If ever an archipelago was made for expedition cruising it is the islands off Scotland’s west coast. Scotland’s magnificent coastline is an indented landscape of enormous natural splendour with offshore islands forming stepping stones into the Atlantic. In the northern summer, when the sun barely shrinks below the horizon, there’s a stillness and an almost wistful feeling in the air. This is the time when the enchanted visitor will be moved and seduced by the majesty of the islands, lochs and seascapes.
One of Europe’s true last remaining wilderness areas affords the traveller a marvellous island hopping journey through stunning scenery accompanied by spectacular sunsets and prolific wildlife. With our naturalists and local guides we will explore the length and breadth of the isles and with our nimble Zodiac craft be able to reach some of the most remote and untouched places. There is no better way to explore this endlessly fascinating and beautiful region that will cast its spell on you whether your interest lies in wildlife, gardens, photography, ancient history or simply an appreciation of this unique corner of the kingdom. With a maximum of under 100 travelling companions, the atmosphere is more akin to a private yacht trip and ashore with our local experts we will divide into small groups thereby enjoying a more comprehensive and peaceful experience. Learn something of their history, see the abundant bird and marine life, but above all revel in the timeless enchantment that these islands exude to all those who appreciate the natural world.
Hebridean Odyssey - Serenissima itinerary:
Day 1 - OBAN.
Embark the MS Serenissima in the afternoon. Transportation will be provided from Glasgow airport and station to Oban. Sail around the island of Mull bound for Iona.
Day 2 - IONA & LUNGA.
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. We will spend the morning here, returning to the vessel for lunch. This afternoon we will take to the Zodiacs to explore the tiny Treshnish Islands,located in the waters between Mull and Tiree. Now uninhabited, this group of low lying islands is home to thousands of sea birds and a large population of common and Atlantic grey seals. Hopefully, land on the largest of the islands, Lunga to walk amongst the amazingly tame puffins and see the remnants of past habitation that dates back to Viking times.
Day 3 - CANNA & SKYE.
Today, we will arrive at the Small Islands. Spend the morning on Canna which has a tiny agricultural and cattle-rearing population. From a walk along the cliff top we may see golden eagles, white-tailed eagles and peregrine falcons. At the cliff edge the rare loose-flowered orchids grow. Sail during lunch to Skye and the majestic Loch Scavaig and the Cuillins mountains. These magnificent mountains form a dramatic backdrop to the freshwater loch which we will explore by foot.
Day 4 - SUMMER ISLES & INVEREWE GARDENS.
Arrive this morning in the beautiful Summer Isles, and the only inhabited island of Tanera Mor. On a guided walk enjoy the stunning views; look out for otters and seals and the prolific bird life. Stop at the unique post office, whose own rare stamps are much sought after by collectors. During lunch sail south to Gairloch for our visit to the imposing gardens of Inverewe, surely one of the finest sited gardens in all Scotland. Here, exotic and tender plants thrive in their northerly location warmed by the Gulf Stream and protected by the surrounding mountains.
Day 5 - ST KILDA.
Arrive at first light in St Kilda, a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some fifty miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. The largest island, Hirta, once supported a population of over 200, but the last islanders left in the 1930s. The medieval village has been restored by the National Trust for Scotland and offers a marvellous link with the past. The islands are an important breeding ground for many seabirds including Atlantic puffins and northern fulmars. Later, cruise past two of the largest gannetries in the world at Stac Lee and Berneray as we make our way to South Uist for an overnight mooring.
Day 6 - LOCHBOISDALE & ERISKAY.
Spend the morning exploring this little visited Gaelic speaking region which offers marvellous walks and picturesque beaches. Later, sail across to Eriskay, located just off the coast of South Uist. It was here in 1941 that the SS Politician went aground with its cargo of 240,000 bottles of whiskey, inspiring Compton MacKenzie’s famous novel, ‘Whiskey Galore’. Enjoy an afternoon stroll on this picturesque island and see the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie first landed on Scottish soil in 1745.
Day 7 - MINGULAY, PABBAY & BARRA.
Today we explore the remote islands at the tip of South Uist, which are all uninhabited. We will use the Zodiacs to explore and hope to make some beach landings. The islands have some significant historical sites such as the old village of Mingulay. Despite there being a continuous population on Mingulay for at least two thousand years, evacuation began in 1907 and the island was completely abandoned by its residents in 1912. The islands are also a nature reserve with important breeding populations of razorbills, guillemots, black guillemots, puffins, fulmars and shags.
Day 8 - OBAN.
Disembark this morning and transfer to Glasgow International Airport or Central Station.
Prior to her life as the MS Andrea she spent many years cruising the Norwegian coast as the Harald Jarl. The decision by the Norwegian owners, Hurtigruten to invest in much larger new vessels, presented an opportunity to the American company, Elegant Cruises to purchase the vessel in 2002. After a substantial refit of over $20 million in Sweden she began her new life of worldwide cruising. Noble Caledonia chartered her for cruises around Britain, the Baltic and Mediterranean and as far away as Antarctica.
Perhaps, one of the best known and loved features of this vessel is its unique style. During the major refit in Sweden the then owners commissioned Swedish interior designers to create a Gustavian style interior. This bright Swedish 18th century influenced, country house style works particularly well on a vessel of this vintage, providing intimacy and classic nautical sensibility often lacking in larger vessels.
Accommodating just under 100 passengers, the 59 cabins are attractively designed for comfort and convenience and are fully air conditioned with a modern shower and toilet, telephone, flat screen televisions and other thoughtful appointments. There are eight different grades of cabin arranged over five decks and with the exception of the five inside cabins, all staterooms feature either windows or portholes.
The free seating Venice Restaurant accommodates all guests in one sitting. In addition there is an outside dining area for when the weather and itinerary permit. A new addition to the vessel is a Lido area on Deck 5 with a bar and Jacuzzi.
Other facilities on board include two lounges, a small library with two computers for internet access, a spacious observation deck, fitness area, massage and an elevator. In areas such the United Kingdom and Norway the vessel is equipped with Zodiac craft allowing us to visit remote places where normal tender arrangements are not possible.
The European captain, officers, expedition staff, and crew offer a first class service and have been selected for their professionalism and caring attitudes. The atmosphere on board is warm and welcoming and dedicated to discovery and relaxation.