Coastal Gardens of Britain & Ireland

Coastal Gardens of Britain & Ireland

From GBP £5,095


During the month of May our western shores and Ireland become alive with colour. This is a spectacularly beautiful time when many of the gardens, estates and national parks are at their most appealing and the countryside will be lush and inviting. The gardens of Britain and Ireland have a unique quality and from the formal and manicured, to the wilder and more natural, our itinerary includes some of the most beautiful and diverse gardens which in spring are a sight to gladden any heart.

Of course our main emphasis will be on gardens and amongst the highlights are visits to the stunning sub-tropical Abbey Gardens on Tresco; some delightful Irish gardens which have a unique quality, the ‘soft’ weather and green mountain backdrops making for lovely views; and the splendid gardens of Gigha, which defy the Atlantic elements so admirably. Each day there will also be the opportunity to experience the sheer diversity of the coastline, see the resident wildlife, enjoy the wonderful views on offer and appreciate the history of the region.

All of this makes for a most appealing sea journey whether you be an avid gardener, birdwatcher or simply enjoy sailing past and visiting some of the most enchanting places in the world. Over the course of eleven days we will visit all of the UK’s four countries and, in the company of just 100 or so fellow guests, we will be able to discover many fascinating yet little-visited destinations that are otherwise inaccessible to the larger ships.

Trip Name
Coastal Gardens of Britain & Ireland
Vessel Type: Expedition Length: 90.6 metres Passenger Capacity: 118 Built / Refurbished: 1992 / 2016 The MS Hebridean Sky is one of our three flag ships and sister vessel to the MS Island Sky and MS Caledonian Sky. All three vessels were built in the same ship yard in Italy at similar times and share the same excellent attributes that make them three of the finest small ships in the world. Formerly known as the Sea Explorer, the vessel underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment in Sweden in Spring 2016 before being re-launched as the MS Hebridean Sky. Your Suite. On board there are 59 exceptionally spacious and well-designed suites. All feature a sitting area and fourteen suites have private balconies. The feeling of luxury is enhanced by the wood panelling and brass which predominates throughout the vessel conveying the atmosphere of a private yacht. The passenger accommodation is arranged over five decks and all suites have outside views with suites on the Scott and Shackleton Decks featuring private balconies. Each suite affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring vanity unit with sink and walk-in rainfall shower, large wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool and excellent storage. There is a minifridge, flat screen television and a telephone in each suite. Refillable water bottles, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort. Additional facilities include a programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted Molton Brown toiletries and individually controlled air-conditioning and heating. Soft hues and blended tones enhance the traditional maritime style making the passenger accommodation an inviting and relaxing place to be. The beds in each suite can be configured as twins or double with the exception of suite 601 and 602 which feature fixed double beds. The impressive Hebridean Suite, located on the Shackleton Deck consists of a separate bathroom and sitting room with extra large balcony stretching the length of the suite. Additional benefits of booking this marvellous suite include complimentary mini-bar stocked with your preferences and complimentary laundry. Your Space. The spacious and finely decorated public rooms on board the MS Hebridean Sky include a large lounge on the Byrd Deck featuring a selection of seating options from individual armchairs and sofas to side cushioned benches. Daily briefings given by the Cruise Director and talks from Guest Speakers and expedition staff take place in The Lounge which is fitted with the highest standard of presentation equipment including multiple screens. In addition to the Lounge, there is also The Club, located on the Mawson Deck which features the main bar where the onboard pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The Club also offers a 24-hour tea and coffee station. Towards the aft of the ship on the Mawson Deck is The Library which is well stocked with reference books pertaining to the destinations the vessel is visiting and a selection of essential reads. A collection of games and devices to access the internet via the ship’s satellite can also be found in the library. Access to the ship’s satellite Wi-Fi via your own device is complimentary on board (signal strength varies depending on location and demand). The Dining Room which can seat all guests at one sitting is located on the Amundsen Deck and is a bright and charming setting to enjoy the delicious meals on board. Outside there is a rear Lido Deck located on the Scott Deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. Whilst heaters and blankets make dining al fresco comfortable in cooler climates. Further to this, on the top Shackleton Deck there is an observation area which offers a fantastic platform for spotting wildlife complete with deck furniture, ideal for relaxing with a book or catching up with fellow travellers. You will also find a clinic and Doctor on board and a lift that serves all decks. Additionally there is a small hairdressers with appointments made on request. Your Dining. It is quite a task to create a dining experience as that found on board our Sky vessels when you are cruising in far-flung corners of the globe, indeed it takes a team of highly talented chefs to deliver fresh, varied dishes no matter where you are at sea. Fortunately, our catering teams are well adapted to the world of small ship cruising where no two days are the same and the menus are often scheduled and tailored around the days’ excursions. With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the cuisine on board is of a consistent superior quality that befits such vessels. Where possible and when it meets their high standards, our accomplished chefs will obtain local produce in markets. Such purchases enhance the well-stocked larders and enable the chefs on board to exhibit their culinary skills and bring a local touch to the varied menus, emphasising the international expertise of the chefs on board. Afternoon tea and pre-dinner canapés take place every day in either the comfort of the Lounge or out on the Lido Deck when the weather is favourable. Tea and coffee are also available 24 hours a day. Special diets can be catered for with sufficient notice. In keeping with the informal atmosphere on board, when dining you are able to choose your seating arrangements at your leisure. Whether that be joining a table of four to six other passengers outside on the Lido Deck in the evening’s sunshine or whether you prefer to enjoy meals in the à la carte restaurant. For those travelling alone, our onboard friendly restaurant staff will take care to ensure you are seated with other like-minded travellers. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order on request. Lunch and dinner are à la carte with an excellent choice of dishes, with the menu reflecting the daily catch or local delicacies. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with both meals and there is also a comprehensive wine list with a wide selection of new and old world wines from which to choose. The onboard catering and restaurant staff are experienced at sea and enthuse a passion for superb service. Whether it be ensuring you have an outdoor blanket as you enjoy the crisp sea breeze on the Lido Deck or sharing their knowledge of the characteristics of the days’ wine selections, you will experience a service on board like no other. You may also enjoy sumptuous barbeques on deck whilst at times, the chef will make your dish to order at special pasta or stir fry stations. For Your Comfort. The MS Hebridean Sky is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilizers to minimize the ship’s motion. During your voyage we hope to offer the opportunity to visit the Captain and Officers on the Bridge to check the vessels progress by charts and learn more about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and Doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to a specific area on deck. Life Onboard. If large resort-style vessels accommodating many thousands of passengers are your ideal, then our ships are not for you as you will not find endless entertainment, round the clock buffets and the people management which is so much a part of today’s big ship on board style. However, if like us you prefer a more peaceful life at sea you will find our flagships the perfect vessels. When choosing your next voyage the choice of vessels is astounding. You can select a ship carrying in excess of 4000 passengers with impersonal service or join us aboard the MS Caledonian Sky, MS Island Sky or MS Hebridean Sky where peace, high quality service and attention to detail are the order of the day. We promise there will be no organised entertainment, fancy dress, deck games or any of the usual big ship experiences. Instead, the atmosphere is warm and convivial and more akin to a private yacht or country hotel in which you can learn more about the wonders of nature, culture and ancient civilisations in the company of like-minded people. A little music in the lounge or bar after dinner, Guest Speakers and informative port briefings from our Expedition Leader or Cruise Director and of course good food with wine included at lunch and dinner, all contribute to make any voyage aboard these wonderful vessels a memorable and joyful experience. After a day ashore you will return to the comfort and peace of an exceedingly comfortable ship. The daily programme on board is in the capable hands of our Cruise Director or Expedition Leader and staff who coordinate with the Captain and Officers to make the most of each day. Briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage together with a ‘Daily Programme’ that is distributed every evening to your suite outlining the next day’s activities. Dress on board is casual and relaxed and there will be no ‘black tie’ evenings.


Day 1 - Day 1 Portsmouth, England.
Embark this afternoon. Transfers will be provided from Portsmouth Harbour Railway Station at a fixed time. Enjoy welcome drinks and dinner as we sail this evening.
Day 2 - Day 2 Guernsey & Sark, Channel Islands.
Arriving in the Channel Islands on the island of Guernsey, we take a panoramic drive during which we will see the beautiful coastline, rocky cliffs and wild sandy bays. Along the coast we will also see the Martello Towers built during the Napoleonic wars and the fortifications built by the Germans during the occupation in the second world war. Return to the ship via country lanes and the Little Chapel, built in 1914 as a miniature version of the famous basilica at Lourdes and covered in fragments of shattered china, seashells and pebbles. Over lunch we sail to Sark where we will use our Zodiacs to land on this peaceful traffic-free island. Horse-drawn carriages take us along the narrow lanes alive with the songs of chaffinches, skylarks and mistle thrush as we see the narrow isthmus which joins Little Sark and Big Sark and the enchanting gardens at La Seigneurie.
Day 3 - Day 3 Fowey.
Anchor this morning in the River Fowey, our base for a day exploring this picturesque part of Cornwall. We will make our way to Caerhays Castle and Garden. Situated between St Mawes and Mevagissey in a secluded valley above Porthluney Cove, this is one of the great gardens of Cornwall. The estate is one of the oldest in the country and home to a National Magnolia Collection. The origins of the historically important collection of magnolias can be traced back to the work of the great plant hunters, Ernest Wilson and George Forrest and the 120 acre woodland gardens are a springtime wonderland. This afternoon you may wish to explore the town at your own pace or join one of our expedition team on the Fowey Hall Walk, a circular four mile hike through woodland and across the tranquil Pont Creek which offers wonderful views over Fowey Harbour. Alternatively, we hope to explore the river with our Zodiacs and heading north we will see the town of Golant and tranquil Penpol Creek.
Day 4 - Day 4 Tresco & Bryher, Isles of Scilly.
From our central anchorage, we will use our Zodiacs to visit 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 at your own pace along the paths, maybe visit the Valhalla collection of ship figureheads from ships wrecked on the islands or relax in the café. This afternoon we tender ashore to Bryher, the smallest of the inhabited Isles of Scilly where you can wander along the tracks that cross the island amongst hedgerows and fields bursting with wildflowers. Those feeling active may wish to climb Watch Hill, where in the past islanders would keep watch for ships in distress or, alternatively, take a stroll to one of the beautiful beaches.
Day 5 - Day 5 Waterford, Ireland.
From our berth in the town of Waterford we will drive to Mount Congreve, a spectacular woodland garden on the banks of the River Suir. This privately owned seventy acre garden has a collection of over three thousand trees and shrubs and is particularly stunning in early summer when the gardens are awash with magnificent sweeps of flowering azaleas, camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons. Enjoy time to walk the numerous paths bordered with wisterias or bluebells and visit the vantage points with views over the landscape and meadows beyond. Return to the ship for lunch and a free afternoon to explore Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city, at your own pace. Maybe visit the excellent Medieval Museum, the Viking built Reginald’s Tower or the House of Waterford Crystal.
Day 6 - Day 6 Dun Laoghaire.
After breakfast we will drive out into the Wicklow Mountains and the wonderfully sited gardens of Powerscourt. Spread out over 47 acres we will explore the Italianate Terraces, the Japanese Garden, where the azaleas should be in bloom, and maybe take a walk through the wooded Tower Valley. We will enjoy lunch before continuing to Mount Usher, a lovely romantic garden on the banks of the River Vartry with over 5,000 species of plants and shrubs. We hope to see magnolias and crocuses line the pathways as we stroll through the grounds. Alternatively, you may prefer to spend the day in Dublin and our onboard staff will be able to advise on travel arrangements to the city centre.
Day 7 - Day 7 Llandudno, Wales.
Spend the morning at Bodnant Garden, which is situated above the River Conwy and has stunning views across Snowdonia. Begun in 1875, Bodnant Garden is the creation of four generations of Aberconways and features huge Italianate terraces and formal lawns on its upper level, with a wooded valley, stream and wild garden below. There are dramatic colours throughout the season and in spring we can enjoy swathes of daffodils, camellias, magnolias, and rhododendrons. This afternoon maybe explore Llandudno at your own pace. Developed as an upmarket holiday town for Victorian visitors, this seaside town still retains much of its 19th century grandeur, with graceful wedding-cake architecture lining its sweeping waterfront promenade. Alternatively, join a tour to Plas Cadnant, a hidden historic garden that is slowly being uncovered. Three different gardens have been discovered: an unusual walled garden; a secret valley garden with three waterfalls; and an upper woodland garden with stone outcrops and the remains of a 19th century folly. Work started on restoring the gardens and grounds in 1997 and large parts of the gardens have undergone a spectacular transformation and have been restored to their former glory.
Day 8 - Day 8 Belfast, Northern Ireland.
This morning we will make our way to the famous gardens at Mount Stewart which were planted in the 1920s by Edith, Lady Londonderry and are of international importance. The magnificent series of outdoor ‘rooms’ and vibrant parterres contain many rare plants that thrive in the mild climate of the Ards Peninsula. The formal areas exude a strong Mediterranean feel and resemble an Italian villa landscape; the wooded areas support a range of plants from all corners of the world. There will be time to explore the opulent house which reveals a fascinating heritage and historic world-famous artefacts and artwork. Do not leave without taking in the magnificent views of Strangford Lough from the Temple of the Winds. Return to the ship for lunch and the afternoon is free to relax on board, explore the city of Belfast at your own pace or maybe make an independent visit to the Titanic Experience. Located by the site of the ship’s construction, this museum tells the story of the Titanic from her conception through her construction and launch in 1911.
Day 9 - Day 9 Gigha, Scotland.
Spend the morning at sea as we sail to Scotland, arriving on Gigha over lunch. Gigha is a place apart; heather covered hills, deserted beaches and a single lane verged with wildflowers that meander for some six miles between cottages and farms. Privately owned by its 120 inhabitants, it is a gem of a place and somewhere not easily forgotten. After landing by Zodiac, we will walk to the gardens of Achamore House where the Horlick family have created a lovely and eclectic garden with their collection of azaleas, rhododendrons and exotic plants.
Day 10 - Day 10 Arduaine Gardens & Colonsay.
Sail this morning along the Argyll coast to our anchorage at Ardfern. From here we will drive to Arduaine, a special National Trust for Scotland garden. This delightful woodland garden enjoys the benefits from the warming effect of the North Atlantic Drift and is a paradise for plant lovers. Take a walk through the woodland to the coastal viewpoint and enjoy superb views of the Sound of Jura or spend some time relaxing at the water garden. Lying between Mull and Islay, we will spend the afternoon exploring the island of Colonsay with her craggy, heather-clad hills and sparse woodland yet impressive array of plants and birdlife. Near Colonsay House, built in 1722 by Malcolm MacNeil and bought by Lord Strathcona in 1904, we will visit the attractively dilapidated woodland gardens which protect the tiny, enigmatic 8th century St Oran’s Cross.
Day 11 - Day 11 Oban.
Disembark this morning after breakfast. Transfers will be provided to Glasgow International Airport and Glasgow Central Railway Station at a fixed time.
Day 12 - Please Note:
Itineraries are subject to change.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
11-05-202321-05-2023GBP £5,095Amundsen Deck Standard Suite
11-05-202321-05-2023GBP £6,795Shackleton Deck Owner's Balcony Suite
11-05-202321-05-2023GBP £6,795Byrd Deck Superior Sole
11-05-202321-05-2023GBP £7,795Shackleton Deck Hebridean Suite
11-05-202321-05-2023GBP £5,295Byrd Deck Superior Suite
11-05-202321-05-2023GBP £5,595Mawson Deck Premium Suite
11-05-202321-05-2023GBP £5,995Mawson Deck Corner Suite
11-05-202321-05-2023GBP £6,495Amundsen Deck Standard Sole
11-05-202321-05-2023GBP £6,495Scott Deck Deluxe Balcony Suite


    • Travelling with You
    • Mike Nelhams. Mike Nelhams first went to Tresco on a Studley Trust Scholarship as a student in 1976. He trained for three years at the Royal Horticultural Society Garden, Wisley and after managing a woodland garden in Sussex for five years he returned to Tresco Abbey Garden in 1984 as Head Gardener and then in 1994 took the post of Garden Curator which was established for him. He is an RHS judge on the Tender Plants Committee, judging regularly at Chelsea, Hampton Court and London RHS shows and also is a frequent lecturer throughout the English-speaking world. He has published a book, “Tresco Abbey Garden” and has made many appearances on national TV and radio, as well as having written many articles for the horticultural press. Mike has a particular interest in plants from the Mediterranean and associated coastal regions of the world. A Fellow of the Institute of Horticulture and an Associate of Honour of the Royal Horticultural Society, Mike regularly leads garden tours.