The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides

The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides

The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides

The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides

Travel information 11 days MS Spitsbergen
Departures
23 April 2022
3 May 2022
Price from
£ 5080
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Check prices and availability

Join us for a Hebridean adventure as we visit some of the most remote, romantic and rugged Scottish islands aboard our expedition ship MS Spitsbergen.

Adventure, at your own pace

Making full use of the ship’s fleet of small expedition boats, you’ll enjoy a truly rewarding and memorable voyage. Opportunities abound for exploring remote islands and wandering lonely beaches at your own pace, all the while being immersed in the wild beauty of the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

Leaving Glasgow, our first island will be Arran, known as a microcosm of Scotland, before heading to Islay, with its nine whisky distilleries. Mystical Iona awaits, before we witness the wildlife of the uninhabited Treshnish Isles. The far-flung UNESCO World Heritage Site of St Kilda, evacuated by humans and returned to the wild, will amaze you.

Island odyssey

Turning back east we call at Stornoway to see the unique Harris Tweed being woven, before dropping anchor at the amazing wildlife-rich Shiant Isles. Next, we walk the shores of the dramatic Loch Coruisk, on mountainous Skye, before sailing to the craggy Isle of Eigg and onto colourful Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.

The final leg sees us enjoy the unspoiled beauty of Colonsay before returning to our point of departure, the stylish city of Glasgow. During the voyage, your knowledgeable Expedition Team will help you get the most out of your island-hopping odyssey.

The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides The Scottish Isles – Island Hopping in the Hebrides
  • Day 1
    Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland

    ‘Dear Green Place’

    Estimated time of departure is 22:00

    Our Scottish Isles expedition begins in Glasgow. Set against a backdrop of splendid Victorian architecture, Glasgow has reinvented itself as a stylish and exciting city, full of museums, galleries, and lively spots to eat, drink and shop. This is definitely a city you’ll want to see more of if you have any spare time before the day of embarkation.

    Your comfortable expedition ship MS Spitsbergen will be ready and waiting for you. Once you board the ship and check in, you’ll receive your complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket which may come in handy with the unpredictable weather we can expect to encounter along the way. There’ll be time to settle into your cabin and explore a bit of the ship before attending a mandatory pre-departure safety drill.  

    You’ll be greeted by your friendly Expedition Team. They’ll prepare you for the exciting days ahead, but their first priority will be to take you through important health and safety principles to ensure you and your fellow explorers are always safe and well throughout the cruise.

    And with that, we’ll be away! MS Spitsbergen will set sail from Glasgow, heading north into the Atlantic on our circular voyage to explore the remote Scottish isles.

    Stretch your legs out on deck and get to know the different areas of the ship, which is your new home-from-home for the next 11 days. Enjoy your first dinner aboard in one of the ship’s excellent restaurants, and look forward to many more delicious meals to come. Raise your glass and join the Captain and crew as they toast an enjoyable expedition together. 

    Please note, as this is an expedition cruise, the order of stops may change due to local circumstances.

    Day 1
    Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland

    ‘Dear Green Place’

  • Day 2
    Isle of Arran, Scotland

    A Microcosm of Scotland

    Warmed by the North Atlantic Drift, this sheltered island with its high peaks is a haven for wildlife. Dramatic mountains, a distinctive distillery and good hiking trails all add up to a microcosm of Scotland. Brodick town has its 16th century red-sandstone castle whilst the ruined castle of Lochranza was once a royal hunting lodge.

    As you step onto the beautiful isle of Arran, feel its unique atmosphere. More sheltered than the outer Scottish islands, Arran is covered in rich purple heather, with green and brown low hills, and is watered by numerous streams and small rivers. While you’re here, a hike is a must, with Goat Fell being a popular route.

    Visit Brodick Castle and Gardens overlooking the Firth of Clyde in the island’s main town and get a sense of the aristocratic life of yesteryear. It’s the quintessential island castle, and in the grounds there’s a woodland and formal garden to explore and relax in.

    A bit further away stands the Machrie Moor stone circle. The moor is littered with Neolithic treasures including burial cairns, cists and standing stones, but it’s the stone circle that most visitors make a bee line for. Check out the huge upright slabs and marvel at the skill and technique the ancients must have used to get them there.

    Next, drop by at the Isle of Arran Distillery for a tour of the production process, rounded off with a snifter of their distinctive malt. All malts are unique, and Arran’s whisky starts life as pure water, cascading down through six waterfalls to reach the distillery. Try it for yourself!

    As you travel around the island, see if you can spot Scotland’s ‘Big Five’ wildlife draws, the Golden Eagle, red deer, red squirrel, otter and seal – all of which live on Arran.

    Day 2
    Isle of Arran, Scotland

    A Microcosm of Scotland

  • Day 3
    Islay, Scotland

    Land of Scottish Whisky

    Fire up your spirit of discovery and step onto an island famed for its whisky, wildlife and woolly garments.

    Islay isn’t called ‘whisky island’ for nothing. There are nine working distilleries here, and you’ll find their peaty single malts sold around the world. One of the larger isles, there’s 130 miles of coastline, and numerous quiet, sandy beaches.

    History abounds on Islay, with ancient monoliths and a stone circle showing the island was inhabited back in Neolithic times. Later Islay came to be known as the Lordship of the Isles, and you can explore the enigmatic settlement at Finlaggan, which remains the most important archaeological site on the island, while a number of Celtic crosses can be found dotted around.

    Islay is a wildlife paradise, with over 200 species of birds including oystercatchers, gannets, terns, shags and cormorants, as well as buzzards, Hen Harriers and even Golden Eagles. From the beaches, dolphins and basking sharks are sometimes spotted, and you might even see otters if you are patient.

    Delve into the delights of the charming little town of Bowmore where there’s shops, an interesting round church, plus several cosy pubs and restaurants. It’s probably the only place in the world you can grab a Hebridean pizza – or ‘peat-za’ – topped with crab and lobster.

    Arts and crafts abound in Bowmore, and you can visit potters, quilters and artists in their workshops. Visit Islay Woollen Mill, near Bridgend, which made tartan clothes for Mel Gibson in Braveheart, as well as Liam Neeson’s kilt in Rob Roy.

    Of course, no trip to Islay would be complete without a visit to at least one of its famous distilleries. Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, Ardbeg and Bowmore are among the best known.

    Day 3
    Islay, Scotland

    Land of Scottish Whisky

  • Day 4
    Isle of Gigha, Scotland

    ‘The Good Isle’

    Tiny Gigha (pronounced Gee’a) is a little sandy slice of paradise. Nicknamed ‘Good Isle’, this tiny island is owned by the 163 residents, all of whom aim to create a ‘good life’ for themselves. It’s a place of quiet beaches, peaceful walks and tranquil views.

    There’s only one village on Gigha and that’s Ardminish on the east coast. Pay a visit to Achamore House, about a mile to the south, which is set in fifty acres of woodland gardens and was once the home of Sir James Horlick. Sir James created a colourful and impressive display of rhododendron flowers (aka azaleas) – as well as the tasty, malted wheat drink we all know him for.

    Take a walk along the coast and visit some of the white sandy coves to work up an appetite before dropping in on the quaint Boathouse Restaurant for a spot of lunch. This award-winning eatery is right on the shore and the chef serves up a range of tasty and fresh Scottish seafood, paired with a great wine list.

    Gigha is a small island – only 6 miles long – and you can easily get around it on foot. If bike hire is available from the village shop, getting around on two wheels is lots of fun. You may want to head up to the back-to-back twin beaches of Bagh Rubha Ruaidh and Bagh na Doirlinne, which feature turquoise waters and amazing views.

    Before heading back to the ship, stock up on locally made snacks and treats you’ll see for sale at honesty boxes by the roadsides all over the island, as well as the village store. The welcoming locals produce a distinctive waxed fruit cheese – give it a try!

    Day 4
    Isle of Gigha, Scotland

    ‘The Good Isle’

  • Day 5
    Isle of Iona & Treshnish Isles, Scotland

    Pilgrims and Puffins

    Famed for its mystical Christian associations, Iona is a peaceful little island off the coast of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. The restored Abbey remains a place of pilgrimage and peace, but there’s much more to see here including picturesque beaches, wonderful wildlife and the beautiful St Columba’s Bay.

    Iona has been a centre for Christian worship since the sixth century, but the Abbey was sacked several times by Vikings between 795 and 825. Today you can explore this sacred site, including the restored church. There’s said to be 48 early Scottish kings buried in the graveyard, as well as Irish and Norwegian ones – see if you can find them!

    There’s a popular hike uphill to Dun I (pronounced Dun Eee) from the Abbey. You’ll be at Iona’s highest point and will be able to see St Columba’s Bay and the Treshnish Isles. Look out for ‘Natural Well’ aka the ‘Well of Eternal Youth’ and splash your face with its allegedly miraculous waters. It’s in a cleft between two rocks as you walk downhill facing North.

    We’ll explore the remote beauty of the Treshnish Isles next, a group of distinctive skerries home to a wealth of wildlife, including Atlantic Puffins, colonies of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Razorbills, and Common Guillemots, as well as Atlantic grey seals. Did you know that puffins can live for 30 years or more?

    Fingal’s Cave, immortalised in music by Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, is on the cave-riddled island of Staffa and is noted for its amazing natural acoustics. The basalt columns within are a northern extension of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. On a calm, clear day, it might even be possible to land and see the colour of the waters inside the cave, but its rising columns can also be viewed from the sea.

    Day 5
    Isle of Iona & Treshnish Isles, Scotland

    Pilgrims and Puffins

  • Day 6
    St. Kilda, Hirta Island, Scotland

    Reclaimed by Nature

    There’s only one way to describe tiny, rocky St Kilda: wild. As such, our visit to this storm-tossed archipelago, with its breath-taking sea cliffs and boiling seas is totally weather-dependent.

    As a UNESCO double World Heritage Site and the jewel in the crown of the National Trust for Scotland, visiting St Kilda is an unforgettable experience. The outlying stacks and islands, which are the remains of a volcanic crater, provide ledges for thousands of nesting seabirds. What’s more, minke whales are sometimes seen in the swirling waters that surround the rocky outcrops.

    Once home to Britain’s most remote island community, in 1930, after 4,000 years of continuous habitation, the people living on St Kilda’s Hirta Island were evacuated at their own request. The tiny museum that remains is a record of how hard life was on this exposed outcrop.

    However, setting foot on St Kilda you’ll soon see the island is far from deserted – it’s home to a multitude of seabirds, including over 60,000 pairs of Northern Gannets – the second largest gannet colony in the world! There’s a good chance you’ll spot many other seabirds as well, including Atlantic Puffins, Northern Fulmars, Common Guillemots, and Black-legged Kittiwakes – you’ll soon see there’s a reason St. Kilda is considered one of the most important seabird colonies in Europe.

    Birdlife aside, you might spot some other island inhabitants if you look. An ancient breed of sheep – the Soay sheep – lives wild here, as do a number of other rare species including the St Kilda mouse and the St Kilda Wren. See if you can find any of them!

    Explore the abandoned village and see the distinctive ‘cleits’ – circular stone buildings used to store peat, eggs and smoked puffins, before heading back to MS Spitsbergen and its rather nicer dining options.

    Day 6
    St. Kilda, Hirta Island, Scotland

    Reclaimed by Nature

  • Day 7
    Stornoway and Shiant Isles, Scotland

    Capital of the Outer Hebrides

    The Isle of Lewis & Harris is famed for pristine beaches, Neolithic sites and tweed workshops. Originally a Viking settlement, Stornoway is the main town on Lewis & Harris – a single island with two names denoting the north and south parts. It’s the largest and most northerly island in the Outer Hebrides.

    Check out Lews Castle, an impressive Gothic-revival style which overlooks Stornoway Harbour. You can wander round the grounds and get unbeatable views of the inky blue seas, or why not drop in for a wee dram in the castle’s very own whisky bar.

    Harris is famed for its woollen tweed fabric, and you’ll see jackets, trousers and hats for sale in shops all over the island – perfect for gifts or mementoes. After visiting shops, museums and old castles, blow the cobwebs off with a walk.

    Of course, a visit to Lewis & Harris wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Callanish standing stones (Calanais in Gaelic), a magical ring of monoliths whose origins are shrouded in mystery.

    Later in the afternoon, we explore the Shiant Isles, a tiny archipelago set in the Minch strait. There is only one habitable structure here, a simple bothy for sleeping in. Privately owned since 1937, these wild and beautiful islands are one of the most important breeding colonies for seabirds in Europe.

    Hundreds of thousands of seabirds arrive here each spring and summer to breed, including 10 percent of UK Atlantic Puffins and 7 percent of UK Razorbills, as well as European Shags, Common Eiders, Northern Fulmars, and Common Guillemots. At this time of year, you can see the birds throng in surrounding waters or nest on volcanic ledges. Keep your eyes open for the “bully” of the seabird world, the Great Skua!

    Day 7
    Stornoway and Shiant Isles, Scotland

    Capital of the Outer Hebrides

  • Day 8
    Loch Scavaig and Isle of Eigg, Scotland

    The Beauty of Loch Coruisk

    Beneath the dramatic peaks of the Cuillin Mountains, Loch Scavaig on the Isle of Skye leads to one of the most beautiful and dramatic freshwater lochs in Scotland – Loch Coruisk. Painted by Turner and a popular destination for the Victorians, this is a powerful and romantic landscape that will get your heart racing.

    You’ll need your walking boots on to allow for the sometimes-soggy conditions, but there are several great walks alongside the loch. The name Coruisk means ‘Cauldron of Water’ and you might feel like you’re in an epic fantasy film as you set foot upon its shores. Surrounded on three sides by craggy peaks, there’s a lost world feel here, and the poet Tennyson described it as “the wildest scene in the Highlands.”

    Later, we head to the remote and craggy Isle of Eigg, one of the least visited of the Western Isles. Just five miles long by three miles wide, the island has a fascinating 8,000-year history and is home to incredible wildlife.

    Eigg has been inhabited for over 8,000 years and is now owned by the local community. The island has Iron Age forts, a 6th century church, and an interesting but turbulent clan history to learn about.

    Birders will be in for a treat as 130 bird species are recorded here. You might spot the Golden Eagle, White-Tailed Eagle, Red Throated Diver and the Stonechat. Near the shoreline, you can often spot seals, dolphins and porpoises.

    You can enjoy strolls along white sand beaches like Laig Bay or take a longer walk to a quartz beach where the sand sings! On a clear day, you can hike to the top of An Sgurr, the rocky outcrop that dominates the island. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views across the Minch to the Outer Hebrides.

    Day 8
    Loch Scavaig and Isle of Eigg, Scotland

    The Beauty of Loch Coruisk

  • Day 9
    Sound of Mull, Scotland

    The Clash of Clans

    Today we’ll anchor in the Sound of Mull, allowing us to explore the picturesque town of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, and Loch Sunart.

    The Isle of Mull is a large island of sweeping moors, featuring tiny hamlets and castles. Tobermory, a charming, deep-water fishing port, is the island’s main town. It’s instantly recognisable from the row of brightly-coloured Georgian houses that line the waterfront in the tiny bay.

    Nestled beneath steeply rising hills, this welcoming town offers a good variety of cafés, restaurants, bookshops and craft stores. You can visit the town’s whisky distillery and pop into the tiny Mull museum for a snapshot of local history. Take a stroll around the loch in Aros Park and see the Baliscate Standing Stones.

    The Isle of Mull is a magnet for birders, especially those with a keen eye for eagles. Not only does it have the highest breeding density of Golden Eagles in Europe, it has also successfully nested 20 pairs of White-tailed Eagles, that can often be seen soaring above the island’s indented coastline.

    Stretching inland across from Tobermory and protected by the rugged point of Ardnamurchan, lies Loch Sunart. The deep, sheltered waters of this long, narrow loch make it ideal for sea kayaking and fishing, while the its shores offer tranquil walks along woodland trails. The mix of salt water from the Atlantic and fresh water runoff creates an ecosystem that attracts lots of wildlife, especially otters.

    Guarding the entrance to the loch stands Mingary Castle. Hexagonal in shape, with nine-foot-thick stone walls, the 13th century castle now conceals a luxury hotel. Over the centuries, the castle has been fought over by a succession of clans, prized for its strategic location and access to the Sound of Mull.

    Day 9
    Sound of Mull, Scotland

    The Clash of Clans

  • Day 10
    Isle of Colonsay, Scotland

    The Birds and the Bees

    We spend today enjoying the unspoilt beauty on the Isle of Colonsay. Get ready for some incredible coastal walks along endless stretches of white sand! Kiloran Bay and Plaide Mhòrare are particular highlights, with breath taking views of the neighbouring islands on a clear day. Your solitude will be interrupted only by seabirds, seals, the occasional otter and perhaps a cow.

    You can also enjoy some wonderful kayaking in the surrounding waters, and you may even catch sight of whales, porpoises and dolphins as you paddle.

    Colonsay’s variety of natural habitats attracts an enormous range of marine life, plants and also birds. You might spot choughs, Red Northern Divers and eagles. Listen out for the rasping rattle of the rare and elusive corncrake, the most famous of the island’s avian inhabitants! Fulmars, guillemots, Razorbills, kittiwakes and shags are among the birds that nest on the dramatic cliffs on the west coast.

    Home to around 135 people, Scalasaig is the main hub on the island, with basic amenities, a microbrewery, and even an 18-hole golf course!

    The central part of the island and Colonsay’s sheltered bays benefit from an almost subtropical climate, allowing over 400 species of flora to bloom, including sea samphire and the rare orchid, Hooded Ladies’ Tresses (Spiranthes Romanzoffiana). Colonsay House, a beautiful Georgian country house, stands at the heart of the island, surrounded by a woodland garden.

    If you’re happy to get your feet wet, at low tide it’s possible to make the trip across The Strand mudflats to Oronsay on the south of the island. After a 2.5-mile walk, you’ll reach the well-preserved stone ruins of Oronsay Priory, a 14th century Augustine monastery marked by a large Celtic cross. There, you’ll find cloisters and carved gravestones. Keeps your eyes open for choughs and corncrakes whilst here.

    Day 10
    Isle of Colonsay, Scotland

    The Birds and the Bees

  • Day 11
    Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland

    ‘Dear Green Place’

    Estimated time of arrival is 08:00

    Our island-hopping expedition ends where we started out, in Glasgow. We know you’ll have had some wonderful experiences over the past 11 days, but why not linger in Glasgow a while and see some of the things you may have missed before you departed on your expedition cruise.

    The compact downtown area, offers plenty of shopping and dining options and is easy to orientate. You can walk up to the East End and visit Glasgow Cathedral, a shining example of Gothic architecture. Behind it stretches a 19th century Necropolis of Victorian tombstones to explore.

    Head west from the centre to view the eclectic art and natural history collections of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. Housed in a grand sandstone building set in the lush grounds of Kelvingrove Park, it’s a must see. In Glasgow Harbour, down by the River Clyde, you’ll be greeted by the striking, Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum. Berthed alongside this impressive transport museum is the tall ship Glenlee.

    Design fans will enjoy spotting the mark of Charles Rennie Macintosh dotted across the city. The unique Glasgow Style that he helped make famous together with his wife Margaret MacDonald, is heavily influenced by Art Nouveau and is distinguishable by its simplicity and stylised forms. Visit House for an Art Lover and Macintosh House to learn more about this creative architect and designer.

    What better way could there be to round off your voyage of discovery around Scotland’s wonderful isles!

    Day 11
    Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland

    ‘Dear Green Place’

Departures

2022

  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December
April:
23.
May:
3.

Current offers on this cruise:

  • Book with Confidence

    Our popular Book with Confidence policy is back, giving you the peace of mind you want for your next adventure exploring the world with us.
    The benefits of the policy apply to any new bookings made between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2021, for expedition cruises departing on or before 30 June 2022.
    See Special Offer

What's included

Included in your voyage

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in a cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurant Aune
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with very limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to use at water refill stations on board
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organise and accompany activities on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard Activities

  • Experts on the Expedition Team deliver in-depth lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use of the ship’s Science Center which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • Citizen Science programme allows guests to assist with live scientific research
  • Professional onboard photographer gives top tips and tricks for the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • Use of the ship’s hot tubs, panoramic sauna and indoor gym
  • Informal gatherings with the crew such as daily recaps and preparation for the day to come

Landing Activities

  • Escorted landings with small expedition boats
  • Loan of boots, trekking poles, and all equipment for activities
  • Complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition Photographers help with your camera settings

Not included in your voyage

  • International flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Luggage handling
  • Optional shore excursions with our local partners

Notes

  • All planned activities are subject to weather and ice conditions
  • Excursions and activities are subject to change
  • Please make sure you meet all entry and boarding requirements
  • No gratuities expected
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A group of people posing for the camera
Photo: Stefan Dall / Hurtigruten
Enjoy Norway's Coastal Kitchen on the new MS Spitsbergen
Photo: © Tor Farstad
Your ship

MS Spitsbergen

Year built 2009
Year of refurbishment 2016
Ship yard Estaleiro Navais de Viana do Castelo (POR)
Passenger capacity 180
Beds 243
Car capacity 0
Gross tonnage 7,344
Length 100.54m
Beam 18m
Speed 14.5 knots
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Our new ship, MS Spitsbergen will take you on a voyage beyond the ordinary.

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