Island Hopping in the Hebrides

Island Hopping in the Hebrides

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Words do not do justice to the spectacular beauty, rich wildlife and fascinating history of the Inner and Outer Hebrides which we will explore during this expedition aboard the Ocean Nova. One of Europe’s last true remaining wilderness areas affords the traveller a marvellous island hopping journey through stunning scenery accompanied by spectacular sunsets and prolific birdlife. With our naturalists and local guides, and our fleet of nimble Zodiacs, we are able to visit some of the most remote and uninhabited islands that surround the Scottish coast including the Shiant Isles, St Kilda and the small island community of Iona.

Having arranged hundreds of small ship cruises around Scotland, we have realised that everyone takes something different from the experience. Learn something of the history of the islands, see their 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. We are indeed fortunate in having such marvellous places so close to home. Now, more than ever there is a great appreciation for the peace, beauty and culture of this special corner of the UK. Whether your interest lies in horticulture or the natural world, history or bird watching or simply being there to witness the beauty of the islands, this trip will lift the spirits and gladden the heart.

Trip Name
Island Hopping in the Hebrides
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 Oban, Scotland
Embark this afternoon. Transfers will be provided from Glasgow Central Railway Station and Glasgow International Airport at a fixed time. Enjoy welcome drinks and dinner as we sail this evening.
Day 2 - Day 2 Tiree & Coll.
Today we will visit the most westerly of the Inner Hebrides, Tiree and Coll. Boasting one of the sunniest locations in the UK, Tiree is a wildflower and birdlife haven with shell-sand blown machair grasslands and white beaches known for their natural beauty and colour. We will also visit Coll, first settled in the Stone Age this rocky, wild and virtually treeless island is dotted with ruined cottages and offers good birding opportunities including the possibility to spot or hear the corncrake amidst the grasslands and moors. We will arrive at Loch Scavaig this evening and will anchor here overnight.
Day 3 - Day 3 Loch Scavaig & Wiay Island
This morning we will explore lovely Loch Scavaig on the island of Skye. Just beyond is the freshwater Loch Corruisk with its breathtakingly beautiful view over the Cuillins. This is great walking country and our expedition team will run a series of hikes for all interests. For those who prefer a less energetic morning, our Zodiacs will explore the coast looking out for seals. Enjoy lunch on board as we enjoy a picturesque cruise along the coast of Skye. We plan to stop in Loch Bracadale and enjoy a Zodiac cruise around the coast of Wiay Island in search of black guillemots and nesting shags whilst exploring the many inlets and arches in the basaltic lava which makes up the island.
Day 4 - Day 4 Isle of Lewis
Wake up today on the Isle of Lewis. On leaving the island capital Stornoway, we will head across the island to the beautiful west coast. Described as Scotland’s Stonehenge, the Callanish Standing Stones date from around 3000 BC, there are a total of 32 stones in a circular and avenue design which stand like a petrified forest on the flat top of a peninsula which reaches out into East Loch Roag. We will also visit the Dun Carloway Pictish Broch, probably built sometime 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. Our final stop is the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, a reconstructed settlement of traditional black houses which were 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 such as weaving and take in the views at this dramatic site on the wild Atlantic coast. There will be the chance to enjoy some time at leisure before we return to the ship for dinner.
Day 5 - Day 5 Shiant Isles & Inverewe.
This morning we will spend time 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 see the abundant birdlife and seals. Over lunch we will sail the short distance to Inverewe where we will have the opportunity to visit one of Scotland’s premier gardens. This botanical garden in the northwest Highlands presents an amazing collection of exotic trees and shrubs that are sheltered by well-positioned windbreaks of native pine. After a guided tour of the gardens, we will return to the ship and set sail before dinner.
Day 6 - Day 6 St Kilda.
Arrive over breakfast in 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 2000 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 puffin and fulmars, and in 1957 it was bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland. St Kilda is one of only a 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 a number of guided walks on the island. Later, 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 7 - Day 7 Staffa, Iona & Lunga.
In the early morning we anchor off 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 these caverns more closely. Later this morning we land on Iona. For more than a thousand years the island of Iona has been a place of deep spiritual significance and no less than 62 Kings of Scotland are buried here. 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’. In the afternoon we will sail 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 8 - Day 8 Oban.
Disembark this morning. Transfers will be provided to Glasgow Central Station and Glasgow International Airport to arrive in the late morning.

Trip Dates

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    • The Shiants are a small group of islands in the Hebrides, in North West Scotland, four miles or so off the coast of Lewis and 12 from the northern tip of Skye, which lies almost due south of them.