lunch on board, cruise to the Isle of Noss, where spectacular cliffs support a large and diverse seabird colony, home to 80,000 seabirds—guillemots, razorbills, gannets, shags, and more. This evening go ashore at Mousa to view one of Britain’s finest Iron Age ruins, an unusually well-preserved 40-foot broch, a dry stone structure, dating from about 200 AD.

  • Day
    7

    Fair Isle

    One of the most isolated settlements in the British Isles, Fair Isle is renowned for the quality and intricacy of its handmade sweaters, using local wool. It is also famous as a haven for seabirds, including gannets, murres, black-legged kittiwakes, numerous gull species, and a large colony of puffins. After a short walk, join some of the 70 islanders at their community center for tea and cakes, and a visit to the local museum.

  • Day
    8

    Aberdeen / Disembark / Edinburgh / USA

    Disembark in Aberdeen this morning, and enjoy a scenic drive to Edinburgh. Board your independent homeward flight, arriving in the USA the same day.

Accommodations

Greg Mortimer

Greg Mortimer

As a modern and custom-designed ship, the 130-guest Greg Mortimer is at the cutting edge of nautical technology. Robust, powerful and built with guests in mind, the Greg Mortimer is built to world-class polar standards. Built with the environment in mind, the ship features a Tier 3 engine, (which gives off 80% less emissions than typical engines) lower energy consumption, high fuel efficiency, reduced light pollution for minimal wildlife disruption, and lower onboard plastic use. The ship has state-of-the-art virtual anchoring technology, meaning the ship can hold its position using its own propellers and thrusters while launching Zodiacs and kayaks without disturbing the sea floor. All staterooms feature an oceanview, en suite bathrooms, personal storage options, twin and double-bed configuration options, and ample storage.

Field Leaders

Brent Stephenson

Brent Stephenson

Expedition Leader

Brent was born in New Zealand and has been a birder since childhood. In 2005 he completed a goal he had from a young age, with the conclusion of his Ph.D., studying the breeding biology of Australasian gannets in New Zealand. This further heightened his interest in seabirds, and in 2003, along with Sav Saville, he rediscovered the “extinct” New Zealand storm-petrel, a bird known previously from only three museum specimens collected during the 1800s. With support from National Geographic, he led a team conducting further research on this enigmatic seabird. His passion for travel, birds, and the ocean has led him to many corners of the world working on small Expedition ships. It’s a great way of seeing remote and inaccessible places and their wildlife. Brent has traveled to many parts of the world, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, including Australia, Solomons, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, French Polynesia, China, Americas, and Africa, and worked on ships in many of these places. His passion and knack for wildlife photography has led to increasing publication of photos and articles in books and magazines, both within New Zealand and overseas. When not working on ships and traveling, Brent lives between Napier and Buffalo, and spends much of the southern summer in New Zealand, where he co-owns and runs Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ.  In 2013, with co-author Paul Scofield, he completed Birds of New Zealand: A Photographic Guide.

Tom Sharpe

Tom Sharpe

Geologist

Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, Tom is a graduate of the universities of Glasgow and Leicester and has spent the last 35 years as a geology curator in the National Museum of Wales. He is a Chartered Geologist, a Fellow of the Geological Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, as well as a member of a dozen other geological and polar societies. Tom has over three decades of experience of interpreting geology for a wide range of audiences, through talks, lectures, field trips, exhibitions, and publications.

Jim Wilson

Jim Wilson

Ornithologist

Jim hails from the seaside town of Cobh, County Cork, Ireland. He is a highly respected ornithologist and ecologist with more than 40 years of birding experience in Ireland, Europe, USA, Africa, the Antarctic, and the Arctic. Before setting out as a full-time freelance wildlife author, tour guide, and broadcaster, Jim had a career in medical laboratory science and pathology IT administration. He has written a number of books including, The Birds of Ireland – A Field Guide (2013), Shorebirds of Ireland (2009), Irish Garden Birds (2008) and An Identification Guide to Irish Whales and Dolphins (2006). He has produced two educational DVDs, Bats of Ireland (2009) and Whales and Dolphins of Ireland (2004). He also co-produced an iPhone app called Antarctic Wildlife Guide (2015), the first photo-ID guide app to the birds, whales, dolphins, and seals of the Antarctic Peninsula, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, the Beagle Channel, and Ushuaia. As well as being involved in many national and international conservation projects, he set up the long-running national Irish Garden Bird Survey. He was national chairman of Birdwatch Ireland, Ireland’s equivalent of the Audubon Society and is a former director of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

 

From: $6,990 per person
Duration
8 Days, 7 Nights
Guest Capacity
130 Guests
Trip Type
Sea

Trip Highlights

  • Search for a variety of seabirds—puffins, gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes, and more—many will be tending to downy chicks.
  • Visit Giant’s Causeway where some 40,000 closely-packed hexagonal columns descend like a staircase into the sea.
  • Discover important Neolithic monuments—the Standing Stones of Stenness; the Ring of Brodgar; and Skara Brae, a well-preserved Stone Age village.
  • Explore a variety of architectural wonders, from Mousa’s Iron Age broch and 12th-century Iona Abbey to the magnificent St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.