The British Isles is full of destinations that conjure up images of a storied maritime history, pretty seaside towns and close-knit communities. Throw in exceptional wildlife – and the odd eerie evacuated island – and you can see why tours here are so popular. There is no better way to do it than by sea.
Poseidon Expeditions offers an incredible 13-day Legendary History and Wild Nature cruise on board the intimate Sea Spirit that visits the highlights of Ireland as well as all four countries of the United Kingdom in one voyage. The ship has room for just 114 guests, who are looked after by 72 crew and 14 expedition team members, a ratio which rivals the most luxurious ships.
Sea Spirit is nimble enough to reach the castles, abbeys and villages that are scattered along the coastlines of the United Kingdom and Ireland, but, while the ship is small, it still packs a punch. There is a gym, library, lounge, outdoor bistro and main restaurant.
Sea Spirit has an open bridge policy for guests who want to know more about that side of the operation. For the British Isles sailing – which is part of the ship’s annual relocation from Antarctica up to the Arctic – Sea Spirit leaves Plymouth on May 10 arriving at its destination on May 22, 2021 (or from May 8 to May 20, 2022 from Portsmouth to Edinburgh).
Here are some of the highlights of what to expect on the trip:
In the subtropical Scilly Isles, just off the Cornish coast, guests will visit the magnificent Tresco Abbey Garden, with its collection of more than 20,000 exotic plants. The garden is also home to the Valhalla Museum, with its collection of figureheads salvaged from nearby shipwrecks.
The must-see birding destinations of Saltee, Rathlin and Staffa islands, the Isle of Mull and Fair Isle are a hopeful addition to the itinerary (weather permitting). One of the most special places is the famed Bass Rock – an uninhabited island in the outer part of the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland. This bastion of volcanic rock, also known as “the Bass”, plays host to over 150,000 northern gannets in the breeding season, making it the world’s largest colony of these magnificent birds. The voyage is perfectly timed to coincide with this amazing spectacle, as well as the breeding and migration season for over 100 other bird species. While in the Outer Hebrides the ship will also visit St Kilda – a remote island that was inhabited for thousands of years by hardy islanders. That was until after World War One when the realities of the modern world – and a dwindling population – began to close in. The last inhabitants asked to be evacuated from the island and it has been uninhabited ever since.
Sea Spirit calls at Llandudno in North Wales, allowing guests to witness one of the country’s most dramatic landscapes – the mountains of Snowdonia. The call includes a visit to Betws-y-Coed in the Conwy valley, perfect for walking past waterfalls and woodlands in one of the most verdant corners of the British Isles. Giant steps The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim is one of the world’s natural wonders, made up of 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns of different heights that gradually descend into the sea like a staircase. According to Gaelic legend, it is the remains of a causeway to Scotland built by the Irish giant Ffion mac Cumhaill after he was challenged to a fight by his Scottish counterpart Benandonner.
During the visit to the Inner Hebrides the ship will call at the uninhabited island of Staffa (weather permitting), allowing guests to explore Fingal’s Cave. Here, the sea and basalt columns work together to create an eerie melody, which was the inspiration for Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture. Guests will also get to explore the neighbouring island of Iona, where the ancient Iona Abbey was founded in 563AD, making it one of the oldest Christian religious centres in western Europe.
In Orkney, guests will be able to visit the Neolithic village of Skara Brae – the best preserved ancient settlement in western Europe, dating from 3180BC and forming part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney Unesco World Heritage Site. There are so many incredible sights around the British Isles that it would be impossible to see them all in one trip – a cruise is the only way you can come even close. The rate includes all scheduled landings and excursions, so guests can relax and allow an expedition team of ornithologists, naturalists and regional experts – led by historian and award-winning author Dr Huw Lewis-Jones – to show them the wonders of the British Isles.