Given that we can only show you a fraction of the history and culture to be experienced in the region, our itinerary designers have worked exceptionally hard to create revealing and enriching experiences. Opportunities for exploration include Zodiac entrances into coastal towns and wild beaches, plus scenic cruises; beguiling walks in charming locations; and even a quiet kayaking foray. If architecture is your bailiwick, gems in places like Iona and Edinburgh will have tremendous appeal. If lifestyle and townscapes intrigue you, the loveliness of Dartmouth will prove enchanting.
We’ll see the highlights, and subvert clichés with personal encounters of authentic magic and meaning.
Exploring the British and Irish Isles itinerary:
DAY 1-2: U.S./London, England/Dover
Depart on an overnight flight to London, and upon arrival, transfer to National Geographic Explorer (L,D)
DAY 2 — Portsmouth
Set along the south coast of England, Portsmouth plays a major role in British naval history. The rich heritage is evident at the Historical Dockyard which houses HMS Victory, the three-masted flagship in which Lord Nelson led the victorious Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and the Mary Rose, a Tudor-era warship. Aside from its marine heritage, Portsmouth is also known for its literary history as the birthplace of Charles Dickens. (B,L,D)
DAY 4: Fowey Island/Eden Project
Steeped in maritime history, Drake, Raleigh and Cook have all passed through Fowey (pronounced “Foy” by the locals). Stroll the winding, medieval streets and browse unique shops, art galleries and pubs, before heading to the Cornwall countryside and the Eden Project, where our botanical journey continues. A celebration of nature, the Eden Project is more than a garden walk — with vast biomes (greenhouses), it emphasizes man’s connection to, and dependence on, the natural world. Or opt to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Lost for almost 75 years after WWI, the private gardens at Heligan were the seat of the Tremayne family for more than 400 years. (B,L,D)
DAY 5: Isles of Scilly
According to Arthurian legend, the Isles of Scilly are all that remain of Lyonnesse, a land off Cornwall that vanished beneath the Atlantic. Meander through Tresco Abbey Gardens, where an astounding variety of subtropical plants flourish. (B,L,D)
DAY 6: The Skelligs and Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
Rising abruptly from the sea, the rocky isle of Skellig Michael was once an important center of Celtic Christianity. From the ship gaze up, the beehive huts of its seventh-century monastery, clinging to the jagged peak 600 feet above the sea. After lunch, explore the ancient sites of beautiful Dingle Peninsula and wander through the village of Dingle. (B,L,D)
DAY 7: Cliffs Of Moher And Aran Islands
View the towering Cliffs of Moher as we sail by them this morning. Continue to the Aran Islands, known for their limestone moonscapes and strong Gaelic identity. Visit Dun Aengus, an enigmatic Celtic ring fort perched on the edge of a cliff. (B,L,D)
DAY 8: County Donegal, Ireland
Explore the sheltered fishing harbor of Killybegs and drive to Gaelic-speaking Glencolumbcille to discover ancient cairns and dolmens. In the evening, sail past the soaring 2,000-foot cliffs of Slieve League. (B,L,D)
DAY 9: Iona and Staffa, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
On Iona, venture into an ancient nunnery and a 13th-century abbey. Examine the Celtic high crosses of kings such as Duncan and Macbeth. This afternoon, explore Staffa, an island famed for its geometric basalt columns and deep-sea caves. It was here that Felix Mendelssohn was inspired to write his “Hebrides Overture.” (B,L,D)
DAY 10: Outer Hebrides: St. Kilda & Callanish
Visit the Outer Hebrides, where Scottish Gaelic is still spoken and artisans weave traditional woolen fabrics. Weather permitting, explore the cottages of remote St. Kilda, a UNESCO World Heritage site inhabited from the Bronze Age. Later, see the neolithic Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis. (B,L,D)
DAY 11: Inverewe
Stroll through Inverewe Gardens, where colorful subtropical flora thrives. Explore the charming fishing village of Ullapool in the afternoon. (B,L,D)
DAY 12: Orkney Islands
Encounter a sophisticated Stone Age culture on visits to the Ring of Brodgar and the 5,000-yearold stone-slab village of Skara Brae. Step into the medieval St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, and stop for tea at historic Balfour Castle. (B,L,D)
DAY 13: Fair Isle and Mousa
Visit the bird research station, located on the migration flyway. Hike to a nearby beach to look for puffins. Then, on the uninhabited island of Mousa, see one of the best examples of an Iron Age broch. (B,L,D)
DAY 14: Shetland Islands
Dock at the Shetland Islands, an archipelago of about 100 islands and islets. Drive through a rolling landscape with Shetland ponies. Explore the ruins at Jarlshof, which reveal 4,000 years of near-continuous settlement. (B,L,D)
DAY 15: Bergen, Norway/Disembark/Home
Disembark in Bergen and transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)
National Geographic Explorer
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition
Length: 108 meters
Beam: 16.5 meters
Speed (average): 14 knots
Built / Refurbished: 1982 / 2008
Capacity: 148 (single & twin cabins)
National Geographic Explorer is a state-of-the-art expedition ship. It is a fully stabilized, ice-class vessel, enabling it to navigate polar passages while providing exceptional comfort. It carries kayaks and a fleet of Zodiac landing craft. An Undersea Specialist operates a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and sophisticated video equipment, extending access to the underwater world.
Public areas: Bistro Bar; Chart Room; Restaurant; Global Gallery; Library, Lounge with full service bar and state-of-the-art facilities for films, slideshows and presentations; Mud Room with lockers for expedition gear, and Observation Lounge. Our “Open Bridge” provides guests an opportunity to meet our Officers and Captain and learn about navigation.
Meals: Served in single seatings with unassigned tables for an informal atmosphere and easy mingling. Menu is international with local flair.
Cabins: All cabins face outside with windows or portholes, private facilities and climate controls.
Expedition Equipment: Zodiac landing craft, kayaks, Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), hydrophone, SplashCam, underwater video camera, Crow’s Nest remote controlled camera, video microscope, snorkeling gear.
Special Features: A full-time doctor, Undersea Specialist, LEX Photo Specialist and Video Chronicler, Internet Cafe and laundry.
Wellness: The vessel is staffed by two Wellness Specialists and features a glass enclosed Fitness Center, outdoor stretching area, two LEXspa treatment rooms and Sauna.