In the Footsteps of the Vikings
- Wander through magnificent and colourful gardens
- Learn the histories of impressive castles
- Observe seabird colonies grey seals and orca whales
- Photograph Icelandic volcanoes and lava fields
At a glance
Duration: 15 Days, 14 Nights
Coverage: Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland to Reykjavik, Iceland
Activities: Birding, Culture, History, Nature, Photography, Wildlife
Trace the history of the famed Vikings, whom ruled the British Isles during the late 8th to the mid-11th centuries.
On the Isle of Man, explore a hamlet of thatch-roofed crofter’s cottages. You'll then head to Dublin, the capital of the Irish Republic and particularly rich in 18th-century architecture. As you make your way to Scotland, on the Isle of Gigha, visit Achamore House — a baronial mansion set in a 50-acre garden, and Scotland’s sacred Iona Abbey. For birders, the Faroe Islands are an amazing place with a multitude of kittiwakes, gannets, guillemots and puffins. And in the Shetland Islands, the population density and diversity of seabird species may well be unequalled in all of Europe.
- Day 1 — Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland
Embark the Silver Explorer this evening and depart on your exciting 14-day Silversea Expedition – In The Footsteps of the Vikings. You will be introduced to your Expedition Team and receive a Zodiac briefing. Tonight we invite you to attend a special Welcome Aboard cocktail party.
- Day 2 — Douglas, Isle of Man
Our first day’s excursion begins with a drive along the magnificently scenic elevated highway known as the “Plains of Heaven” to the little village of St John’s and the tiered, grass-topped Tynwald Hill. Every July, government officials and the public at large gather here to promulgate all the laws enacted in the preceding year. This procedure has occurred annually for well over a thousand years and entitles the island to claim itself as the oldest continuous self-governing nation in the world! The nearby church hall contains an interesting exhibition that we will visit together. Our morning outing next takes us across the island to Laxey, a former mining village and home to the world’s largest water wheel built in 1854. We will take some time to explore this heritage site before returning to the Silver Explorer in time for lunch onboard.
In the afternoon, we will set off again, this time to Cregneash, a hamlet of whitewashed, stone-walled, thatch-roofed crofter’s cottages. The heritage village appears just as if it was the year 1900. The people living in Cregneash today preserve an important way of life. Traditional crafts and trades are practised. Farms are maintained with horsepower and much of the livestock roam free. The location has also been used by filmmakers, most famously for the acclaimed ‘Waking Ned’. We return to Douglas via the legendary Fairy Bridge, remembering to say Laa Mie (good day) to the fairies!
- Day 3 — Dublin, Ireland
Dublin is the capital of the Irish Republic and particularly rich in 18th-century architecture. We will visit the Old Parliament House, which is now Trinity College. Founded in 1592, it is Ireland’s oldest college and houses the world famous Book of Kells, a hand illuminated manuscript of the Gospels. Continuing our tour through Georgian squares and past Dublin Castle en route to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Founded in 1190, St. Patrick’s is perhaps best known for its association with Jonathan Swift, who was Dean here from 1713 to 1745. Other tour sites include: The Customs House; River Liffey; National Gallery of Ireland; St. Stephen’s Green; The Mansion House; the Four Courts, Ireland’s courts of justice; and the General Post Office, scene of the 1916 rising and birthplace of the Irish nation.
Alternatively, enjoy a full-day tour in the County of Wicklow, just south of Dublin and known as the ‘Garden of Ireland’ for its domed granite mountains, deep glens and wooded valleys. Tour Glendalough’s 6th-century, monastic ruins that include a Cathedral, stone churches, decorated crosses and see fine examples of Round Tower architecture.
Following lunch, we visit the magnificent Powerscourt Gardens on the River Dargle. It is a blend of formal gardens, sweeping terraces, statuary and ornamental lakes together with secret hollows, rambling walks, walled gardens and over 200 variations of trees and shrubs. The gardens, which span 20 hectares, were begun in the 18th century, but most of what we see today dates from the 19th century. Five terraces drop down to Triton Lake, with the Sugarloaf Mountain in the background. The house at Powerscourt was designed in 1740, around an existing 12-century castle. The house was gutted by a fire in 1974 but has since been restored. We will visit the shop, which is divided into many different rooms, each with its own traditional style and character.
- Day 4 — Isle of Gigha, Scotland
Our first call in Scotland is the island of Gigha, which is privately owned by its 120 inhabitants. With heather clad hills, deserted beaches and a single lane that meanders for some six miles between cottages and farms, Gigha is truly a place apart. Here, we will visit the baronial mansion of Achamore House set in the midst of a 50-acre garden. The Horlick family, better known for the eponymous milk drink, has created the stunning Achamore Gardens. The gardens are famous worldwide for the rhododendrons and many rare species of trees and other shrubs, some of which are now endangered in their countries of origin. Owing to Gigha’s warm climate, many sub-tropical plants are found to flourish here.
- Day 5 — Iona, Scotland / Lunga, Treshnish Islands
Early this morning we arrive at Iona. St Columba came here from Ireland in 563 AD and early Christianity spread through northern Britain from this remote island community. Forty-eight Kings of Scotland are buried here, including Duncan, Macbeth’s victim. This afternoon, we will visit Iona Abbey, one of Scotland’s most sacred and historical sites. The abbey was restored during the early 20th century, and today the Iona Community continues the tradition of worship first established by St Columba.
The remote and unsheltered Treshnish archipelago of eight main islands and many smaller skerries is of volcanic origin and uninhabited by humans, but the remains of early Vikings and medieval castles tell us that this has not always the case. The isles are protected not only for their historic culture, but also as an important breeding area for grey seals and as a conservation area for guillemot, razorbill, puffin, kittiwake, fulmar, shag, skua and many other seabirds. The islands have no good landing sites and are therefore best viewed from Zodiacs. However, weather permitting, it may be possible to land on Lunga, the largest of the islands where we can walk amongst the vast array of seabirds and see the remains of past habitation that dates back to Viking times.
- Day 6 — St Kilda, Scotland
We approach St Kilda at first light. It is a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some 50 miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. For some this will be a moving experience and almost a pilgrimage as we drop anchor off Village Bay on the island of Hirta. St Kilda once supported a population of over 200, but the last islanders left in the 1930s. Recent restoration work on the village by the National Trust for Scotland offers a marvellous link with the past. Later, we cruise past two of the largest gannetries in the world.
- Day 7 — Stromness, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Upon arriving in Stromness, we will head to west Mainland and into the Neolithic heartland of Orkney. This area is designated as a World Heritage Site for its wealth of pre-historic archaeology. We will visit the Ring of Brodgar, a huge ceremonial circle of stones dating from about 2700 BC and reminiscent of Stonehenge. We next visit the 5000-year-old excavated village of Skara Brae, whose remarkable dwellings were buried under sand and perfectly preserved until 1850 when they were revealed during a huge storm. Nearby, we visit Orkney's finest manor house, Skaill House, built in 1620 on top of an ancient graveyard.
- Day 8 — Fair Isle / Mousa / Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland
Geographically divided into two distinct areas, the miniscule 3.5 by 1.5-mile Fair Isle features high moorland areas and cliffs in the north and flatter, fertile lands in the south. Eighteen crofts ranging in size from 3-20 hectares are pretty much the mainstay of the 70 residents. Due to the island’s phenomenal seabird collection, Britain's most isolated inhabited island is protected by the Fair Isle Marine Environment & Tourism Initiative. Here we find a population density and diversity of seabird species that may well be unequalled in all of Europe. With any luck, we might catch a glimpse at the Fair Isle Wren.
After lunch, we take the Zodiacs and make a landing on Mousa, where the rolling and rocky landscape is dominated by a 2000-year-old Iron Age broch. This circular stone tower is consistent with others built around the beginning of the Christian era. Other similar towers can be found on the Orkney Islands, the Hebrides and the Scottish mainland. An abundance of wildlife resides here including harbour seals, grey seals, harbour porpoises, orca and Minke whales, arctic skua and great skuas, black guillemots, puffins, shags, storm petrels. If we get over to the West Pool area, we may see some harbour seal pups, as they are born in June and July.
Tonight we dock in Lerwick for an early start to our full day ashore tomorrow.
- Day 9 — Lerwick / Noss, Shetland, Scotland
Charming sandstone buildings line the waterfront of this historic seaport. Lerwick, the northernmost town in Scotland, reflects its proximity to Norway with a delightful blend of Scottish and Scandinavian cultures.
Our morning excursion travels through picturesque landscapes and includes visits to Scalloway Castle, built in 1600; the Scalloway Museum, with displays that depict the village’s unique role in World War II; and Gott Ponies to see the famed Shetland ponies.
In the afternoon, the Silver Explorer will depart Lerwick to cruise and explore the Shetland Islands. Exploring the isle of Noss via the Zodiacs, your Expedition staff will point out gannets, puffins, guillemots, shags, kittiwakes, razorbills, fulmars and great skuas. Recognised as a National Nature Reserve since 1955, the Isle of Noss has one of Europe’s largest and most diverse seabird colonies. Perhaps we will even catch sight of the elusive otters that frolic in the surrounding waters.
- Day 10 — Torshavn, Faroe Islands
Reflections of a medieval past are nearly everywhere, still seen in villages clustered around old churches. This afternoon we visit Kirkjubour – once the residence of the Bishop of the Faeroes, Saint Magnus Cathedral with its West Norwegian Gothic-style architecture, and the decaying north wall of Saint Brendan’s Chapel, built in the mid-10th century. We will also have a chance to admire the displays of maritime, farming and religious artefacts dating to the Viking era at the new historical museum in Hoyvik, Fornminnisavn. Back in Tórshavn, we may visit the ruins of Fort Skansin, built in 1580 as a defence against pirates and used during World War II as headquarters for the British Royal Navy Command.
The Silver Explorer will stay late in port this evening, offering a wonderful opportunity for independent explorations.
- Day 11 — Cruise & Explore the Faroe Islands
A birdwatcher’s paradise, the Faroe Islands are an ideal breeding ground for a multitude of both common and rare birds. Guillemot can be seen soaring above the sea cliffs and standing with their backs to the sea, protecting their single egg. Kittiwake nest on the flat outcroppings, and puffins gather in the grassy hillside ledges. Small flocks of gannet may be seen diving for food. Sightings of grey seals are common in the Faroese fjords, and if we are lucky, we may also spot short-finned pilot whales or even orcas.
Weather permitting, we will make a Zodiac landing on Mykines Island and hike to Mykineshólmur, a small islet inhabited by large numbers of puffins, gannets and mountain hares.
- Day 12 — At Sea
As we make our way toward Iceland, binoculars in hand, head out on deck to watch for seabirds and whales. Then gather in The Theatre to hear fascinating tales of adventure and to learn more about the region’s endemic wildlife and remarkable nature. Our knowledgeable Lecture Staff members are experts in a variety of scientific fields. Other onboard diversions include spa treatments, a workout in the Fitness Centre, and, of course, exquisite dining experiences.
- Day 13 — Höfn, Iceland
Iceland is a place of magnificent and incredibly diverse landscapes. Our explorations in this remote world region begin with a drive from Höfn to the glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón, located by Europe’s largest glacier: Vatnajökull. The glacial lake is filled with icebergs and specially designed boats will take us right up close – an incredible experience! Take in the unforgettably scenic surroundings and have an opportunity to touch the ice that has broken off Breiðamerkurjökull, one of Vatnajökull’s many glacier outlets. Afterwards, a taste of Iceland is ours to enjoy as refreshments are served at Smyrlabjorg Farm and guesthouse.
- Day 14 — Vestmannaeyjar Island, Iceland
Vestmannaeyjar (the Westman Islands) was named after the Irish slaves, the ‘Westmen’ who fled here after murdering one of Iceland’s initial explorers, Hjorleifur Arnason. Heimaey is the largest and only inhabited island of the Westman Islands group. The village of Heimaey is characterised by the brightly coloured roofs of a community that sprawls out across about a third of the island.
We leave the perfectly formed natural harbour area with its tall cliffs tenanted by multitudes of puffin, fulmar and guillemot. Both the birds and their eggs are extremely important factors in this community's prosperity. We make our first stop at “Sprangan”, a cliff where young islanders are taught the local sport of rope swinging. The sport has evolved from the islanders’ age-old tradition of egg-collecting and to this day local men hop expertly from ledge to ledge, collecting eggs while attached to a lifeline held by an anchor man at the top of the cliff.
Our exploration continues to the Herjolfsdalur valley, where we will visit ruins of old farmhouses dating back to the year 650 AD.
We proceed to the island’s famous volcanoes: The youngest of the group is “Surtsey”, having been born in the volcanic eruption of 1963. Our next stop is “Stórhöfdi” with its magnificent views over the island and majestic glaciers of mainland Iceland. Our drive back to the harbour takes us between two volcanoes, the 5,000-year-old “Helgafell” (Holy Mountain) and the considerably younger Eldfell or Mt. Fire whose history is somewhat more recent … At 2am on the night of 23 January 1973, a massive eruption forced residents to flee to the main land. The port was saved when fire fighters cooled the lava using huge jets of water, creating a dam against the red-hot lava stream. Amazingly, parts of the mountain are still warm. Our adventure continues over the new lava fields and into the very centre of the volcano’s crater before visiting the ‘Pompeii of the North’ project, where houses buried in the eruption of 1973 are being excavated. Our last stop will be at Skansinn, site of a wooden church that was donated by the state of Norway to commemorate a millennium of Christianity in Iceland.
- Day 15 — Reykjavik, Iceland
Following breakfast, disembark the Silver Explorer.
Dates & Rates
|2012||Adventurer||Explorer||View||Vista Suite||Veranda Suite||Expedition||Medallion Suite||Silver Suite||Grand 1 Suite||Owner's 1 Suite|
Embark on a luxurious expedition to the best far-flung destinations in the world aboard Silver Explorer, a purpose-built expedition ship unlike any other. Designed specifically for navigating waters in some of the world’s most remote destinations, including both of earth’s polar regions, the 6,072-ton vessel boasts a strengthened hull with a Lloyd’s Register ice-class notation (1A) for passenger ships. With eight Zodiac boats, her 132 privileged guests can visit even the most off-the-beaten path locations. Experience the thrill of a true expedition aboard Silver Explorer. Venture deep into regions where other vessels cannot go whilst enjoying a privileged lifestyle that is simply second-to-none. View ship details...