A cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT

Uncover the legacy of ancient civilizations from prehistory to the Vikings as you sail from Norway’s fjord-carved coast to the far-flung Scottish isles.  

Starting at: $6,880 * Price includes special offer Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands
 Traditional Viking boats in Norway
 Typical village along the Sognefjord
 Norway's beautiful Flam Valley
 The famous Flam Railroad amid Norway's dramatic landscape
 The fjords of Bergen
 The World Heritage site of Bryggen, in the town of Bergen
 Panorama of Bergen
 Evocative landscape of the Shetland Islands
 The town of Lerwick, capital of the Shetland Islands
 Archaeological site of Jarlshof, Shetland Islands
 Archaeological site of Jarlshof, Shetland Islands
 Mousa Broch, Shetland Islands
 Group of Shag on Mousa, Shetland Islands
 A Neolithic stone house at Skara Brae, Orkney Islands
 Skara Brae
 St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands
 The evocative Eilean Donan
 Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye
 Glenfinnan Monument
 Traditional steam train at Glenfinnan Viaduct

Scottish Isles and Norwegian Fjords Voyage

Aboard the 184-guest Le Champlain, Le Bellot, or Le Laperouse

8 days from $6,880

A cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT

Uncover the legacy of ancient civilizations from prehistory to the Vikings as you sail from Norway’s fjord-carved coast to the far-flung Scottish isles.  

or Call 855-330-1542

Overview

Follow in the wake of ancient seafarers on a voyage from Norway’s spectacular coast to the far-flung archipelagos of Scotland. Experience the majesty of the Norwegian fjords by train and cable car, encountering glaciers, traditional fishing villages, and breathtaking vistas. Then sail to the Shetland and Orkney Islands to explore prehistoric sites and the legacy of the Vikings, and observe vast colonies of breeding seabirds. Round Scotland’s northern coast and spend a magical day learning local legends on the mystical Isle of Skye and end your journey amid the grandeur of the Scottish Highlands.

The Smithsonian Journeys / PONANT Experience: 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.   

Highlights Include:

  • Norwegian Fjords and Glaciers: Take in spectacular scenery while cruising through Sognefjord—Norway's longest fjord— and embark on a thrilling train journey aboard the Flåm Railway. Cruise deeper into the fjords and set out from the village of Olden to encounter continental Europe’s largest ice cap, exploring the edge of a glacier or riding a cable car for a panoramic view of the ice.  
  • Shetland Islands: At the crossroads where Scotland meets Scandinavia, discover the extraordinary settlement of Jarlshof, inhabited for 5,000 years; trace history and local culture on an in-depth tour of Lerwick; or go hiking on the Island of Mousa to encounter seabirds and marine life.    
  • Orkney Islands: Visit the settlement of Skara Brae, and see the Neolithic Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. Then visit lively Kirkwall to see its Viking-built cathedral.
  • Isle of Skye and Scottish Highlands: Visit Eilean Donan Castle and Armadale Castle; or spend the day discovering the rugged Isle of Skye from the Trotternish Peninsula to Dunvegan Castle. From Fort William, head into the Scottish Highlands on a scenic drive, tour Fort Augustus, and enjoy a cruise on the infamous—and beautiful—Loch Ness. 
  • Please note that the direction of the cruise varies depending on the departure date. Details are outlined in the itinerary section below.

2024 Itinerary - Bergen to Glasgow, June 8-15

Map - Scottish Isles and Norwegian Fjords Voyage

Day 1 — Bergen, Norway

Arrive in Bergen, a city founded on an old Viking settlement in 1070 that was an important part of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire from the 14th to mid-16th centuries. Embark the ship this afternoon and navigate the fjords and islands of Norway’s coast.

Day 2 — Flåm / Cruising the Norwegian Fjords

In the heart of fjord country, board the Flåm Railway for a magnificent morning journey. This masterpiece of Norwegian engineering—the steepest standard‑gauge railway track in Europe—opened to the public in 1940. Only 12 miles long, the railway runs from Flåm, at sea level, to Myrdal Station, at an altitude of 2,850 feet, featuring tunnels and switchbacks and ever-changing views of waterfalls, mountain hamlets, and snowcapped mountains. Make a brief stop at Kjosfossen to photograph this spectacular 300-foot-high waterfall. (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Olden

Early this morning, arrive in the picturesque village of Olden, perched at the end of a meandering fjord.  Located near Jostedalsbreen National Park—home to Europe’s largest ice cap—this little village is perfect base for exploring the Briksdal or Kjenndalen glaciers. Choose a walk along Stryn Lake, and then ride a cable car 3300 feet to the top of Mount Hoven. Here, have a coffee while taking in spectacular views of the fjord and villages below, as well as the surrounding mountains. While at Mount Hoven, you may go on a short walk to soak up the scenery around you. Or enjoy a scenic drive through Oldedalen Valley to Briksdal glacier, and approach the glacier by electric “troll car.” Take a walk to the blue-hued face of the glacier and learn about the geological forces that keep the ice in constant motion. Enjoy views of Norway’s phenomenal coastal scenery as we make our way to the open sea this afternoon. (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Dock in Lerwick, the capital of the majestic Shetland Islands,which were declared a Global Geopark by UNESCO for their geologically diverse, ice-carved landscapes. These remote islands have a unique 6000-year-old culture that lives on in their archaeological sites, dialect, and traditional music. Set out on the excursion of your choice: Journey to the archaeological site of Jarlshof, an extraordinary settlement that reveals 5,000 years of human history, from late Neolithic stone houses and a Bronze Age village to Norse longhouses, a medieval farmstead, and a 16th-century laird’s house. Continue to Sumburgh Head, site of Shetland's first lighthouse (1821) and home to a colony of puffins, guillemots, shags, and fulmars. Our voyage coincides with breeding season, when each species has its special nesting place in the grassy banks and cliffs leading up to the lighthouse. Off the coast, watch for harbor porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, orcas, or minke whales.

Alternatively, take a walking tour of Lerwick, once northern Europe’s herring capital, visiting its piers and its 19th-century town hall, and exploring its narrow lanes.  End the tour learning about the islands’ heritage and culture at the award-winning Shetland Museum and Archives. Or ride the ferry to the Island of Mousa for a hike. The island is known for grey and common seals, black guillemots, Arctic terns, and especially storm petrels, whose nearly 7,000 breeding pairs on the island constitute 3% of the world population. Visit Mousa Broch, a 2,000-year-old tower that is the best-preserved Iron Age fortress in the British Isles. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

Sheltered in a wide bay, the lively town of Kirkwall welcomes us with its charming alleyways edged by old houses and craft shops.Set out to explore the Neolithic treasures of the Orkney Islands, including the Ring of Brodgar, the third largest stone circle in the British Isles, raised 5,000 years ago to chart the seasons. See the ceremonial Stones of Stenness and visit the settlement of Skara Brae, the best-preserved Neolithic village in Northern Europe. Among the fascinating relics found here are tools, beads, pottery, and whalebone artifacts, spanning a period of approximately 600 years of occupation. Then visit Skaill House, a historic manor built by Bishop George Graham in 1620. Trace the history of Kirkwall’s enduring symbol—the towering St. Magnus Cathedral, built by the Vikings and known as the “Light of the North.” (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Isle of Skye

Spend the day on the Isle of Skye, discovering its ethereal landscapes on your choice of two excursions. From the village of Kyle of Lochalsh, travel across rolling green moors of the Scottish mainland to Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most iconic castles in the world. Continue to the Isle of Skye and Armadale Castle, an important part of local life since the early 18th century, when the chiefs of Clan Donald made it their residence.  Take a stroll in the spectacular gardens, where the mild Gulf Stream temperatures nurture carpets of bluebells, orchids, and wildflowers. If you wish, visit the award-winning Museum of the Isles to learn about the history and culture of the area. Or enjoy a full-day exploration of the island: learn the myths associated with the wild landscapes of the Trotternish Peninsula; see traditional cottages at the Skye Museum of Island Life; and tour stunning Dunvegan Castle, continuously inhabited by the Clan MacLeod since the 13th century. End the day with free time in the charming fishing port of Portree. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Fort William and Scottish Highlands

Spend the day immersed in the beauty of the legendary Scottish Highlands. Take a wonderfully scenic drive though Scotland's Great Glen along the shores of Loch Lochy and Loch Oich. Your drive will pass by Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, and by the Commando Memorial, dedicated to the men of the British Commando Forces whose training depot the memorial overlooks. Follow the Caledonian Canal, built in the early 19th-century to connect Scotland's east and west coasts, and end your journey at the small town of Fort Augustus, situated on the southern tip of legendary Loch Ness. Here, board the Spirit of Loch Ness for a cruise on Scotland’s most famous loch. Back in Fort Augustus, enjoy time at leisure to wander through this lovely little hamlet. Alternatively, see the railway viaduct of the Jacobite steam train—famously featured as the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter. Visit the Glenfinnian Monument, honoring the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died for Bonnie Prince Charlie. At Banavie, marvel at Neptune's Staircase, a series of eight locks that raise boats from sea level more than 60 feet to join the Caledonian Canal. Explore the ruins of the 13th-century Inverlochy Castle and view the River Lochy while enjoying cakes and tea. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Glasgow / Return

Disembark in Glasgow, a dynamic city where the indelible mark of Viking conquest still permeates the culture. Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B) 

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

2024 Itinerary - Glasgow to Bergen, June 15-22

Map - Scottish Isles and Norwegian Fjords Voyage

Day 1 — Glasgow, Scotland

Arrive in Glasgow, a dynamic city where the indelible mark of Viking conquest still permeates the culture.  Embark the ship this afternoon and navigate north along the western coast of Scotland.

Day 2 —Fort William and Scottish Highlands

Spend the day immersed in the beauty of the legendary Scottish Highlands. Take a wonderfully scenic drive though Scotland's Great Glen along the shores of Loch Lochy and Loch Oich. Your drive will pass by Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, and by the Commando Memorial, dedicated to the men of the British Commando Forces whose training depot the memorial overlooks. Follow the Caledonian Canal, built in the early 19th-century to connect Scotland's east and west coasts, and end your journey at the small town of Fort Augustus, situated on the southern tip of legendary Loch Ness. Here, board the Spirit of Loch Ness for a cruise on Scotland’s most famous loch. Back in Fort Augustus, enjoy time at leisure to wander through this lovely little hamlet. Alternatively, see the railway viaduct of the Jacobite steam train—famously featured as the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter. Visit the Glenfinnian Monument, honoring the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died for Bonnie Prince Charlie. At Banavie, marvel at Neptune's Staircase, a series of eight locks that raise boats from sea level more than 60 feet to join the Caledonian Canal. Explore the ruins of the 13th-century Inverlochy Castle and view the River Lochy while enjoying cakes and tea.   (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Isle of Skye

Spend the day on the Isle of Skye, discovering its ethereal landscapes on your choice of two excursions. From the village of Kyle of Lochalsh, travel across the rolling green moors of the Scottish mainland to Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most iconic castles in the world. Continue to the Isle of Skye and Armadale Castle, an important part of local life since the early 18th century, when the chiefs of Clan Donald made it their residence.  Take a stroll in the spectacular gardens, where the mild Gulf Stream temperatures nurture carpets of bluebells, orchids, and wildflowers. If you wish, visit the award-winning Museum of the Isles to learn about the history and culture of the area. Or enjoy a full-day exploration of the island: learn the myths associated with the wild landscapes of the Trotternish Peninsula; see traditional cottages at the Skye Museum of Island Life; and tour stunning Dunvegan Castle, continuously inhabited by the Clan MacLeod since the 13th century. End the day with free time in the charming fishing port of Portree. (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Stromness, Orkney Islands

Set out to explore the archaeological treasures of the islands, including the Ring of Brodgar, the third largest stone circle in the British Isles, raised 5,000 years ago to chart the seasons. See the ceremonial Stones of Stenness and visit the settlement of Skara Brae, the best-preserved Neolithic village in Northern Europe. Among the fascinating relics found here are tools, beads, pottery, and whalebone artifacts, spanning a period of approximately 600 years of occupation. Then visit Skaill House, a historic manor built by Bishop George Graham in 1620. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Dock in Lerwick, the capital of the majestic Shetland Islands, which were declared a Global Geopark by UNESCO for their geologically diverse, ice-carved landscapes. These remote islands have a unique 6000-year-old culture that lives on in their archaeological sites, dialect, and traditional music. Set out on the excursion of your choice: Journey to the archaeological site of Jarlshof, an extraordinary settlement that reveals 5000 years of human history, from late Neolithic stone houses and a Bronze Age village to Norse longhouses, a medieval farmstead, and a 16th-century laird’s house. Continue to Sumburgh Head, site of Shetland's first lighthouse (1821) and home to a colony of puffins, guillemots, shags, and fulmars. Our voyage coincides with breeding season, when each species has its special nesting place in the grassy banks and cliffs leading up to the lighthouse. Off the coast, watch for harbor porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, orcas, or minke whales.

Alternatively, take a walking tour of Lerwick, once northern Europe’s herring capital, visiting its piers and its 19th-century town hall, and exploring its narrow lanes.  End the tour learning about the islands’ heritage and culture at the award-winning Shetland Museum and Archives. Or ride the ferry to the Island of Mousa for a hike. The island is known for grey and common seals, black guillemots, Arctic terns, and especially storm petrels, whose nearly 7,000 breeding pairs on the island constitute 3% of the world population. Visit Mousa Broch, a 2,000-year-old tower that is the best-preserved Iron Age fortress in the British Isles. (B,L,D) 

Day 6 — Olden

Early this morning, arrive in the picturesque village of Olden, perched at the end of a meandering fjord. Located near Jostedalsbreen National Park—home to Europe’s largest ice cap—this little village is perfect base for exploring the Briksdal or Kjenndalen glaciers. Choose a walk along Stryn Lake, and then ride a cable car 3300 feet to the top of Mount Hoven. Here, have a coffee while taking in spectacular views of the fjord and villages below, as well as the surrounding mountains. While at Mount Hoven, you may go on a short walk to soak up the scenery around you. Or enjoy a scenic drive through Oldedalen Valley to Briksdal glacier, and approach the glacier by electric “troll car.” Take a walk to the blue-hued face of the glacier and learn about the geological forces that keep the ice in constant motion. (B,L,D)

Day 7 - Flåm

In the heart of fjord country, board the Flåm Railway for a magnificent morning journey. This masterpiece of Norwegian engineering—the steepest standard‑gauge railway track in Europe—opened to the public in 1940. Only 12 miles long, the railway runs from Flåm, at sea level, to Myrdal Station, at an altitude of 2,850 feet, featuring tunnels and switchbacks and ever-changing views of waterfalls, mountain hamlets, and snowcapped mountains. Make a brief stop at Kjosfossen to photograph this spectacular 300-foot-high waterfall. (B,L,D)

Day 8 - Bergen / Depart for Home

Disembark in Bergen, a city founded on an old Viking settlement in 1070 that was an important part of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire from the 14th to mid-16th centuries.Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)

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

2025 Itinerary - Glasgow to Bergen, May 30-June 26 & June 21-28

Day 1 — Glasgow, Scotland

Arrive in Glasgow, a dynamic city where the indelible mark of Viking conquest still permeates the culture.  Embark the ship this afternoon and navigate north along the western coast of Scotland.

Day 2 —Fort William and Scottish Highlands

Spend the day immersed in the beauty of the legendary Scottish Highlands. Take a wonderfully scenic drive though Scotland's Great Glen along the shores of Loch Lochy and Loch Oich. Your drive will pass by Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, and by the Commando Memorial, dedicated to the men of the British Commando Forces whose training depot the memorial overlooks. Follow the Caledonian Canal, built in the early 19th-century to connect Scotland's east and west coasts, and end your journey at the small town of Fort Augustus, situated on the southern tip of legendary Loch Ness. Here, board the Spirit of Loch Ness for a cruise on Scotland’s most famous loch. Back in Fort Augustus, enjoy time at leisure to wander through this lovely little hamlet. Alternatively, see the railway viaduct of the Jacobite steam train—famously featured as the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter. Visit the Glenfinnian Monument, honoring the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died for Bonnie Prince Charlie. At Banavie, marvel at Neptune's Staircase, a series of eight locks that raise boats from sea level more than 60 feet to join the Caledonian Canal. Stop in at the Ben Nevis Distillery, founded in 1825, for a tour and tasting of the local tipple. End the tour at the Commando Memorial enjoying breathtaking views of Ben Nevis. (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Isle of Skye

Spend the day on the Isle of Skye, discovering its ethereal landscapes on your choice of two excursions. From the village of Kyle of Lochalsh, travel across the rolling green moors of the Scottish mainland to Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most iconic castles in the world. Continue to the Isle of Skye and Armadale Castle, an important part of local life since the early 18th century, when the chiefs of Clan Donald made it their residence.  Take a stroll in the spectacular gardens, where the mild Gulf Stream temperatures nurture carpets of bluebells, orchids, and wildflowers. If you wish, visit the award-winning Museum of the Isles to learn about the history and culture of the area. Or enjoy a full-day exploration of the island: learn the myths associated with the wild landscapes of the Trotternish Peninsula; see traditional cottages at the Skye Museum of Island Life; and tour stunning Dunvegan Castle, continuously inhabited by the Clan MacLeod since the 13th century. End the day with free time in the charming fishing port of Portree. (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Stromness, Orkney Islands

Set out to explore the archaeological treasures of the islands, including the Ring of Brodgar, the third largest stone circle in the British Isles, raised 5,000 years ago to chart the seasons. See the ceremonial Stones of Stenness and visit the settlement of Skara Brae, the best-preserved Neolithic village in Northern Europe. Among the fascinating relics found here are tools, beads, pottery, and whalebone artifacts, spanning a period of approximately 600 years of occupation. Then visit Skaill House, a historic manor built by Bishop George Graham in 1620. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Dock in Lerwick, the capital of the majestic Shetland Islands, which were declared a Global Geopark by UNESCO for their geologically diverse, ice-carved landscapes. These remote islands have a unique 6000-year-old culture that lives on in their archaeological sites, dialect, and traditional music. Set out on the excursion of your choice: Journey to the archaeological site of Jarlshof, an extraordinary settlement that reveals 5000 years of human history, from late Neolithic stone houses and a Bronze Age village to Norse longhouses, a medieval farmstead, and a 16th-century laird’s house. Continue to Sumburgh Head, site of Shetland's first lighthouse (1821) and home to a colony of puffins, guillemots, shags, and fulmars. Our voyage coincides with breeding season, when each species has its special nesting place in the grassy banks and cliffs leading up to the lighthouse. Off the coast, watch for harbor porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, orcas, or minke whales.

Alternatively, take a walking tour of Lerwick, once northern Europe’s herring capital, visiting its piers and its 19th-century town hall, and exploring its narrow lanes.  End the tour learning about the islands’ heritage and culture at the award-winning Shetland Museum and Archives. Or ride the ferry to the Island of Mousa for a hike. The island is known for grey and common seals, black guillemots, Arctic terns, and especially storm petrels, whose nearly 7,000 breeding pairs on the island constitute 3% of the world population. Visit Mousa Broch, a 2,000-year-old tower that is the best-preserved Iron Age fortress in the British Isles. (B,L,D) 

Day 6 — Olden

Early this morning, arrive in the picturesque village of Olden, perched at the end of a meandering fjord. Located near Jostedalsbreen National Park—home to Europe’s largest ice cap—this little village is perfect base for exploring the Briksdal or Kjenndalen glaciers. Choose a walk along Stryn Lake, and then ride a cable car 3300 feet to the top of Mount Hoven. Here, have a coffee while taking in spectacular views of the fjord and villages below, as well as the surrounding mountains. While at Mount Hoven, you may go on a short walk to soak up the scenery around you. Or enjoy a scenic drive through Oldedalen Valley to Briksdal glacier, and approach the glacier by electric “troll car.” Take a walk to the blue-hued face of the glacier and learn about the geological forces that keep the ice in constant motion. (B,L,D)

Day 7 - Flåm

In the heart of fjord country, board the Flåm Railway for a magnificent morning journey. This masterpiece of Norwegian engineering—the steepest standard‑gauge railway track in Europe—opened to the public in 1940. Only 12 miles long, the railway runs from Flåm, at sea level, to Myrdal Station, at an altitude of 2,850 feet, featuring tunnels and switchbacks and ever-changing views of waterfalls, mountain hamlets, and snowcapped mountains. Make a brief stop at Kjosfossen to photograph this spectacular 300-foot-high waterfall. (B,L,D)

Day 8 - Bergen / Depart for Home

Disembark in Bergen, a city founded on an old Viking settlement in 1070 that was an important part of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire from the 14th to mid-16th centuries.Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)

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

2025 Itinerary - Bergen to Glasgow, July 4-11

Day 1 — Bergen, Norway

Arrive in Bergen, a city founded on an old Viking settlement in 1070 that was an important part of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire from the 14th to mid-16th centuries. Embark the ship this afternoon and navigate the fjords and islands of Norway’s coast.

Day 2 — Flåm / Cruising the Norwegian Fjords

In the heart of fjord country, board the Flåm Railway for a magnificent morning journey. This masterpiece of Norwegian engineering—the steepest standard‑gauge railway track in Europe—opened to the public in 1940. Only 12 miles long, the railway runs from Flåm, at sea level, to Myrdal Station, at an altitude of 2,850 feet, featuring tunnels and switchbacks and ever-changing views of waterfalls, mountain hamlets, and snowcapped mountains. Make a brief stop at Kjosfossen to photograph this spectacular 300-foot-high waterfall. (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Olden

Early this morning, arrive in the picturesque village of Olden, perched at the end of a meandering fjord.  Located near Jostedalsbreen National Park—home to Europe’s largest ice cap—this little village is perfect base for exploring the Briksdal or Kjenndalen glaciers. Choose a walk along Stryn Lake, and then ride a cable car 3300 feet to the top of Mount Hoven. Here, have a coffee while taking in spectacular views of the fjord and villages below, as well as the surrounding mountains. While at Mount Hoven, you may go on a short walk to soak up the scenery around you. Or enjoy a scenic drive through Oldedalen Valley to Briksdal glacier, and approach the glacier by electric “troll car.” Take a walk to the blue-hued face of the glacier and learn about the geological forces that keep the ice in constant motion. Enjoy views of Norway’s phenomenal coastal scenery as we make our way to the open sea this afternoon. (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Dock in Lerwick, the capital of the majestic Shetland Islands,which were declared a Global Geopark by UNESCO for their geologically diverse, ice-carved landscapes. These remote islands have a unique 6000-year-old culture that lives on in their archaeological sites, dialect, and traditional music. Set out on the excursion of your choice: Journey to the archaeological site of Jarlshof, an extraordinary settlement that reveals 5,000 years of human history, from late Neolithic stone houses and a Bronze Age village to Norse longhouses, a medieval farmstead, and a 16th-century laird’s house. Continue to Sumburgh Head, site of Shetland's first lighthouse (1821) and home to a colony of puffins, guillemots, shags, and fulmars. Our voyage coincides with breeding season, when each species has its special nesting place in the grassy banks and cliffs leading up to the lighthouse. Off the coast, watch for harbor porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, orcas, or minke whales.

Alternatively, take a walking tour of Lerwick, once northern Europe’s herring capital, visiting its piers and its 19th-century town hall, and exploring its narrow lanes.  End the tour learning about the islands’ heritage and culture at the award-winning Shetland Museum and Archives. Or ride the ferry to the Island of Mousa for a hike. The island is known for grey and common seals, black guillemots, Arctic terns, and especially storm petrels, whose nearly 7,000 breeding pairs on the island constitute 3% of the world population. Visit Mousa Broch, a 2,000-year-old tower that is the best-preserved Iron Age fortress in the British Isles. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

Sheltered in a wide bay, the lively town of Kirkwall welcomes us with its charming alleyways edged by old houses and craft shops.Set out to explore the Neolithic treasures of the Orkney Islands, including the Ring of Brodgar, the third largest stone circle in the British Isles, raised 5,000 years ago to chart the seasons. See the ceremonial Stones of Stenness and visit the settlement of Skara Brae, the best-preserved Neolithic village in Northern Europe. Among the fascinating relics found here are tools, beads, pottery, and whalebone artifacts, spanning a period of approximately 600 years of occupation. Then visit Skaill House, a historic manor built by Bishop George Graham in 1620. Trace the history of Kirkwall’s enduring symbol—the towering St. Magnus Cathedral, built by the Vikings and known as the “Light of the North.” (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Isle of Skye

Spend the day on the Isle of Skye, discovering its ethereal landscapes on your choice of two excursions. From the village of Kyle of Lochalsh, travel across rolling green moors of the Scottish mainland to Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most iconic castles in the world. Continue to the Isle of Skye and Armadale Castle, an important part of local life since the early 18th century, when the chiefs of Clan Donald made it their residence.  Take a stroll in the spectacular gardens, where the mild Gulf Stream temperatures nurture carpets of bluebells, orchids, and wildflowers. If you wish, visit the award-winning Museum of the Isles to learn about the history and culture of the area. Or enjoy a full-day exploration of the island: learn the myths associated with the wild landscapes of the Trotternish Peninsula; see traditional cottages at the Skye Museum of Island Life; and tour stunning Dunvegan Castle, continuously inhabited by the Clan MacLeod since the 13th century. End the day with free time in the charming fishing port of Portree. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Fort William and Scottish Highlands

Spend the day immersed in the beauty of the legendary Scottish Highlands. Take a wonderfully scenic drive though Scotland's Great Glen along the shores of Loch Lochy and Loch Oich. Your drive will pass by Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, and by the Commando Memorial, dedicated to the men of the British Commando Forces whose training depot the memorial overlooks. Follow the Caledonian Canal, built in the early 19th-century to connect Scotland's east and west coasts, and end your journey at the small town of Fort Augustus, situated on the southern tip of legendary Loch Ness. Here, board the Spirit of Loch Ness for a cruise on Scotland’s most famous loch. Back in Fort Augustus, enjoy time at leisure to wander through this lovely little hamlet. Alternatively, see the railway viaduct of the Jacobite steam train—famously featured as the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter. Visit the Glenfinnian Monument, honoring the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died for Bonnie Prince Charlie. At Banavie, marvel at Neptune's Staircase, a series of eight locks that raise boats from sea level more than 60 feet to join the Caledonian Canal. Stop in at the Ben Nevis Distillery, founded in 1825, for a tour and tasting of the local tipple. End the tour at the Commando Memorial enjoying breathtaking views of Ben Nevis. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Glasgow / Return

Disembark in Glasgow, a dynamic city where the indelible mark of Viking conquest still permeates the culture. 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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