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

2023 Post-Cruise Program — 3 Days, 2 Nights

The Scottish Highlands encompass some of the most romantic and storied landscapes in the world. Famous for their rugged beauty, they are also home to a vigorous Gaelic pride and the site of many battles in the struggle for autonomy from England. This program provides an introduction to all of these aspects of Highland culture, as well as a tasting of local whisky, without which any visit to the region is incomplete.

Day 1 – Disembark / Glasgow, Scotland / Inverness

After breakfast aboard and disembarkation, board your motorcoach for a leisurely journey to Inverness. Begin with a panoramic tour of Glasgow, including Georgian Blythswood Square, the impressive façade of the University of Glasgow, the quiet residential area of Hyndland—home to several noted authors, poets and actors—and the Riverside Museum, where you can see ships plying their trade on the river Clyde as they have done for millennia. Leave Glasgow and drive northwards through the beautiful scenery of Trossachs National Park to Loch Lomond, the largest freshwater lake in Britain, where your guide will regale you with stories of Rob Roy, the 17th-century Scottish outlaw made famous by Sir Walter Scott. Continue to picturesque Glencoe, situated in a steep-sided valley known for its waterfalls and impressive mountain peaks, where you pause for lunch, before visiting the award-winning Glencoe visitor center to learn more about the history and geology of this region. 

As you continue northward through the wonderfully scenic Great Glen, you pass by Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, and stop briefly at the Commando Memorial, dedicated to the men of the British Commando Forces whose training depot the memorial overlooks. Follow the route of the Caledonian Canal, built in the early 19th-century to connect Scotland's east and west coasts, pausing at the small town of Fort Augustus, on the southern tip of Loch Ness, before continuing along the shores of this legendary home of the Loch Ness Monster to Inverness. On arrival in Inverness, check-in to the Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel, your home for the next two nights. Dinner is independent and at your leisure.

Inverness Palace Hotel

Day 2 – Inverness

After breakfast at the hotel, a short drive across the Moray Firth and through the countryside brings you to the Glen Ord Distillery, where the famous Singleton single malt whisky is made. A guided tour of the facility and a nosing and tasting led by an experienced whisky sommelier is followed by time to explore the distillery's exhibition area or browse their gift shop. Returning to Inverness, enjoy a guided walking tour of this 'capital of the Highlands'. Explore Inverness Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew, and stroll along the River Ness toward the city center, for splendid views of Inverness Castle. Your guide will explain the legend of the encounter between a saint and a water monster that continues to attract visitors to the region, and as you walk up Church Street, lined with many grand buildings, you will also learn about the Jacobite uprising and its end in 1746 at the battle of nearby Culloden Moor.

Reaching the top of Castle Hill, you will enjoy a brilliant view of the River Ness and hear the history of the castle, of Mary Queen of Scot’s visit to Inverness, and of Flora MacDonald, the Highland heroine who saved the life of Bonnie Prince Charlie by disguising him as a maid. Your walking tour ends at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, where you can discover more of the fascinating history and culture of the city of Inverness and the Scottish Highlands as you browse the museum's exhibits celebrating Highland life. The remainder of the day is at leisure, with independent lunch and dinner.

Inverness Palace Hotel

Day 3 – Inverness / Homeward

After breakfast at the hotel and check out, transfer to the airport for flights homeward.

Your hotel:

Inverness Palace Hotel is Inverness’s newest 4-star hotel, combining the best of the past with the contemporary style of the present.  The building was designed by Ross & MacBeth and opened in 1890. It is a Baronial-style three-story building, with two conical-roofed towers, connected by an arch. Each room is individually styled, combining traditional period features with the comfort of modern living. Elegant modern fabrics and sophisticated finishes decorate the rooms, which feature grand high ceilings and large windows offering fabulous views. There is a Spa and Wellness Center on the property, as well as two restaurants.

Your program includes:

  • 2 nights at the Inverness Palace Hotel (or similar)
  • Transfer and luggage handling from the ship to the hotel on disembarkation day
  • Transfer and luggage handling from the hotel to the airport on Day 3
  • Breakfast on Days 2 and 3
  • Lunch on Day 1
  • Sightseeing and programming as noted in the itinerary
  • Local English-speaking guides
  • Gratuities for the drivers and local guides

Your program does not include:

  • Transfer from the hotel to the airport on any day other than the scheduled program departure day
  • Personal expenses and other services and meals not mentioned as included in the program 

Please note:

  • It is imperative that your flight departure details are communicated at least 30 days prior to the beginning of your cruise in order to secure your transfer from the hotel to the airport.
  • Late check-out is available depending on availability and at a supplement. An additional night is possible, upon request and depending on hotel availability. Please contact reservations or your travel agent for further details.
  • The official currency is the British pound. Credit cards are largely accepted in hotels, shops, and restaurants.
  • This post-cruise program is offered as a package. There will be no refunds for unused accommodations, meals, or excursions. 
  • Program is offered on a space available basis and is subject to change without notice. 

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)

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