Bird Islands

Bird Islands

From GBP £4,195


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 seagoing inhabitants. This unusual expedition cruise will appeal to those who wish to explore our coastal waters, observe the marvellous seabird and marine life and walk across untouched coastal wilderness areas. The focus of our expedition is the prolific birdlife but the region is also rich in historical and cultural heritage and with our naturalists and local guides we will discover some of the most remote and uninhabited islands that surround the coast of Britain together with inhabited islands such as Papa Westray and Fair Isle.

Cruising aboard the 84-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 which enable us to land in remote places such as St Kilda, providing for an unusual perspective and making the otherwise inaccessible readily available. This is a wonderful opportunity to see some of our most beautiful places and view some of the extensive birdlife. No matter your level of expertise you will find a warm welcome and a cornucopia of stunning sights and sounds.

Trip Name
Bird Islands
Vessel Type: Expedition Length: 73 metres Passenger Capacity:86 Built / refurbished: 1992 / 2006 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. Ice Class: Ice 1B, E0 (Hull Ice 1A)  


Day 1 - Day 1 Plymouth, England.
Embark the Ocean Nova this afternoon. A transfer will be provided from Plymouth Railway Station at a fixed time. Enjoy welcome drinks and dinner as we sail this evening.
Day 2 - Day 2 Isles of Scilly.
Spend the morning on traffic-free Tresco, walking its idyllic lanes from the beach to the famous subtropical Abbey Gardens. Defying the Atlantic weather, this miracle of a garden is home to more than 20,000 species of plants from over 80 countries. Enjoy time to wander along the paths, maybe visit the Valhalla collection of ship figureheads from ships wrecked on the islands or relax in the café. We spend the afternoon on St Agnes, the most south-westerly community in the UK. Surrounded by rocks and reefs this delightful tiny island 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. En-route we plan to sail past the nearby island of Annet, the second largest of the uninhabited islands and a bird sanctuary. We will cruise by to see the coastline alive with puffins, European storm petrels and shag.
Day 3 - Day 3 Lundy Island & Skomer Island, Wales.
This morning we will explore Lundy, a remote island in the Bristol Channel. Walk along its traffic-free lanes and paths, explore the wide bays and coves by way of hanging valleys, observe the puffins nesting in abandoned rabbit warrens, have a drink at the inn and buy some of the island’s ‘puffin stamps’ at the shop. This afternoon we will sail on to Skomer Island and discover the coastline on a Zodiac cruise. One of the most important wildlife sites in Northern Europe, this island has fantastic birdlife including 6,000 pairs of puffins, countless numbers of guillemots, fulmar, kittiwakes and the elusive Manx shearwater and storm petrel. Return to the ship and later this evening we hope to sail around Grassholm; be on deck to view one of the world’s largest gannetries with over 34,000 breeding pairs.
Day 4 - Day 4 Holy Island, Wales & Calf of Man, Isle of Man.
Over breakfast 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. Returning to the ship for lunch we hope to arrive in the late afternoon at the Calf of Man, a 600 acre island situated off the southern tip of the Isle of Man, and home to thousands of seabirds including Manx shearwater, kittiwake and razorbill. Meanwhile in the water we may be lucky to see dolphins and seals.
Day 5 - Day 5 Ailsa Craig, Scotland & Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland.
In the early morning we will anchor off the granite island of Ailsa Craig. This tiny island, just 2.5 miles in circumference was once a refuge for sailors and base to a 19th century lighthouse. Today it is an RSPB reserve and home to the third largest gannet colony in Britain. We will use the Zodiacs and cruise the coastal waters for a closer look searching for puffins, guillemots and gulls. Sail in the late morning towards Rathlin Island. Located just a few miles from the North Antrim coast, Rathlin has been settled for more than 6,000 years. Today, there are only 80 or so inhabitants, whereas before the famine there were 1200. Enjoy a guided walk which will take in the prolific seabird life with astonishing numbers of auks, kittiwakes and grey seals. This evening we will sail past the magnificent cliffs to the north of the island which are home to the largest sea bird colony in Ireland.
Day 6 - Day 6 Staffa & Lunga, Scotland.
Overnight we will sail to Staffa, where the perpendicular rock face features an imposing series of black basalt columns, known as the Colonnade, which have been cut by the sea into cathedralesque caverns, most notably Fingal’s Cave. Weather permitting, we will use our Zodiacs to explore closer. We continue to 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, puffins, kittiwakes and Manx shearwaters.
Day 7 - Day 7 St Kilda & Stac Lee, Outer Hebrides.
Arrive this morning at St Kilda, a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some 50 miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. Dominated by the highest cliffs and sea stacks in Britain, Hirta, St Kilda’s main island was occupied on and off for at least 2,000 years, with the last 36 Gaelic speaking inhabitants evacuated at their own request in 1930. Immediately after the evacuation, the island was bought by the Marquess of Bute to protect the island’s thousands of seabirds including puffins and fulmars, and in 1957 it was bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland. St Kilda is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites with dual status reflecting its natural and cultural significance. The local ranger will join us on board before our expedition staff lead several guided walks on the island. This afternoon we cruise past two of the largest gannetries in the world at Stac Lee and Boreray. These impressive stacs rise 170 metres from the sea and are home to up to 60,000 breeding pairs of northern gannet.
Day 8 - Day 8 Handa.
Spend the morning at sea, maybe join a lecture or find a spot on deck to watch for wildlife. Over lunch we arrive at Handa where we will use our Zodiacs to explore the magnificent sea cliffs of Torridonian sandstone which rise from the Atlantic. The island comes alive each spring when nearly 100,000 seabirds gather to breed, including internationally important numbers of guillemot, razorbill, puffins and great skua. Day 9 Westray & Papa Westray, Orkney Islands. Awake off the islands to the north of the Orkney mainland. On Westray we will visit Noup Head, an RSPB reserve on the sea cliffs and Notland Castle, an incomplete fortress built in the 16th century by Gilbert Balfour, Master of the Royal Household to Mary Queen of Scots, Sheriff of Orkney. Meanwhile in the main village of Pierowall we find the Westray Heritage Centre housing Neolithic carvings. Over lunch we sail the short distance to Papa Westray where there will be the opportunity for a number of island walks. You can also visit the 3500-year-old Knap of Howar, a Neolithic farm building that claims to be the oldest standing house in Europe and the 12th century St Boniface Kirk. In the north of the island is the North Hill Reserve, home to Arctic terns and skuas and also the extremely rare Scottish primrose. In the early evening we will meet at the Papay pub for a well-deserved pre-dinner drink.
Day 9 - Day 10 Fair Isle, Shetland Islands.
Anchor over breakfast off the remote island of Fair Isle. Located midway between the Shetland and Orkney Islands, the tiny population of sixty or so islanders always extend us a warm welcome. Enjoy a walk across the island searching out the puffin slopes, perhaps visit the community hall for a cup of tea or maybe purchase some of the famous knitwear. Sail over lunch and spend the afternoon at sea as we return to mainland Scotland.
Day 10 - Day 11 Inverness.
Disembark after breakfast. Transfers will be provided to Inverness Airport and Railway Station at a fixed time.
Day 11 - Please Note:
Itineraries are subject to change.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
28-04-202208-05-2022GBP £4,195Category 1 Bunk Bedded Cabin For Twin Use
28-04-202208-05-2022GBP £4,595Category 2 Standard Twin
28-04-202208-05-2022GBP £4,895Category 3 Superior Twin
28-04-202208-05-2022GBP £5,095Category 1 Bunk Bedded Cabin For Sole Use
28-04-202208-05-2022GBP £5,495Category 2 Standard Twin Sole Use


    • Visit Isles of Scilly, Lundy Island & Skomer Island
    • Travel to Holy Island, Wales & Calf of Man
    • Explore Staffa & Lunga
    • Discover Fair Isle