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Wild & Ancient Britain
Sorry. There are no scheduled departures for this expedition.
Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition.
Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the
trip. We do our best to adhere to the scheduled itinerary, but in the spirit of
our expeditionary style of travel we may deviate slightly to take full
advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and
An itinerary from a previous expedition is displayed below.
Day 1 USA / London, EnglandDepart on your independent overnight flight to London.
Day 2 LondonAfter checking in to our hotel, explore the city at your leisure. This evening we gather for a welcome reception, followed by dinner, staff introductions, and a briefing.
Day 3 London / Plymouth / Embark Clipper Odyssey
After breakfast we depart via train for Plymouth. Enjoy lunch in town before we start our tour of Plymouth including a visit to an Elizabethan house built in 1631 and the City Museum and Art Gallery where painter Joshua Reynolds’ work is displayed in the Cottonian Collection. Birders visit Dartmoor National Park. Known for its blanket bogs, upland heath, and oakwoods, Dartmoor is the largest and highest upland in Southern Britain. This afternoon we board the Clipper Odyssey and settle into our home away from home for the next 12 nights.
Day 4 Isles of Scilly
Once the scourge of seamen whose ships were frequently lost among these 150 or so granitic isles, the Scillys are known today for their lovely beaches, rocky promontories, and ideal climate. Warmed by the North Atlantic Drift, the Isles of Scilly have given their fortunate inhabitants the luxury of turning a passion for growing flowers into a major industry. This morning we board local boats and cruise to Tresco. Here we visit the ruins and exquisite subtropical gardens at the medieval Tresco Abbey. Set sail in the late afternoon for southern Ireland.
Day 5 Skellig Islands, Ireland
We pass Cape Clear and approach the wonderfully remote Skellig Islands, one of Europe’s most impressive seabird citadels. Little Skellig is home to the second-largest colony of gannets in the world; thousands upon thousands of birds greet our arrival at dawn. Weather and permission permitting we visit nearby Skellig Michael—the site of an important sixth-century Anchorite monastery and now a World Heritage Site. Numerous seabirds are found here including kittiwakes, razorbills, Manx shearwaters, and nesting puffins.
Day 6 Dunmore East / Waterford / Saltee IslandsFrom the port city of Dunmore East we make our way to Waterford. Settled by Danish invaders who were in turn driven out by the Normans in 1170, this historic town has a wealth of monuments, including a tower built by the Danes in 1003. Options today include a visit to the renowned Waterford Crystal glassworks, where we watch master craftsmen at work, or enjoy a drive through the beautiful countryside to Mount Congreve, a magnificent estate whose grounds comprise some of the most exquisite gardens imaginable. Later we arrive at a fine old pub whose walls date back to Viking times. Back onboard we sail to the two privately owned islands of the Saltees. These islands attract nearly three million birds to their craggy masses. On Great Saltee Island we search for puffins, murres, razorbills, gannets, and more of the 47 bird species known to inhabit the island.
Day 7 Port St. Mary, Isle of Man
A mid-morning arrival brings us to Port St. Mary on the Isle of Man, situated halfway between Northern Ireland and England. On shore, we board the Isle of Man Steam Railway, the single remnant from the extensive Victorian system that served the main centers on the island. Our ride takes us through quaint and picturesque villages and to the southern resort of Port Erin. At 15.5 miles, the railway is the longest narrow-gauge steam line in Britain.
Day 8 Portrush, Giant’s Causeway & Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland
We spend the morning cruising along the North Antrim Coast, witnessing the dramatic landscape of Northern Ireland. Our ship docks at Portrush, from where we travel overland 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. These were formed by the shrinking of basaltic lava that fractured into vertical pillars as it cooled. Those who wish may take a hike through the formations from the interpretive center. In the afternoon we visit the rugged cliffs of Rathlin Island, greeted by colonies of guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills, and puffins. The beauty of the island belies its tumultuous history, and among its infamous sites is Bruce’s Cave, the refuge for the fugitive Scottish king, Robert the Bruce, who later returned to Scotland to rout the British.
Day 9 Isles of Iona & Staffa, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
Long regarded as a sacred place, Iona was an early center of Celtic Christianity. In A.D. 563 the Christian missionary St. Columba built a monastery here and spread Christianity throughout Scotland. Though it suffered repeated attacks by Vikings over the centuries and the original was destroyed, the monastery was rebuilt each time, and some of these later buildings still stand. We visit the monastery site; the nearby cemetery of St. Oran, where numerous Scottish kings are buried; and the 12th-century Iona Abbey. Weather permitting, we spend the afternoon 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 once served as the inspiration for Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture.
Day 10 St. Kilda & Flannan Islands, Outer Hebrides
The Outer Hebrides, a group of stark and dramatically rugged islands, are one of Britain’s most isolated areas. We spend the morning at St. Kilda, the westernmost island of the group. At one time, St. Kilda was home to a small community; we visit their abandoned houses and cleits, beehive-shaped cells of rough stone where goods were stored. As we sail among the Flannan Islands this afternoon, puffins, fulmars, murres, and kittiwakes should be plentiful. Of special interest to birders is the Leach’s petrel colony on the grassy slopes of Eilean Mor beneath the lighthouse. Weather permitting, we go ashore.
Day 11 Kirkwall, Orkney Islands
We 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. Maes Howe, a chambered tomb dating from 3500 B.C., is also noted for its runic hieroglyphs left by visiting 12th-century Vikings. We also explore 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. This afternoon we enjoy a walking tour of charming Kirkwall.
Day 12 Mousa, Isle of Noss & Lerwick, Shetland Islands
The Shetland Islands, a group of remote islands with a distinctly Norse feel to them, are replete with ancient archaeological sites. Mousa (our next stop if the weather permits) boasts one of Britain’s finest Iron Age ruins, an unusually well preserved 40-foot broch, a dry stone structure, dating from about A.D. 200. After visiting the broch, we walk to a nearby beach where gray and common seals often haul out to loll on the beach. Departing Mousa we cruise by the Isle of Noss, which supports one of Europe’s largest and most diverse seabird colonies, home to 80,000 seabirds. Here we view spectacular cliffs, jam-packed with guillemots, razorbills, gannets, shags, and more. In the early afternoon we arrive in Lerwick, capital of the Shetland Islands. We enjoy a guided walking tour of the town and environs, which are steeped in Norse heritage. There is also time to browse through the shops and narrow streets, shopping for world famous Shetland sweaters. This evening we overnight pier side on board the Clipper Odyssey.