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Through the beating heart of Scotland
Grand castles, lyrical moorlands, mysterious lochs, sacred abbeys, and sweeping mountains. From the long traditions of Scotland’s clans and monarchs to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s famed rebellions, the romance and intrigue of Scotland’s countryside and traditions speak to all of us. Our ship, Lord of the Glens, is uniquely sized to transit the Caledonian Canal, which cuts through the heart of the Highlands, plus venture into the sea for a coastal exploration—offering the rare experience of a single expedition to the myth and mystery at the heart of the highlands as well as to wild, seldom-visited outlying islands.
5 Things You Didn't Know: Scotland & the Inner Hebrides
Scotland comprises nearly 800 small islands, and around every bend are magnificent ruins, serene lochs, medieval monuments, and enchanting wildlife. Here are a few facts about this bonnie land that just might surprise you.
Discover secluded villages, ancient sites, verdant landscapes, and engaging people for an intimate perspective on Scottish life, past and present. Trace history through the Highlands in the footsteps of saints and clan leaders. Stand among ancient monuments and feel the shroud of Scotland's culture and history hang about the experience, the way the fog clings to the hauntingly beautiful moorlands. This is a land of ancient rituals, long-ruling clans, and royal graveyards full of monarchs. Explore Scotland and experience the country, continuously inhabited for some six thousand years.
See, do, and learn more by going with engaging experts who have been exploring this region for decades. Go with an expedition leader, naturalists, historians, and more.
Sail with a veteran expedition leader—the orchestrators of your experience. Many have advanced degrees and have conducted research or taught for years. They have achieved expedition leader status because they possess the skills, experience, and the depth of knowledge necessary to continually craft the best expedition possible for our guests.
Our naturalists, passionate about the geographies they explore (and return to regularly), illuminate each facet through their enthusiasm and knowledge. Our guests consistently cite the expertise and engaging company of our staff as key reasons to repeatedly travel with us.
Our historians will share the stories, tumults, and triumphs of the people and places we explore. Their colorful personalities and passion for history, from the minutiae to the big picture, make them engaging travel tour guides and companions.
Absolutely everything was excellent. Staff, crew, naturalist, photographer, and expedition leader. I learned a lot about my family's history.
Traveling through Scotland’s breathtaking countryside with its endless vistas and rare beauty gives you a spiritual lift. To compound this healthful effect, we add the luxury of comfort to the privilege of being there—with a quality of shipboard life and a philosophy of wellness designed to relax and rejuvenate body, mind, and spirit during your travels in Scotland.
We awoke to clear skies and light air with the sure prospect of a fine day ahead. As we sailed “over the sea to Skye” during breakfast, out of Loch Nevis, with the town of Mallaig on the mainland and the Isle of Eigg on our port quarter, we experienced exceptional visibility. An hour’s sailing brought us to the pierhead at Armadale on the Isle of Skye, the largest of the Hebridean islands, rich in history and with a varied landscape that has made it a mecca for hillwalkers. From our mooring, we could walk to the Clan Donald Centre, an excellent museum that offered a revision course in some of the major themes in Scottish history covered on our voyage: the arrival of the Gaels from northern Ireland in the middle of the first millennium; the coming of Christianity, also from Ireland; the establishment of the medieval thassalocracy, known as the Lordship of the Isles. There was time to enjoy the gardens, containing many specimens brought back to Scotland by the Scottish plant hunters of the early nineteenth century. Over lunch we sailed between Skye and the mainland, navigating the treacherous tidal race of the Kyle of Lochalsh, the narrowest point between Skye and the mainland where, before the Skye bridge was opened in 1992, a short ferry ride connected Skye with the mainland. In 1897 a railway was constructed from Inverness to Lochalsh—quite an engineering feat, particularly in its latter stages, when the railway had to be chiseled through hard rock to enter the town. At Kyle, we had two afternoon options for activities. One group visited the much-photographed Eilean Donan Castle, the ancestral home of the McCrae clan, that was attacked from the sea during the short-lived Jacobite rebellion of 1719. A second group hiked on the trail in the direction of Plockton for spectacular views of the Cuillin Mountains. We gathered in the evening sunshine for a group photograph followed by our Farewell Dinner, enlivened by the piping in of the haggis and the traditional “Address to the Haggis” composed by the Scots poet, Robert Burns. After dinner, we were entertained by two traditional musicians playing the fiddle and the concertina. An entrancing end to a wonderful voyage.
We woke in Tobermory to a showery day, with the morning to explore this colorful waterfront town. Despite the rain, a group walked out to a nearby lighthouse, following a trail through the Celtic rainforest, with moss, lichen, and ferns coating the trees along the way. Our endpoint was a picturesque Stevenson lighthouse, designed by the family of Robert Louis Stevenson. Those who didn’t take the walk spent the morning shopping in town, perusing offerings from chocolates to books. Our afternoon sail was a wee bit rough, but our views were spectacular as we rounded Ardnamurchan Point, the most westerly point on mainland Scotland where an Egyptian-style lighthouse stands on the rocky shore. Though the captain tried, we unfortunately couldn’t put in at the Isle of Eigg due to the winds and waves. We did get a good view of Eigg, with its imposing peak named An Sgurr (Gaelic for “The Rocky Crag”) dominating the island’s skyline. An Sgurr was formed around 50 million years ago during a volcanic period. A flow of lava filled an ancient riverbed and the surrounding rock subsequently eroded down, leaving the peak as it stands today. After viewing Eigg, we ventured straight to Inverie, on the Knoydart peninsula, our berth for the night. Inverie is a small village accessible only by foot or boat, and has the feel of a distant, inaccessible island. The rain let up, and the evening light made for wonderful atmosphere as we disembarked to stroll along the shore. A few even ventured into the Old Forge Inn, the most remote on mainland Scotland. As dinner was served, a local bagpiper played a few traditional tunes, and thus ended another eventful day aboard Lord of the Glens .
The high winds of yesterday that had led to widespread ferry cancelations in the
Hebrides had died away, enabling us to venture out of the sheltered anchorage
of Oban bay to make for the Isle of Mull, the second largest of the Inner
Hebridean islands and one with an exceptionally long, highly indented
coastline. It is an island celebrated for its wildlife, golden and white-tailed
eagles, shorebirds, and rich marine life, including minke whales, orcas, and
seasonal basking sharks. We disembarked at Craignure and drove in a long
diagonal across the island, along a single-track road with passing places, to
Fionnphort where we met the ferry for Iona. Iona
has emblematic significance in northwest Europe. It was
there in 563AD that Columba brought Celtic Christianity to Scotland from
Ireland. He established a monastic community on the island that was famed for
its learning and its craftsmanship. The Book of Kells, one the treasures of
modern Ireland that is today housed in the library of Dublin’s Trinity College,
was produced on Iona and taken to Kells Abbey in Ireland to preserve it from
Viking raids in the eigth century. We walked to the restored Benedictine abbey,
passing one of Britain’s best-preserved mediaeval nunneries and one of
Thomas Telford’s ‘Parliamentary Kirks’ on the way, to view St Martin’s Cross. In
situ since the eighth century, this is the original Celtic Cross from which all
others derived their distinctive design. We also explored the abbey, its
museum of high crosses, and numerous craft shops. A highlight
of the day was a performance in the abbey by the Doric String Quartet, part of
the 2019 Mendelssohn on Mull Festival. After
a hearty lunch at the St Columba Hotel, we took the ferry back to Fionnphort
and recrossed the Isle of Mull, passing the island’s two munroes, Ben Talla and
Ben Mhor, both meeting the requirement of being more than 3,000 feet tall.
Detouring to Duart, we visited the ancestral pile of the Clan Maclean, a
filmset of a Scottish castle perched on a rocky crag strategically situated
overlooking the Sound of Mull. We took a tour of the castle, complete with a prisoner
in the dungeon, sound effects, and a stroll around the site that includes a
burial ground for Hanoverian soldiers billeted at Duart after the 1745 Jacobite
Rebellion. Then we drove to Tobermory to rejoin the ship. Before
dinner, we heard a lively presentation from a member of staff of the Hebridean
Whale and Dolphin Trust.
We left the Caledonian Canal and ventured into the sea, passing through the last lock of the trip. For the remainder of our week we will be sailing through saltwater, exploring the Inner Hebrides on our way over to the Kyle of Lochalsh. As we traveled from Corpach to Oban along Loch Linnhe, we were still within the Great Glen Fault, though beyond the stretch of the canal. As we sailed to our day’s destination of Oban, we heard a talk on the different populations that came into the country and the advent of Celtic Christianity to Scotland, preparing us for our eventual trip to Iona. At midday, we arrived at the bustling town of Oban in a burst of beautiful sunshine. Oban is a transport hub and service area for the region. Ferries, trains, and buses meet here, and shops and stores provide for the surrounding area. Shortly after arriving in Oban, a distillery tour was offered—a wonderful chance to learn about the creation of Scotland’s iconic whisky. The distillery is one of the oldest in Scotland, established in 1794. The buildings remain much the same as they were in the 1890s when the business was renovated and updated. The tour ended with a delicious sample. It was a windy day, with blustery breezes raising whitecaps on the sea. But the sun was out, and so it was a good afternoon to explore the town. A few walkers ventured up to McCaig’s Tower. Also known as McCaig’s Folly, the construction looks like a ruined Roman coliseum. The building was constructed by the wealthy banker John Stuart McCaig starting in 1895 but was left unfinished upon McCaig’s death in 1902. Before dinner, there was more whisky on the schedule, along with a tasting led by a local expert. With clear skies and drifting clouds, it was an atmospheric evening to end the day.
Over breakfast we cast off at the top of the flight of locks in Fort Augustus in sunshine and heavy showers, completing our transit of the Caledonian Canal. Although we were held up at Laggan Locks which were under repair, we enjoyed a few presentations by staff as we advanced along the canal to its highest point at Loch Oich before crossing the shallow Loch Lochy over lunch. By early afternoon we had arrived at the top of Neptune’s Staircase—an impressive flight of eight locks that lowers the canal down to the Atlantic sea lock at Corpach. We overnighted in the Corpach basin beneath the great massif of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain on mainland Britain. Our afternoon activities were centered on Glenfinnan where a National Trust for Scotland visitor center was established to commemorate the place where ‘Bonnie’ Prince Charlie first raised his standard on the Scottish mainland at the start of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. Today the site has been re-branded to celebrate Harry Potter, for the railway viaduct behind the center is the one over which the Hogwarts Express travels in the movies. One group took a longer hike which approached the viaduct from above before passing beneath it to return to the visitor center. A gentler walk was offered from the center itself over a boardwalk viewing wetland flora: birch, willow, alder, and a variety of ferns. So much rain had fallen over the past week that whole sections of the boardwalk were underwater. After dinner we were privileged to hear a presentation by Alasdair Gibson, the Glenfinnan estate manager who enthralled and amused by turns with his accounts of deer stalking on the estate.
Scotland is a land of grand castles, beautiful moorlands, sacred abbeys, and sweeping mountains, and our unique ship—sized to sail a canal through the Highlands and able to venture to wild coastal islands—lets you see it as few can.