The seabird islands of the western British Isles are the envy of the birding world, yet it is not easy to sample the wonderful diversity of their character and come face-to-face with sea-going inhabitants.
This unusual expedition cruise will appeal to those who wish to explore coastal waters, observe the marvellous seabird and marine life and walk across untouched coastal wilderness areas. Cruising aboard the 86 passenger Ocean Nova we will be able to enjoy expedition cruising at its best. Although we will set sail with a schedule, it will not be set in stone. The captain and expedition team keep a flexible approach allowing you the opportunity to fully experience the unexpected, whether it be a sighting of dolphins, a whale or any unusual event.
Our exploration of inlets, estuaries and protected coastal waters will be made all the more enjoyable by the use of our Zodiac landing craft, similar to those used by Jacques Cousteau. Zodiacs enable us to land in remote places, providing for an unusual perspective and make the otherwise inaccessible readily available. No matter your level of knowledge and expertise, you will find a warm welcome, and we promise a cornucopia of stunning sights and sounds.
Day 1 - OBAN.
Embark the Ocean Nova in the late afternoon and sail. Transfers will be provided from Glasgow Central rail station and Glasgow International airport at a fixed time.
Day 2 - STORNAWAY & SHIANTS.
On leaving the island capital of Stornoway, our morning tour takes us across the island to the beautiful west coast of the island and to Callanish. Described as Scotland’s Stonehenge, the Callanish Standing Stones date from around 3000BC. Continue around the west coast to the site of Dun Carloway Pictish Broch. Probably built some time in the last century BC, it would have served as an occasionally defensible residence for an extended family complete with accommodation for animals at ground floor level. Head north to Gearrannan Blackhouse Village – a reconstructed settlement of traditional blackhouses where people and animals lived in close proximity. The houses are made using dry stone masonry and have thatched roofs, distinctively weighted down with rocks. Visit the small museum, enjoy a display of a typical crofting activity and take in the views at this dramatic site on the wild Atlantic coast. Spend the afternoon exploring the Shiant Isles. Anyone who has read Adam Nicholson’s captivating book ‘Sea Room’ will want to visit these lonely little islands located a few miles off the shores of Lewis. We will use our Zodiacs to explore the coastline and abundant birdlife.
Day 3 - ST KILDA.
Our visit to the remote St Kilda archipelago will be the highlight of the trip for many, home of our greatest concentrations of gannets and fulmars. Weather permitting, we shall land on Hirta to see the abandoned village and climb to the seabird cliffs of Conachair. On leaving we sail past the spectacular Stac an Armin, Stac Lee and Boreray, home to 60,000 breeding pairs of Northern Gannets.
Day 4 - LUNGA & IONA.
This morning we land on Lunga, the largest of the Treshnish Isles. Of volcanic origin, Lunga has been described as a ‘green jewel in a peacock sea’. Populated until the 19th century, the island still bears the remains of black houses. There is prolific birdlife on the island including storm-petrels, kittiwakes and Manx Shearwaters. Guillemot, puffin and razorbills breed on Lunga, whilst we may see grey seals in the surrounding waters. Sail over lunch to Iona. For more than 1000 years the island of Iona has been a place of deep spiritual significance. No less than 62 Kings of Scotland are buried here, including Duncan, Macbeth’s victim. St Columba came here from Ireland in 563 AD and early Christianity spread through northern Britain from this remote island community. After exploring the Abbey, time permitting you may care to take a short walk on the wild side to the ‘Bay at the Back of the Ocean’.
Day 5 - PORTRUSH & RATHLIN.
This morning we will visit the Giant’s Causeway which become widely known from the 1700s as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ and large numbers of visitor’s came to view this amazing array of basalt columns - it is estimated that there are around 40,000 in total. We return to the ship via Dunluce Castle where we have time to explore the extensive ruins of this medieval Castle dating from the 16th Century and situated on a basalt outcrop. Cruise over to nearby Rathlin Island during lunch. Located just a few miles from the North Antrim coast Rathlin has been settled for more than 6000 years. Today, there are only 80 or so souls, whereas before the Famine there were 1200 inhabitants. History is everywhere with historic building and ruins. Enjoy a guided walk which will also take in the prolific sea bird life with astonishing numbers of auks, kittiwakes and grey seals. In the evening sail past the magnificent cliffs to the north of the island which is home to the largest sea bird colony in Ireland.
Day 6 - HOLY ISLAND.
After a morning at sea we arrive at Holyhead, adjacent to Anglesey with its spectacular sea-cliffs. Here we will visit the RSPB’s reserve at South Stack, a beautiful but fragile maritime sward and heathland which is home to a large population of guillemots and razorbills, if we are lucky we might also see some choughs.
Day 7 - SKOMER & GRASSHOLM.
This morning we sail to Skomer Island, one of the most important wildlife sites in Northern Europe. It is a marvelously peaceful and scenic island with fantastic birdlife including 6000 pairs of puffins, countless numbers of guillemots and kittiwakes and the elusive Manx shearwater and storm petrel. Enjoy a Zodiac excursion and return to the vessel for lunch as we sail to Grassholm to view one of the world’s largest gannetries with over 34,000 breeding pairs.
Day 8 - TRESCO & ST AGNES, ISLES OF SCILLY.
Today is devoted to the lovely islands of Scilly. Spend the morning on traffic free Tresco walking its idyllic lanes from the beach to the famous sub-tropical Abbey Gardens. Defying the Atlantic weather this miracle of a garden is the perfect spot for a morning’s plant and bird spotting. During lunch onboard sail across to St Agnes, the most southwesterly community in the UK. Surrounded by rocks and reefs this delightful tiny island is a bird watchers paradise and offers marvellous coastal walks. The small island of Gugh lies across a narrow sandbar and here we find a single stone monolith called the ‘Old Man of Gugh’ which dates back to the Bronze Age.
Day 9 - PLYMOUTH.
Disembark after breakfast. Transfers will be provided to the rail station at a fixed time.
Vessel Type: Expedition
Length: 73 meters
Beam: 11.0 m
Draft: 4.0 m
GRT: 2,118 tons
Speed: 11 knots
Ice Class: Ice 1B, E0 (Hull Ice 1A)
Capacity: 84 (in twin & triple Cabins)
The ice-strengthened expedition ship Ocean Nova was built in Denmark in 1992 with high ice class to serve Greenland’s west coast. In 2004 to 2005 she was completely refurbished and has now a career as a small and comfortable expedition ship. The Ocean Nova accommodates 86 passengers in single, double and triple cabins, all with sea-view and private facilities. The double cabins have either two lower beds or upper and lower beds. The triple cabins have upper and lower beds. In your cabin you will also find a desk with chair and ample storage space for clothes and equipment.
In the dining room you are treated to delicious meals in between landings and in the panorama lounge you can enjoy a drink with a breathtaking view of the surrounding polar landscape. This is where PolarQuest’s on board specialists entertain and educate you with lectures on polar biology, history, geology and conservation. There is also a library with panoramic views and a good selection of polar books. On board there is a satellite phone, gym and medical doctor. Passengers are welcome on the bridge around the clock and there is always something to see or search for from the spacious observation decks. The ship has North European officers and there is a friendly and informal atmosphere on board. Travelling with this small expedition ship offers an entirely different experience and perspective than you can get on a larger and more conventional cruise ship.