There’s no better way to explore all the natural and cultural riches that Scotland and its islands have to offer – from treasured tartans and traditions of the clans, to the wonders of single malt whiskies at a distillery in the Highlands to the distinctive folkways of the captivating Scottish Isles...
Our 11-day trip includes a 7-night cruise aboard the luxury small ship Le Dumont d'Urville, plus a choice of hotel stays in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Cruise to the celebrated Orkney and Shetland Islands, and the more remote isles of Mull, Skye and Lewis; explore eclectic Edinburgh, the traditions of Scottish music and dance, the Highlands’ incredible scenery, and much more. Enjoy a private early-opening visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, a sea safari, and more.
Tour begins 6:00 PM. A transfer is included from Edinburgh Airport or Edinburgh Waverley Station to your choice of hotels in the heart of the city: Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel, The Balmoral Hotel or the Intercontinental Edinburgh The George. Settle in and join us this evening for a welcome reception followed by dinner at the hotel.
Holyroodhouse & Edinburgh sights
Under the watch of its lofty clifftop castle, Edinburgh rambles over rocky hills beside the sea, inviting you into its captivating maze of crooked medieval streets, cozy passages, avenues, shops, pubs, townhouses, and monumental palaces. Begin the day with a visit to Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland (Tauck has arranged a private early opening) where you'll explore the magnificent state apartments, the royal gardens, and the royal art collection. Then take a ride through Holyrood Park, a patch of wild Highland landscape, once the royal hunting estate. Next, enjoy a guided walk along the Royal Mile, the cobbled main street that runs between the castle and Holyroodhouse, lined with shops, pubs, museums, and intriguing alleyways called "closes" and "wynds,"as well as churches, law courts, the Parliament house and St. Giles Cathedral. The rest of the day and evening are free to explore on your own.
Edinburgh Castle & embark Le Dumont D'Urville
More Edinburgh sightseeing takes you to Old Town for a tour of iconic Edinburgh Castle, standing on a crag of volcanic rock above the city skyline; over one thousand years of turbulent history have played out within its venerated halls, gates, courtyards, and battlements. Next, enjoy an exploration of Edinburgh's "New Town" and "Old Town" on a guided walking tour that includes the Botanical Gardens, Inverleith Terrace, the Robert Lewis Stevenson Birthplace along with Charlotte Square, Queen Street, George Street and Princes Street. Then drive to Leith and embark aboard your ship, Le Dumont d'Urville. Enjoy cocktails on deck followed by dinner as you sail for the Shetland Islands.
A Day at Sea
Enjoy a relaxing day at sea today as we sail towards the Shetland Islands. A full schedule of activities will be offered throughout the day for you to choose from or simply sit back and enjoy a peaceful cruising day aboard Le Dumont d'Urville.
Treasures of the Shetland Islands
The Shetland Islands are an archipelago of more than a hundred windswept islands, of which only 16 are inhabited; the rest are havens for wildlife. Towns and villages are few, but there are thousands of archaeological sites throughout the islands, including the remains of prehistoric fortresses and settlements. Arrive dockside at Lerwick on the largest island, where you have a choice of shore excursions. Drive to the southern tip of mainland Shetland to visit the uninhabited island of Mousa, site of a 2,000-year-old broch (round stone tower), 43 feet high, the best preserved in the world; explore its beehive-like chambers and climb the internal staircase to the top for panoramic views; cross to Shetland's east coast for a view of St. Ninian's Isle, where a cache of Pictish treasure was discovered in the 1950s (the Picti were tribes known to the Romans as "painted people".); visit Jarlshof near Sumburgh Head to see a 5,000-year-old settlement with remains dating from the Stone Age to the 17th century AD, a microcosm of Shetland history; then ride to the top of Sumburgh Head for views of the sea, seabird colonies, and Shetland's first lighthouse, built in 1821 by Robert Stevenson (grandfather of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson); lighthouses were the family business, and there are Stevenson lighthouses all over the Highlands. Alternatively, you can visit Mousa Broch, then explore its island, a breeding ground for European storm petrels, arctic terns and guillemots; a 2-mile walk includes a visit to a seal pool, and sweeping views of wildflowers and the North Sea – or head to the west mainland for a visit to Scalloway, its 17th-century castle, and the Scalloway Museum; learn about the village's clandestine role in World War II, and visit a farm that breeds Shetland Ponies. A guided walking tour through Lerwick takes you to its lifeboat station, lodberries (waterside houses for unloading ships), the town hall, and the Shetland Museum and Archives, followed by time to explore the town on your own. Aboard ship this evening, a local historian will lecture on the "Shetland Bus," a secret operation during World War II that smuggled agents in and refugees out of occupied Norway at night by way of fishing vessels.
Orkney Archipelago and Bronze Age monuments
The Orkney archipelago belonged to Norway until 1468 when the king of Norway gave them to the king of Scotland as collateral for a loan. When Norway tried to repay the loan, Scotland wouldn't give the islands back. But after all, who would? Arrive in Kirkwall, once a medieval Norwegian port, now the largest town on the Orkney Mainland, where you have a choice of shore excursions. Take a guided walking tour of Kirkwall that includes its medieval cathedral and bishop's palace, then visit Scapa Flow and the stunning Italian Chapel, built by Italian prisoners of war during World War II. Drive to Marwick Head Nature Reserve, one of the best places in the UK to see wildlife, and take a clifftop walk above a seabird city of as many as 25,000 birds, including razorbills, kittiwakes, guillemots, and puffins. Or discover the remarkable range of food and drink found throughout the Orkney's on an excursion that combines the finest local produce with the beautiful landscapes and coastline. Our final excursion offers an exploration of the four monuments that make up the heart of Neolithic Orkney that includes lunch in a historic country hotel as well as a visit to the best-preserved Neolithic settlement, Skara Brae. Join us for a music and folklore evening aboard ship, featuring a storyteller well-versed in local myths and legends.
Lochs, brochs and standing stones
The Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides offers a dreamlike landscape of windy rolling hills, moors, vivid colors, and dramatic, rugged shores. Dock in the town of Stornoway, founded by Vikings in the 9th century, and take your choice of excursions. Set off on a sea safari to view marine life and some of the most magnificent coastline in Scotland; the coastal waters warmed by the Gulf Stream are known to draw porpoises, bottle-nosed dolphins, pilot whales, orcas, grey and common seals, basking sharks, and seabirds including puffins, gannets, fulmars, shearwaters, and petrels. Or enjoy a panoramic coach excursion that includes the Standing Stones of Callanish, Dun Carloway Broch, one of the best-preserved stone-built circular constructions, and Gearrannan Blackhouse Village situated in a beautiful secluded bay. Another excursion features a visit to Carloway Harris Tweed Mill with an opportunity to see tweed being woven on the traditional hattersly loom. If you're looking to stretch your legs, "Great Bernera Walk" offers an opportunity to enjoy a two-hour hike on a rocky island off the northwest coast of Lewis where you can immerse yourself in island history as well as the stunning landscape along the coast. Join us this evening for traditional Scottish music and dance performance aboard the ship.
The Isle of Skye, castles and storybook views
Known in Gaelic as "isle of mist," Skye is steeped in Celtic and Norse legend, a land of faerie glens, storybook mountains, and otherworldly landscapes that seem to spring from Tolkien's Middle Earth. At Portree, a fishing town in a harbor sheltered by cliffs, take your choice of shore excursions. Take a cruise around Portree Bay and the Sound of Raasay on a wildlife safari which may include seals, otters, dolphins, and sea eagles along with enchanting coastal views. Alternatively, travel to Kintail where iconic Eilean Donan Castle stands on a small tidal island; destroyed in 1719 and restored in 1932, it is the most photographed castle in Scotland, and you can explore it while learning its turbulent history. Your third choice is a visit to medieval Dunvegan Castle, the seat of the MacLeod Clan, rising four stories high on a promontory overlooking Loch Dunvegan and the sea. The fourth choice takes you to the Kyle of Lochalsh, a scenic area of castles, hills, and lochs – and the site of Armadale Castle and Gardens, the spiritual home of the Clan Donald. The estate includes 40 acres of formal gardens, walking trails, and an award-winning Museum of the Islands that tells the 1,500-year history of the clan and the Highlands. Afterwards, you'll have the opportunity to spend the afternoon in colorful Victorian Portree to explore on your own, or you can return to the ship. Late afternoon, a professional photographer will give a presentation of his works and discuss photography on the Scottish Isles. Set sail this evening for the Isle of Mull.
The Isle of Mull
The Isle of Mull, in the Inner Hebrides, is a popular destination for naturalists and photographers in search of Britain's more elusive birds and wildlife. Awaken in Tobermory this morning for a choice of excursions. Take a boat tour with a guide who will educate you about the cetacean life, bird life, and local history; a guided hike along the coastal cliffs offers great opportunities for sighting and photographing wildlife; a walk through Aros Park; or, drive along the scenic coastline to Duart Castle, a medieval landmark on the sea cliffs, home of the Maclean Clan – restored in the 20th century, the castle is a rare opportunity to visit a clan seat that is still owned by its members. Join us this evening for the captain's farewell reception followed by dinner as you sail for Greenock on the Scottish mainland.
Disembark and explore the city of Glasgow
Disembark Le Dumont d'Urville at Greenock and drive to Glasgow, where a tour of city sights includes the Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis, George's Square, Buchanan Street, the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art, and Prince's Square. This afternoon, visit Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, one of the city's most popular attractions, featuring a wide-ranging collection of art and artifacts of cultural history, ancient history, natural history, and more. You'll also visit the Glasgow Riverside Museum, an award-winning, state-of-the-art museum of transport, where you can climb aboard a tram, train, or bus, help put out a fire with an interactive fire engine, and discover Glasgow's shipbuilding history. You have a choice of four hotels in the heart of the city: the Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel, the Dakota Glasgow, the Malmaison Glasgow or the Hotel du Vin Glasgow. Settle in, then join us this evening for a farewell reception and dinner.
Tour ends: Glasgow, Scotland. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from the The Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel, Glasgow; the Malmaison Glasgow; the Dakota Glasgow and the Hotel Du Vin Glasgow to the Glasgow International Airport or the Glasgow Central Train Station. Allow three hours for flight check-in.