A cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT 

Explore history from the ancient Celts to World War II and get immersed in breathtaking scenery on a voyage to fabled islands, charming fishing villages, and dynamic cities of the British Isles and Ireland.

Starting at: $6,030 * Price includes special offer Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 The evocative Eilean Donan  Iona Abbey  Duart Castle, located on the Isle of Mull  The village of Tobermory, Isle of Mull  The formal rose garden and manor house at Bodnant Gardens   One of many types of gardens at Bodnant Gardens  Ha'Penny Bridge, Dublin  Trinity College Library, Dublin, home to the <i>Book of Kells</i>

Celtic Voyage: The Hebrides and the Irish Sea

Aboard the 184-guest Le Dumont-d’Urville

9 days from $6,030

A cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT 

Explore history from the ancient Celts to World War II and get immersed in breathtaking scenery on a voyage to fabled islands, charming fishing villages, and dynamic cities of the British Isles and Ireland.

or Call 855-330-1542

Overview

Delve into a realm of legends and lore as you cruise to historic sites and breathtaking landscapes across the British Isles and Ireland. Trace the legacy of early Christians on the mystical isle of Iona, and of Scottish clans and English kings at evocative castles on the Isle of Mull and in North Wales. Explore Irish history and culture in Dublin or Cork. Then follow Northern Ireland’s tumultuous past on the streets of Belfast, and encounter natural splendor from the geometric geology of Giant’s Causeway to the stunning Bodnant Gardens.  

The Smithsonian Journeys / PONANTExperience: Each cruise will be accompanied by two Smithsonian Journeys Experts. An excursion or activity is included in each port of call. You may have a choice of excursions in many ports, so that you can delve more deeply into subjects that interest you.

  • Scotland’s Hebrides: On tiny Iona, the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland, tour the monastery and meander among the churchyard’s intricate Celtic crosses. See the vividly painted houses of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, and delve into the intriguing history of the Clan MacLean at Duart Castle. 
  • Northern Ireland: Explore Belfast, including the stately buildings of city center; the Crumlin Road Gaol, in use from the Victorian era to the 1990s; and the fascinating Titanic Belfast museum, detailing the city’s role in building the infamous ship. Or travel along the coast to Northern Ireland’s most famous sites: the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Giant’s Causeway, and Dunluce Castle.  
  • Wales: Sail to northern Wales, where people maintain old traditions and Welsh remains the mother tongue. Explore the imposing 13th-century Caernarfon Castle on a guided tour, or meander through a stunning collection of rare plants from around the world at Bodnant Gardens. 
  • Ireland: Soak up the lively spirit of Cork, visiting its fortress or its historic old town and marketplace, or enjoying a tasting tour at the nearby Jameson Distillery.
  • Isles of Scilly and Wight: Explore the islands that dot England’s southern coast, venturing to Queen Victoria’s summer residence on the Isle of Wight, and spotting seabirds on a wildlife cruise in the Isles of Scilly.
  • Dover: Admire the iconic White Cliffs of Dover from above on a clifftop walk or explore Dover Castle, which played an important role in the rescue of soldiers from Dunkirk during World War II.

2023 Itinerary - London to Glasgow

Map - Celtic Voyage: The Hebrides and the Irish Sea

Day 1 — London, England, U.K.

Arrive in London and transfer to the port. Settle into your cabin before sailing out of the city on the River Thames. (D)

Day 2 — Dover

Your first port of call is Dover, known for the famous white cliffs that edge the coast. Delve into the history of this strategic town—the closest point to mainland Europe—on a visit to Dover Castle, originally built in the 12th-century on a site that has been fortified for some 2,000 years. Beneath the castle lies a network of tunnels from which Operation Dynamo was launched to rescue the solders trapped at Dunkirk during World War II. Explore the tunnels on a thrilling tour that includes the wartime hospital carved into the limestone walls. Alternatively, set out on an excursion to the medieval pilgrimage town of Canterbury, made famous by Chaucer’s tales, and visit its World Heritage-listed cathedral on a walking tour. Or go for a walk atop the White Cilffs of Dover, stopping in the cliff-top village of Capel-le-Ferne, and take in sweeping views from the Victorian South Foreland Lighthouse. (B, L, D)

Day 3 — Isle of Wight

Just off the southern coast of England lies the Isle of Wight, a favorite among yachters and once the haunt of Charles Dickens and other literary greats. Go ashore in the harbor town of Cowes and visit the Osborne House, an Italianate summer residence built by Queen Victoria. Explore this opulent mansion, left much as it was when the queen passed away here in 1901, and stroll the lovely gardens to outbuildings used by the royal family. (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Isles of Scilly

An archipelago of more than a hundred isles off the southwest tip of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly boast pristine, empty beaches and subtropical vegetation thanks to the warm currents of the Gulf Stream. Visit Tresco Abbey Gardens to see some of the rare plants and flowers that flourish on these islands. Or set off on a wildlife cruise among the rugged, uninhabited eastern isles, on the lookout for rare Atlantic gray seals and large numbers of sea birds, including gannets, shearwaters, and puffins.(B,L,D)

Day 5 — Kinsale, Ireland

Trace Ireland’s southern coast to the charming fishing village of Kinsale in County Cork. Embark on one of several excursions to the dynamic university town of Cork. Visit an 18th-century fort and prison on Spike Island in Cork Harbour before a city tour. Or take a walking tour of Cork’s historic center and stop to see vendors selling local produce at the English Market, established in 1788 housed in an architecturally stunning hall. Alternatively, enjoy a tasting tour of the Jameson Distillery before visiting the city highlights. (B, L, D)

Day 6 — Holyhead, Wales

Arrive in Holyhead, and travel across the Isle of Anglesey and over the Menai Strait to North Wales, one of the cradles of Celtic culture. Here, the people hold fast to the old ways, and Welsh remains their mother tongue. Choose to travel into the foothills of Snowdonia for a visit Bodnant Garden, one of the finest examples of 19th-century Victorian landscape design. With spring in full bloom, admire a collection of rare plants from all over the world that was begun by a renowned scientist in the 1870s. Or take a guided tour of Caernarfon Castle, one of four northern Welsh castles built by Edward I that have been collectively designated a World Heritage site. With its unique polygonal towers and multi-colored masonry, the castle dominates the surrounding town. Its symbolic status was underscored in 1284, when Edward made certain that his son was born here and declared Prince of Wales. The current heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, was crowned Prince of Wales here in 1969. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Belfast, Northern Ireland

Dock in Northern Ireland’s capital city, located at the end of Belfast Lough. Spend the day discovering this intriguing city and its turbulent past. See the stately buildings of city center, including the Grand Opera House and Albert Memorial Clock Tower, and stroll through the grounds of Queens University to Belfast's celebrated Botanic Gardens. Explore Crumlin Road Gaol, a Victorian-era jail that housed prisoners as late as the 1990s. After lunch, take an afternoon tour of Titanic Belfast, a state-of-the-art experiential museum on the site of the shipyard where the ill-fated ship was built. Or set out on a full day excursion to some of North Ireland’s most celebrated sites. Follow the coast through beautiful scenery to the vantage point at Fair Head and Murlough Bay to take in views of the Scottish Isles. Continue to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, a narrow bridge over an 80-foot chasm that connects the mainland to a tiny island. View thousands of hexagonal basalt columns at World Heritage-listed Giant's Causeway, and learn the legends associated with the site.  On the way back to Belfast, make a brief stop at Dunluce Castle. Or choose a walking tour of Belfast that ends with Irish dance performance at a local pub. (B,L,D)

Day 8 - Iona and Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Begin your day on the mystical isle of Iona, where  St. Columba founded a monastery In A.D. 563, establishing Christianity in Scotland. Here, scribes would painstakingly copy and illuminate religious tracts and transcribe ancient Celtic sagas, preserving a record of oral bardic tradition. Iona later became the burial place of Scotland’s kings, including Duncan and Macbeth. On a guided tour of Iona Abbey, stroll through the serene, restored monastery and see the churchyard’s intricate Celtic crosses. Board the ferry to the Isle of Mull, and enjoy lunch before a visit to Duart Castle. Perched on a rocky promontory jutting into the sound, the castle is the ancestral home of Clan Maclean. Delve into the clan’s fascinating history as you visit dungeons where Spanish prisoners were held following the sinking of the Spanish Armada in 1588. You’ll have the opportunity to climb to the top of the 13th-century keep and the battlements to take in views as far as Ben Nevis. Take in beautiful views of the Sound of Mull on a drive to the town of Tobermory, nestled between the hills and the picturesque harbor. Stroll along the waterfront lined with brightly painted rowhouses. (B,L,D)

Day 9 - Glasgow, Scotland / Return Home

After breakfast this morning, disembark the ship in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city and a lively hub of art and architecture. Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B) 

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)