DAY 1: DOVER
Your Voyage Begins
Before joining your ship today, perhaps take some time to explore the coastal town of Dover with its magnificent, medieval Castle.
Your comfortable expedition ship MS Maud will be ready and waiting for you in the port of Dover. Once you board the ship and check-in, you’ll receive your complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket which may come in handy with the unpredictable weather. There’ll be time to settle into your cabin and explore a bit of the ship before attending a mandatory pre-departure safety drill.
And with that, we’ll be away! MS Maud will set sail from Dover, making our way along the south coast, bound for an adventure all the way up to Hebrides, around the diverse islands and coastline of the British Isles and beyond.
You’ll be greeted by your friendly and energetic Expedition Team. They’ll prepare you for the exciting days ahead, but their first priority will be to take you through important health and safety principles to ensure you and your fellow explorers are always safe and well throughout your cruise.
Stretch your newly-found sea legs out on deck and get to know the different areas of the ship, your new home away from home for the next 13 days. Enjoy your first dinner aboard the ship and look forward to many more delicious meals to come. Raise your glass and join the Captain and crew as they toast to an enjoyable expedition together.
Please note, as this is an expedition cruise, the order of stops may change due to local circumstances.
Your voyage starts in Dover, once on board the ship, you’ll pick up your complimentary expedition jacket, settle into your cabin, explore the ship and attend a mandatory safety drill. After the first of many sumptuous dinners and a welcome toast by the Captain, you’ll meet your expert Expedition Team. They are your knowledgeable lecturers, warm hosts, and good-natured guides throughout your journey. Many grew up and live in the places you’ll be visiting and are passionate about sharing their home with you. First and foremost, though, they are there to keep you safe and well. They’ll be making it a priority to run through important health and safety aspects with you and your fellow guests.
When the ship sets sail, we’ll pass the white cliffs of Dover and head up to the North Sea. Stretch your sea legs and get to know MS Maud, your cosy home away from home. If the weather holds, take in the salubrious sea air from out on deck or park yourself in the Explorer Lounge and Bar to watch the world go by from the panoramic windows, maybe together with a relaxing glass of wine. Your adventure to the Arctic under the Auroral Zone is officially underway!
DAY 2: AT SEA
Relax and Learn
Enjoy an idyllic day at sea with plenty to do. You’ll have plenty of time to unwind and really get into the mood for this expedition cruise. Admire the views from MS Maud’s expansive Observation Deck, settle into a good book together with a freshly baked pastry from the Fredheim restaurant, or take full advantage of the gym and hot tubs.
You’ll also be invited to talks hosted by the Expedition Team, experienced explorers who will happily share their extensive knowledge of the British Isles with you. Topics will change each day and often be relevant to the area you are sailing in so today you might be learning about Welsh history or the Pembrokeshire coast. These added insights will enhance your experience, filling out your sense of discovery with delicious detail. Our professional onboard photographer will also be available to give top tips and tricks for the best landscape and wildlife photos.
DAY 3: FISHGUARD
Quaint Villages and prehistoric forts
Our first port of call on our exploration of the British Isles, between the Preseli Hills and the Pembrokeshire coast, is the charming fishing village of Fishguard. Split in two by a steep, winding hill, Lower Town is home to the original hamlet and harbour, while the ‘new’ town sits on a clifftop, commanding spectacular views.
Fishguard has the accolade of being the infamous site of the ‘Last Invasion of Britain’, by the French in 1797. The local library houses a 100-foot-long commemorative, ‘Bayeux’ style tapestry, depicting the invasion. From Lower Town, you can explore the ancient woodlands of the Gwaun Valley that stretch towards the Preseli Hills. Follow a walking trail that takes in the River Gwaun, medieval Llanychllwydog pillar stones, St Brynach’s Church and the Dyffryn Arms pub, run by local legend Bessie. If you appreciate beautiful, landscaped gardens, then head towards the gardens at Dyffryn Fernant. On the outskirts of Fishguard, you can walk up the hill to Castle Point to the ruins of Fishguard Fort, for incredible views overlooking the harbour. From here, you can also enjoy a walk along a stretch of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Further west of Fishguard, you can take a walk along a stretch of the coastal path on the Pencaer Peninsula, looking out to Strumble Head lighthouse. It’s also a great place for spotting seabirds, seals and porpoises.
The area is also home to a number of Iron Age hillforts, settlements and Neolithic burial mounds. About 30 minutes from Fishguard, you’ll find the reconstructed roundhouses of Castell Henllys, where costumed guides share the history of the local Demetae tribe.
DAY 4: RATHLIN ISLAND
Seabirds, choughs and corncrakes
Sitting just off the north coast of County Antrim, with rugged cliffs, lakes and vast, natural grasslands, Rathlin Island boasts Northern Ireland’s largest seabird colony.
At just six miles long and one mile wide, this L-shaped island, home to just 140 inhabitants, is ideal for exploring by bike or on foot. Choose from scenic clifftop walks or the many rambler trails where you can admire the natural beauty and enjoy the tranquillity. Stroll to Mill Bay where you might catch seals frolicking in the water or basking on the rocks.
Visit the RSPB Seabird Centre and the working “upside-down” lighthouse perched on the cliffs. Here, you’ll enjoy close-up views of the seabird colonies, as well as spectacular coastal panoramas.
From late April to July, tens of thousands of seabirds congregate on the island to breed, including puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes, Razorbills and fulmars. Rathlin Island is also home to Northern Ireland’s only pair of breeding Choughs, and more recently, the calls of the secretive Corncrake have been heard here for the first time in 30 years. Pay a visit to the Boathouse Visitor Centre to learn about island life, local history, and the many historical shipwrecks that lie in the waters. Local legend has it that when Robert the Bruce took refuge on the island in 1306, he was inspired by the sight of a spider to return to Scotland and fight for his crown. Just a short ferry ride and drive away, is the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s top attraction. It’s a mesmerising sight – 40,000 interlocking hexagonal basalt columns, formed through volcanic activity over 60 million years ago.
DAY 5: ISLE OF IONA
Pilgrims and puffins
Famed for its mystical Christian associations, Iona is a peaceful little island off the coast of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. The restored Abbey remains a place of pilgrimage and peace, but there’s much more to see here including picturesque beaches, wonderful wildlife and the beautiful St Columba’s Bay.
Iona has been a center for Christian worship since the sixth century, but the Abbey was sacked several times by Vikings between 795 and 825. Today you can explore this sacred site, including the restored church. There’s said to be 48 early Scottish kings buried in the graveyard, as well as Irish and Norwegian kings. There’s a popular hike uphill to Dun I (pronounced Dun Eee) from the Abbey. At the top, you’ll be at Iona’s highest point and will be able to see St Columba’s Bay and the Treshnish Isles. While you’re up there, look out for ‘Natural Well’ aka the ‘Well of Eternal Youth’ and splash your face with its allegedly miraculous waters. It’s in a cleft between two rocks as you walk downhill facing North. FAMOV From here, we head towards the remote beauty of the Treshnish Isles, a group of distinctive skerries home to a wealth of wildlife, including nesting Atlantic Puffins, colonies of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Razorbills, and Common Guillemots, as well as and Atlantic grey seals.
Fingal’s Cave, immortalised in music by Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, is on the cave-riddled island of Staffa and is noted for its amazing natural acoustics. The basalt columns within are a northern extension of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. On a calm, clear day, it might even be possible to land and see the colour of the waters inside the cave, but its rising columns can also be viewed from the sea.
DAY 6: ST. KILDA, HIRTA ISLAND
UNESCO treasure, reclaimed by nature
There’s only one way to describe tiny, rocky St Kilda: wild. As such, our visit to this storm-tossed archipelago, with its breathtaking sea cliffs and boiling seas, is totally weather-dependent.
As a UNESCO double World Heritage Site and the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the National Trust for Scotland, visiting St Kilda is an unforgettable experience. The outlying stacks and islands, which are the remains of a volcanic crater, provide ledges for thousands of nesting seabirds. What’s more, it’s frequented by Minke whales. If you’re lucky, you may catch sight of one in the swirling waters surrounding the rocky outcrop. Once home to Britain’s most remote island community, in 1930, after 4,000 years of continuous habitation, the people living on St Kilda’s Hirta Island were evacuated at their own request. The tiny museum that remains is a record of how hard life was on this exposed outcrop. However, setting foot on St Kilda you’ll soon see the island is far from deserted – it’s home to a multitude of seabirds, including over 60,000 pairs of Northern Gannets – the second largest gannet colony in the world! There’s a good chance you’ll spot many other seabirds, including Atlantic Puffins, Northern Fulmars, Common Guillemots, and Black-legged Kittiwakes. It’s why St Kilda is considered one of the most important seabird colonies in Europe. Birdlife aside, you might see other island inhabitants if you look. An ancient breed of sheep – the Soay sheep – lives wild here, as do a number of other rare species including the St Kilda mouse and the St Kilda Wren. Explore the abandoned village and see the distinctive ‘cleits’ – circular stone buildings used to store peat, eggs and smoked puffins, before heading back to the ship and our rather less primitive dining options.
DAY 7: STORNOWAY, LEWIS
Capital of the Outer Hebrides
Stornoway is the capital of the Isle of Lewis & Harris, an island famed for its pristine beaches, Neolithic sites and tweed workshops. Be prepared to step back in time as you investigate ancient ruins and gaze in wonder at the mysterious Callanish standing stones, as well as exploring the bustling waterfront and streets of island’s main town. Originally a Viking settlement, Stornoway is the main town on Lewis & Harris – a single island with two names, denoting the north and south parts. It’s the largest and most northerly island in the Outer Hebrides, aka the Western Isles. Check out Lews Castle, an impressive Gothic-revival style which overlooks Stornoway Harbour. As well as visiting its museum, you can wander round the grounds and get unbeatable views of the inky blue seas. Or why not drop in for a wee dram in the castle’s very own whisky bar. Harris is famed for its woollen tweed fabric, and you’ll see jackets, trousers and hats for sale in shops all over the island – perfect for gifts or mementos. After visiting shops, museums and old castles, blow the cobwebs off with a walk. Of course, a visit to Lewis & Harris wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Callanish standing stones (Calanaisin Gaelic), a magical ring of monoliths whose origins are shrouded in mystery. Another atmospheric site is the Blackhouse at Arnol, a completely restored thatched traditional dwelling which provides a fascinating glimpse into the past. If you fancy a walk, there are many routes to pick from, with Lewis being the less hilly part. As you explore the island, look out for red deer, eagles, otters, gannets and butterflies – the wild side of this peaceful island attracts nature lovers from around the world.
DAY 8: ISLAY
Scottish Island life, distilled
Fire up your spirit of adventure and step onto an island famed for its whisky, wildlife and woolly garments.
Islay isn’t called ‘whisky island’ for nothing. There are nine working distilleries here, and you’ll find their peaty single malts sold around the world. One of the larger isles, there’s 130 miles of coastline here, and numerous quiet, sandy beaches. Superb cliff-top walks await, and there’s a rather beautiful and famous yet difficult golf course on the Oa Peninsula. History abounds on Islay, with standing stones and a stone circle showing the island was inhabited back in Neolithic times. Islay was once known as the Lordship of the Isles, and you can explore the enigmatic settlement at Finlaggan, which remains the most important archaeological site on the island, while a number of Celtic crosses can be found dotted around. Islay is a wildlife paradise, with over 200 species of birds including oystercatchers, gannets, terns, and cormorants, as well as buzzards, Hen Harriers and even White-tailed Eagles. From the beaches, dolphins and basking sharks are sometimes spotted, and you might even see otters if you’re patient. Delve into the delights of the charming little town of Bowmore where there’s shops, an interesting round church, plus several cosy pubs and restaurants. It’s probably the only place in the world you can grab a Hebridean pizza – or ‘peat-za’ – topped with crab and lobster. Arts and crafts abound in Bowmore, and you can visit potters, quilters and artists in their workshops. Visit Islay Woollen Mill, near Bridgend, which made tartan clothes for Mel Gibson in Braveheart, as well as Liam Neeson’s kilt in Rob Roy. Of course, no trip to Islay would be complete without a visit to at least one of its famous distilleries. Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, Ardbeg and Bowmore are among the best known.
DAY 9: DOUGLAS, ISLE OF MAN
Viking history on a Celtic Island
Bring your camera and head out on deck as we sail in to Douglas – the scenic approach is not to be missed! We pull up alongside to explore the capital of the Isle of Man, a quirky island that’s full of character. Learn about the island’s Celtic and Viking heritage, trace its development as a Victorian tourist resort, or discover its stunning rugged coastline. In recognition of its diverse marine and coastal ecosystems, and socio-economic characteristics, the Isle of Man has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, ‘a learning place for sustainable development’. Discover the geology, marine life and maritime history of its shorelines on the island’s three Blueways Trails. The island is a treat for railway and motorsport enthusiasts. Every year, the island becomes a mecca for motorcyclists, as hosts of the TT races. You can hop on board an historic steam train, a vintage electric tram, or horse-drawn tram. Or visit the local Motor Museum and Motorcycle Museum. In Douglas, get an overview of the island’s history at the Manx Museum, enjoy a stroll through the town and local surrounds at your leisure, and pop into St Thomas’ Church to see the unique and colourful Nicholson Murals. Nearby, the rocky outcrop of Douglas Head overlooking the Harbour, has some of the best views of the island. Look for the Tower of Refuge in Douglas Bay, originally built as a sanctuary for shipwreck victims. Then visit the unusual Grand Union Camera Obscura, that’s been a tourist attraction since 1892. Across the island from Douglas, you can visit the impressive Peel Castle. Originally, the stronghold of Viking King Magnus Barelegs in the 11th century, it was later run by Christian missionaries, and is rumored to be haunted. From the castle, seals and basking sharks can occasionally be spotted.
DAY 10: WATERFORD
Vikings of Old Ireland
Welcome to the Emerald Isle. Today you’ll set foot in the oldest city in Ireland, founded by the Vikings in the 10th century by a ford in the River Suir. Waterford is a well preserved and very walkable small city, famed for its beautiful crystal glass production and its Norse roots. Incredible street art daubs walls and houses in this city of culture, so don’t forget your camera.
Walk around the Viking Triangle, so named for the three-sided shape made by the thousand-year-old walls that once surrounded the city. Along the route, you’ll encounter Reginald’s Tower, which offers great views from the top, and the Bishop’s Palace Museum, an exquisite architectural jewel that houses many treasures from Waterford’s colourful past.
For an authentic taste of times past, drop in on the King of the Vikings museum where, within the atmospheric ruins of a medieval monastery, you’ll get an amazing virtual reality adventure featuring bearded warlords, battle axes and dragon boats.
Visit the nearby 12th century Kilkenny Castle, one of the earliest Norman stone castles, or take in the beautiful scenery with a cycle ride along the Waterford Greenway. A visit to the Copper Coast UNESCO Geopark offers spectacular scenery as well as a ruined castle and an ancient dolmen.
And let’s not forget that Waterford is home to some of the world’s finest crystal glass, so a visit to the House of Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre is a must. Of course, make sure you find time to drop into a traditional Irish pub, such as The Munster Bar or The Gingerman before we head back to the ship.
DAY 11: ISLE OF SCILLY
Beauty, history and brimming with wildlife
This enchanting archipelago 30 miles off the tip of Cornwall is home to outstandingly beautiful, uncrowded and unspoilt islands and islets. It’s been likened to a tropical paradise, but the waters around it can also be choppy. If sea conditions and weather allow, we will spend the day here. Covered in heathland, with magnificent sandy beaches, the islands are surrounded by turquoise waters and reefs and offer picturesque coastal walks.
Ideal for exploring on foot, the island of Tresco is home to the famed Tresco Abbey Gardens with its 20,000 plants, many of them subtropical species. You can also explore the castle ruins, the Valhalla Museum – which contains a quirky collection of ships’ figureheads – or stroll along the white sandy beaches. Should conditions allow, we aim to do a beach clean-up on this charming island.
We will split our time in the area, and you may also choose to visit St Mary’s – the largest of the islands – with its rocky coves, archaeological sites and charming Hugh Town. Explore the town and sample some of the freshly caught seafood whilst enjoying the delightful views of the island.
There are many more things to see and do on St Mary’s, including visiting the Phoenix Craft Studios, which is a cooperative of individual artists and makers, checking out the Tamarisk Gallery, or dropping in on the Longstone Café for a cream tea or a spot of lunch.
Alternatively, join one of our optional landings for a trip around the islands, visiting shipwreck sites, spying seals lying on the rocks, as well as cruising around the bird sanctuary of Annet to observe the puffins and numerous other breeding seabirds.
DAY 12: DARTMOUTH
The delights of Devon
The picturesque banks of the River Dart mark our arrival into the delightful waterfront town of Dartmouth, steeped in maritime history and culture. The area is blessed with a multitude of castles, forts, stately homes, lush countryside and incredible nature. We will anchor a short tender ride from shore. You can explore this enchanting town on your own or join one of our optional excursions to learn more about this fascinating town and its surroundings. Stroll through the lanes and cobbled streets, browsing in quaint shops, many filled with arts and crafts, no doubt inspired by the beautiful setting. Down by the pastel houses and Tudor buildings around the busy harbour, you can watch the boats come in. Dartmouth has a long naval history. Sitting proudly in a commanding position above the town are the magnificent buildings of the Britannia Royal Naval College. Set in 126 acres of landscaped gardens, you can take a tour of this fascinating military college, which continues to train some of the finest naval officers in the world. At the entrance to the Dart Estuary is Dartmouth Castle, a Grade 1 listed artillery fort, that’s well worth a visit. At low tide, you can enjoy the views from the secluded Sugary Cove, just 100m from the castle.
There are plenty of walking trails along the South West Coast Path, from easy to more challenging, where you can enjoy the stunning scenery around the Dart Estuary or head inland for glorious countryside. Or follow the Mayflower Heritage Trail around town, tracing the history of the Pilgrims.
Your visit isn’t complete without sampling Devon’s edible treats. Seafood lovers should try the crab, while those with a sweet tooth can indulge in the local fudge or the famous Devonshire cream tea. Just remember, in Devon, it’s cream first!
DAY 13: DOVER
Return to England
The sight of the white cliffs of Dover signals the end of this fascinating exploration of the British Isles. As we dock at the city’s harbour, it’s time to say a fond farewell to MS Maud and to all those who have made your expedition so memorable.