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Best of Britain

August 24- September 7, 2023

This exceptional voyage  appeals to the adventurous spirit providing an opportunity to explore Iceland's magnificent fjords, volcanic landscape plus lots of whales . . . wool!  Enjoy 15-days aboard our luxury expedition and cross the Arctic Circle before heading to the Faroe Islands where sheep outnumber humans 40:1.

Itinerary

Day 1: Portsmouth, England

Day 2: Guernsey & Herm, Channel Islands

Day 3: Isles of Scilly

Day 4: Fishguard & St Davids, Wales

Day 5: Peel, Isle of Man

Day 6: Rahtlin Island & Portrush, Nor. Ireland

Day 7 St Kilda

Day 8 Scrabster

Day 9: Unst, Shetland Islands

Day 10: Lerwick

Day 11: Montrose

Day 12: Berwick-upon-Tweed, England

Day 13: Whitby

Day 14: Lowestoft

Day 15: Portsmouth

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Day 1 Portsmouth, England.

Embark the MS Hebridean Sky this afternoon. Transfers will be provided from Portsmouth Harbour Railway Station at a fixed time. 

Day 2 Guernsey & Herm, Channel Islands.

This morning we arrive on Guernsey, the ‘Island of Flowers’ where there will be the option of a walking tour of St Peter Port including a visit to Castle Cornet, a 12th century battlement which guards the entrance to St Peter Port harbor. Alternatively, enjoy a panoramic drive during which we will see the beautiful coastline and beaches and visit the Little Chapel, built in 1914 as a miniature version of the famous basilica at Lourdes and covered in fragments of shattered china. Over lunch we sail the short distance to Herm, the smallest inhabited Channel Island and, at just one and a half miles long and half a mile wide, perfect for exploring on foot. Here, you will have free time to explore, perhaps take a stroll over to Shell or Belvoir beach or join our naturalists for a walk.

Day 3 Isles of Scilly.

Spend the morning on traffic-free Tresco, walking its idyllic lanes from the beach to the famous subtropical Abbey Gardens. Defying the Atlantic weather, this miracle of a garden is home to more than 20,000 species of plants from over 80 countries. Enjoy time to wander at your own pace along the paths, maybe visit the Valhalla collection of ship figureheads from ships wrecked on the islands or relax in the cafe. We spend the afternoon on St Agnes, the most southwesterly community in the UK. Surrounded by rocks and reefs this delightful tiny island offers marvellous coastal walks. 

Day 4 Fishguard & St Davids, Wales.

From our berth in Fishguard we will take a scenic drive to St Davids, Britain’s smallest city. Explore the magnificent 12th century cathedral and see the Bishop’s Palace before enjoying some free time in the city. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure or join our naturalists for a walk along the Pembrokeshire coastal path. 

Day 5 Peel, Isle of Man.

Arrive this morning on the Isle of Man at the main fishing port of Peel. Settlements have been here since the Mesolithic Age and the island also claims to have the longest continuous parliament which was founded in 979 AD. Continue to Castletown where we board the vintage steam train for a delightful and traditional journey to Douglas. Dating from 1874, the Isle of Man Steam Railway is the island’s oldest Victorian rail system and this narrow gauge railway still runs with its original locomotives and carriages. 

Day 6 Rathlin Island & Portrush, Northern Ireland.

Arrive this morning at Rathlin Island. Located just a few miles from the North Antrim coast, Rathlin has been settled for more than 6000 years. Today, there are only 140 or so souls, whereas before the Great Famine there were 1200 inhabitants. History can be seen everywhere here amongst the historic buildings and ruins. Also see the unique “upside down” Rathlin West Light, a great feat of engineering and one of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland. Over lunch we sail to Portrush, our base for a visit to the Giant’s Causeway which became widely known from the 1700s as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ and large numbers of visitors came to view this amazing array of basalt columns - it is estimated that there are around 40,000 in total.

Day 7 St Kilda.

This morning we arrive at St Kilda, a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some fifty miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. Dominated by the highest cliffs and sea stacks in Britain, Hirta, St Kilda’s main island was occupied on and off for at least two thousand years, with the last 36 Gaelic speaking inhabitants evacuated at their own request in 1930.  In 1957 it was bequeathed to The National Trust for Scotland. St Kilda is one of only a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites with dual status reflecting its natural and cultural significance. It is also home to the wild St Kildan sheep whose wool is still exported for tweed. In the afternoon, visit Boreray Island to catch a glimpse of the Boreray sheep who have been genetically pure for centuries.

 

Day 8 Scrabster.

Spend the day in Scrabster, the most northerly port on the Scottish mainland. This morning we will visit the Castle and Gardens of Mey. The castle was purchased by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 1952, who renovated and restored it and created the beautiful gardens which we will see today. After lunch on board, enjoy a leisurely afternoon or choose to take a drive along the coast to John O’Groats, the most northerly town on mainland Britain.

Day 9 Unst, Shetland Islands.

After a morning at sea we arrive over lunch in Unst, Britain’s most northerly inhabited island and at the Heritage Centre we learn about how the islanders have lived over the centuries and the industries that have prospered. We will visit the Unst Boat Haven, and the Shetland Knitting Museum and gift shop. Dedicated to the history of the island’s distinctive wooden boats which descend from Viking craft and knitting traditions. 

Day 10 Lerwick.

From the Shetland capital, we will have the option to visit a local Shetland farmer who produces a stunning array of yarn from his flock or visit the remarkable archaeological site of Jarlshof. The site was uncovered by a violent storm in the winter of 1896/7, revealing an extraordinary settlement site embracing at least 5000 years of human history. The site contains a sequence of stone structures – late Neolithic houses, a Bronze- Age village, an Iron-Age broch and wheelhouses, several Norse longhouses, a Medieval farmstead and the 16th century laird’s house.  Enjoy a free afternoon to explore this historic port. Perhaps wander through its narrow stone lanes or maybe visit the excellent Shetland Museum, containing artifacts from shipwrecks and the whaling era.

Day 11 Montrose.

Spend the morning at sea before we arrive in Montrose, the gateway to Angus and known as the birthplace of Scotland. It was the Battle of Dunnichen, between the Picts and Northumbrians in 645 AD which led to the creation of the Kingdom of Alba and in 1320 the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath marked Scotland’s creation as an independent country. This afternoon we visit nearby Glamis Castle, the childhood home of the Queen Mother. One of the most famous rooms in the castle is Duncan’s Hall, the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth. There will be some time to explore Montrose independently before we sail this evening.

Day 12 Berwick-upon-Tweed, England.

England’s northernmost town is our base for today’s exploration of Northumberland. To the south lies Holy Island, also known as Lindisfarne, home to a monastic community which was established in 635 AD by Irish evangelist St Aidan. Viking raids forced the monks to leave in 875 AD but in 1082 the prior and convent of Durham refounded the monastery, the remains of which we can visit today. Also walk up to Lindisfarne Castle perched atop a rocky crag on the island. After our visit choose to either return to the ship for lunch and an afternoon at leisure in Berwick or to continue to Alnwick Castle. The second largest inhabited castle in England, it has been home to the Percys, Earls and Dukes of Northumberland since 1309. After lunch there will be the opportunity to visit the castle, see the fine collection of artwork and explore the wonderful gardens.

Day 13 Whitby.

This morning we will call into Whitby, where on the east cliff the ruins of St Hilda’s Abbey dominate the skyline. This charming fishing port, which was once an important whaling station, is also the town where 18th century explorer Captain James Cook lived as an apprentice seaman and where Lewis Carroll wrote some of his work. We will visit the ruins of Whitby Abbey and its museum as well as the unique parish church of St Mary’s. There will also be a chance to ride a section of the North Yorkshire Moors Heritage Railway which travels through the beautiful countryside of the North York Moors National Park using historic carriages and steam locomotives.

Day 14 Lowestoft.

The Suffolk town of Lowestoft is the easternmost town in Britain and our base for the day. There will be the opportunity to visit Helmingham Hall, the home of the Tollemache family since 1510. The Hall appears to float on the surface of its broad surrounding moat and we have time to wander around the extensive and beautiful gardens. Alternatively, visit the Anglo Saxon royal burial site at Sutton Hoo where, in 1938 the archaeologist Basil Brown discovered the remains of a 90 foot burial-ship of an Anglo- Saxon warrior king. The exhibition tells the compelling story of Anglo- Saxon warriors, treasure and kings, with a full-size reconstruction of the burial chamber. After the excursion, choose to either return directly to the ship or spend some time in the seaside town of Southwold before we sail this afternoon.

Day 15 Portsmouth.

Disembark this morning. Transfers will be provided to Portsmouth Harbour Railway Station at a fixed time.

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