Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field

  • Shetland Islands, Scotland

    Well what a day for the final day of our voyage! Waking to rare Shetland sunshine and blue skies made our earlier than usual start a bit easier. With a number of outings on offer—geology, archaeology, and wildlife experiences were all up for grabs. Our bus travelled south to Sumburgh Head where, bathed in warm light and a gentle breeze, the view south to Fair Isle was glorious. Puffins flew in and out from their clifftop burrows allowing great photo opportunities. With over 100,000 breeding pairs of puffins, the Shetland Islands are home to about 20% of the British and Irish population.  There are few experiences to match a close encounter with one of these, and the beaming smiles all around told their own story. Nearby, the archaeological site at Jarlshof had many other stories to tell. Read More

  • Fair Isle & Lerwick, Scotland

    Early morning found National Geographic Explorer safely anchored off Fair Isle, midway between Orkney and Shetland in northern Scotland. This is the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom, and is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Famous for its birds, shipwrecks, and knitwear (the island is covered in sheep), the island has been a base for the scientific study of bird life for 55 years now. Not quite living up to its name, the island was fairly wet, windy, foggy, and rainy for the entire morning! A little moisture didn’t dampen our spirits however, as keen hikers and observers set out to find puffins and fulmars along the cliffs of the island. Read More

  • Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland

    The quality of the archaeological sites on Mainland, Orkney has earned it the accolade of being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is a landscape peppered with prehistoric remains. Its gentle, undulating topography is verdant, a rich grazing resource which was first appreciated by Neolithic farming communities over 6,000 years ago. Our morning outing focused on the ancient past of this interesting island with visits to the internationally acclaimed sites of Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar. Read More

  • Inverewe and Calanais, Scotland

    Arriving on the Scottish mainland for the first time this voyage, our morning was well spent visiting one of Britain’s most famous gardens at Inverewe. It fame derives in large part from its northerly location at 57 degrees N, the same latitude as Labrador to the west and St Petersburg. At this forbidding northerly latitude the planting skills of Osgood Mackenzie – creating a windbreak by skillful tree and hedge planting was critical – and making use of the warming effects of the North Atlantic Drift have enabled a remarkable collection of rhododendron, azalea, camellia, bamboo and other exotics to flourish. There is even a productive vegetable garden with deep soil imported from Ireland that was much admired. We were met at the jetty by a team of enthusiastic gardeners who gave as an infectiously enthusiastic tour, specimen by specimen, allowing some recovery time at the Visitor Centre and adjacent Tea Room. Over lunch the ship repositioned to Stornoway, the principal township of the Isles of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, a stronghold of the Gaelic language and strict Calvinism, where secular hymns have not been sung since the time of the Highland Clearances and where singing in church is restricted to the Psalms. Read More

  • Iona and Staffa Video

    Today we continued our exploration of Scotland with a visit to the island of Iona in the Hebrides. Iona is home to the beautiful monastic center and Abbey which was once home to St. Columba and from which he spread early Celtic Christianity to Scotland and beyond. We were able to go ashore by Zodiac and walk through the small village and past the “Nunnery” on our way to the Abbey. The Nunnery is built from a beautiful pink granite which was probably rafted across the Sound of Iona from the nearby island of Mull. On the beach we also were able to see the wonderful Torridonian sandstone which is about one billion years old, but appears quite fresh as though it had only been deposited in the recent geological past. In the afternoon we visited the nearby island of Staffa, which displays some of the finest examples of columnar basalt in the world. Read More

  • St Kilda, Scotland

    There are places in the world holding a level of elusiveness that is hard to convey or comprehend beyond being there, sensing it and perceiving the remote and wild nature of the place. St Kilda is one of those places: located on the very outskirts of the Scottish seaboard, or perhaps more aptly described as being in the midst of the North Atlantic, this rugged outpost is no longer home to the community of people who up until the 1930s lived here with sturdier resolutions and even sturdier work ethics until diseases introduced by mainlanders forced them to evacuate this remarkable island. Now home to an array of seabirds and rather disheveled but content looking Soay sheep, St Kilda is a wildlife haven. Read More

  • Sligo & Donegal

    Our morning began once again with sun and clear skies. What little chill was present as we left the ship quickly faded as the morning progressed and we were greeted on our approach to the small harbor at Mullaghmore in Sligo by the mountains rising up in the distance. Amongst these is the legendary Ben Bulben, a large, rounded hill that overlooks much of the landscape, and it is under this mountain that the grave of Irish poet W.B. Yeats lies. Yeats is heavily associated with this area, and many of the locations we visited this morning carry direct connections to him. Aside from his grave, the most famous of these is the former home of the Gore-Booth family, Lissadell House. Situated near the sea amidst expansive gardens, it is clear why Yeats spent time in this place of history, beauty, and serenity. Others of us also went to visit different highlights of the area, such as Glencar waterfall and Meadhbh’s Cairn. We returned to the ship for lunch, repositioning to the north to nearby Killybegs. Read More

  • Cliffs of Moher

    The morning of the 15th of May broke with perfect, cloud-free blue skies and a stunning sunrise. The chilly northeast breeze did not deter the guests as they were out on deck in droves admiring the sun rising over the Irish coastline. The first of the fingers of the Cliffs of Moher were visible, with the distinctive Napoleonic watchtowers breaking the skyline atop the cliffs. The air was filled with the busy comings and goings of the gangs of guillemots, razorbills, and gannets. In amongst it all were the smaller and plumper Atlantic puffins, busily flapping their wings to get to their destination. One lucky observer spotted a minke whale from the dining room while eating breakfast! The morning outing was a Zodiac landing at Aran Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands and home to the Aran Sweater. Read More

  • Skelligs & Dingle, Co Kerry, Ireland

    We awoke to a thick sea-mist, not at all sure that it would burn off in time for our scheduled cruise around the Lesser and Greater Skellig, two rocky outliers of County Kerry in the far west of Ireland. The former is one of the largest gannetries off the coast of Britain and Ireland ; the latter has the spectacular remains of a sixth-century Celtic monastic site, in continuous occupation from A.D. 588 to 1222. On the bridge, we heard our underwater specialist being carefully guided through the mist to her dive-site, so we would at least be sure to see, at a future date, what lay here beneath the surface of the ocean. Even as our expedition leader was at work on some creative re-scheduling of the morning’s activities, however, the mist miraculously cleared and Skellig Michael, the alternative name for the Greater Skellig, was revealed in all its glory, its cluster of corbelled bee-hive huts, garden terraces, and steep pathways clear to view. Christianity came to this part of the world at a remarkably early date. Read More

  • Scilly Isles

    One of the most memorable aspects of this British and Irish Isles expedition is how much the places we visit vary. Yesterday we were sailing into the narrow entrance of Fowey harbor in a shroud of early morning fog, and yet today we hopped into the Zodiacs and speeded toward Tresco Island in the Scilly Isles–all the while bathed in sunshine and with a backdrop of beaches more akin to a Caribbean postcard than a British Isles experience. The Scilly Isles lie off the southwest of the British coastline. Read More

British & Irish Isles Itineraries

Get A Free Brochure

View online or have one mailed to you!

Brochures & DVDs

British & Irish Isles

Brochures & DVDs
The Wild Isles - Voyage through centuries of culture, history & untrammeled wildness on a circumnavigation of England, Scotland & Wales
Brochures & DVDs

Explore British & Irish Isles video gallery

See Videos

Drinks & Gratuities
are on us

Expedition bonus

British & Irish Isles Brochure

Brochures & DVDs
View online or have one mailed to you. It's free!
Brochures & DVDs