Secrets of the North Sea
- Tour Bergen’s preserved Bryggen wharf, a World Heritage Site
- Visit an excavated Viking chieftain's village
- Admire the Art Nouveau architecture of Ålesund
- Visit legendary Iona Abbey
At a glance
Duration: 15 Days, 14 Nights
Coverage: Tromso, Norway to Dublin, Ireland
Activities: Birding, Culture, History, Nature, Photography, Wildlife
Silversea is proud to have gathered together such an experienced team of historians, botanists, ornithologists, biologists and geologists. These experts provide onboard education and also lead the tours ashore so that your discoveries of Europe’s most impressive castles, gardens, birdlife and ancient stone monuments are the kind of truly rewarding experiences travellers dream about.
We will take the Zodiacs in for a close-up look at Runde Island’s cliffs, which are a sanctuary for 100,000 puffins, 50,000 kittiwakes and thousands of guillemots, fulmars, razorbills, gannets and shags. The Art Nouveau buildings of Ålesund are sure to delight with their turrets, spires and gables. During our call at Invergordon, Scotland, travel south to see the impressive ruins of Urquhart Castle surrounded by famous Loch Ness.
- Day 1 — Tromsø, Norway
Embark the Silver Explorer and celebrate the start of your exciting 14-day Silversea Expedition – “Secrets of the North Sea”. Meet some of your fellow explorers as you become acquainted with the luxurious amenities found on board. This evening, after settling in and setting sail, you will be introduced to your Expedition Team.
- Day 2 — Leknes, Lofoten Islands, Norway
Various seabirds have found their home in Eggum, located on the western side of Vestvågøy Island. On our birding excursion we will see (if we are lucky) gannet, cormorant, eiderduck, shag, great skua and Arctic skua, black guillemot, kittiwake and Arctic tern. En route, we pass the Borgpollen Bay where we may observe black-throated diver, red-throated diver, tufted duck and scaup. Further on, during a stop by Lake Storied we have the possibility to see ruff, black tailed godwit, bluethrout, slavonian grebe and a variety of ducks.
Alternatively, choose to visit the remarkably well-preserved Nusfjord Fishing Village. The building complex with the wharf and 52 structures – including 34 rorbu (fishermen dwellings) – dates mostly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and housed more than 1500 fishermen. We will also visit the Lofotr Viking Museum. Discovered in the 1980s when a farmer was ploughing his land, excavations revealed the remains of the largest building ever (83 metres long) to be found from the Viking realm. We will tour the reconstructed long house and gain insight into the life of a Viking chieftain.
- Day 3 — Torget Island, Norway
This afternoon we will climb aboard the Zodiacs and head ashore to rarely visited Torget Island. Get your camera and imagination ready for the island’s main attraction: the hat-shaped Torghatten Mountain with its legendary “troll hole”. While our onboard geologist will explain how the hole has been formed over thousands of years by the natural forces of erosion, our onboard historian will tell a much different tale: the Legend of Torghatten – a story of dueling trolls, beautiful maidens and magical chivalry. The Expedition Team will lead a variety of natural history hikes including an opportunity to enjoy the magnificent view from atop Torghatten (258m) before embarking the Zodiacs again for our return to the ship.
- Day 4 — Runde Island, Norway
Renowned for its extraordinary quantity of birdlife, Runde Island’s cliffs are a sanctuary for 100,000 puffins, 50,000 kittiwakes and thousands of guillemots, fulmars, razorbills, gannets and shags. If we are lucky, we may even spot a great skua or white-tailed eagle. We will take the Zodiacs in for a close-up look and may even have time to make a landing to explore on foot. While there are only about 100 human inhabitants on the island, there are 70 different species of nesting birds with 240 species observed. In addition to birdlife, our naturalists will also help us to spot the many varieties of plants found on the island. In the evening, we will arrive at Alesund and anchor overnight so we can get an early start for our adventures tomorrow.
- Day 5 — Alesund, Norway
The coastal town of Ålesund is noted for its characteristic Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) buildings, making it one of the most picturesque towns in Norway. Narrow streets are crammed with buildings topped with turrets, spires and gables that bear decorations of dragonheads and curlicues.
- Day 6 — Bergen, Norway
Nestled among seven scenic hills, Bergen, with its gabled houses, is one of Norway's most beautiful cities. Bryggen, the old wharf of Bergen, is a reminder of the town’s importance as part of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire from the 14th to the mid-16th century, and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Many fires, the last in 1955, have ravaged the characteristic wooden houses. Rebuilding has traditionally followed old patterns and methods, preserving the ancient wooden urban structure once common in Northern Europe. Today, some 62 buildings remain of this former townscape.
Following our guided exploration of Bryggen, we will visit the Hanseatic Museum. In the period between 1350 and 1750, the buildings on the wharf served as base for the German stockfish tradesmen of the Hanseatic League. The museum is the only house on the old wharf in which the original interiors have been preserved. The building dates from 1704 and provides insight as to what life was like for the Hanseatics of the wharf.
- Day 7 — Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland
Charming sandstone buildings line the waterfront of this historic seaport. Lerwick, the northernmost town in Scotland and the only town in Shetland, reflects its proximity to Norway with a delightful blend of Scottish and Scandinavian cultures. Our morning excursion travels through 17th-century Lerwick to the south of the Shetland mainland. We will see the fertile limestone community of Fladdabister, and pause for a photo of the world’s best-preserved Iron Age broch on the Island of Mousa. In the tranquility of Hoswick, enjoy some time at Laurence Odie Knitwear and the Hoswick Visitor Centre or wander along the peaceful foreshore.
We will then cross the 60-degree-north line of latitude and onto the rugged Atlantic coast. Here we will learn of the Pictish treasure as we take in the vistas of St Ninian’s Isle, white sandy beaches and possibly seals. At Jarlshof – Europe’s most complex archaeological site – we will travel through 4,000 years of Shetland history ranging from the New Stone Age up to the 1600s. Our local guide will describe Shetland’s culture and heritage in greater detail on our return journey to Lerwick.
- Day 8 — Fair Isle, 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.
- Day 9 — Invergordon, Scotland
As the Silver Explorer rounds the northern coast of Cromarty Firth, we will watch for dolphins and porpoise in the waters surrounding Invergordon. Originally known as An Rudha Aonach Brecaidh (Gaelic for “the point of a flat green dappled place”), we will head ashore to explore the interior of this storied destination. Through delightful Highland scenery we will travel to Dunrobin Castle, with its 15th-century keep, 17th-century courtyard and exceptional formal gardens overlooking the sea. The ancestral home of the Clan Sutherland, the castle was remodelled and enlarged in the mid 19th century. Weather permitting, we will enjoy a display of the ancient sport of falconry. Our outing takes us next to Tain and the world-renowned Glenmorangie distillery. We will tour the distillery and enjoy a whisky tasting.
Alternatively, choose to instead head south to Loch Ness for a chance to glimpse the infamous Loch Ness Monster! We first visit Urquhart Castle – once a strategic stronghold now an assemblage of picturesque and impressive ruins surrounded on three sides by the cold deep waters of Loch Ness. Our guide will share highlights of its dramatic history that dates back in written records to the 1200s, but in archaeology and folklore right back to the Iron Age and the Picts. Spend some time in the excellent visitor’s centre before we continue our scenic drive to the pretty town of Beauly. A charming traditional Scottish town, Beauly is the ideal place to purchase tweeds, knitwear and local crafts.
- Day 10 — Stromness, Orkney Islands, Scotland
After docking in Stromness this afternoon, 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.
Before sailing this evening, we will be entertained with a music performance by local children who are part of the Orkney Traditional Music Project. This organisation was formed in 1998 to revive the teaching of fiddle and accordion music in the islands, which have a long tradition of passing tunes from one generation to the next.
- Day 11 — Stornoway, Lewis Island, Scotland
Today’s tour takes us away from the island capital of Stornoway and across the island to the Black House of Arnol – a fully furnished island croft (small farm) complete with attached byre and stockyard. The house has very thick walls and a thatched roof, a peat fire burns in the grate and we can see the islander’s crofting life as it was until only 50 years ago.
We continue on to the beautiful west coast of the island and to Callanish. Described as Scotland’s Stonehenge, the Callanish Standing Stones date from around 3000 BC. There are a total of 32 stones in a circular and avenue design. It is thought that the site, one of several in the area, was constructed for astronomical observations. The stones stand like a petrified forest on the flat top of a peninsula that reaches out into East Loch Roag.
- Day 12 — Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland
After coming ashore in the charming Portree, we will drive across the lovely Isle of Skye to its west coast and the castle of Dunvegan – seat of the Clan MacLeod chiefs since the 13th century. One of the greatest and most renowned among the Hebridean strongholds, Dunvegan Castle is the only one to have been continuously owned and occupied by the same family over a period now spanning eight centuries.
Within the castle are priceless heirlooms, some of which have come down through the hands of the Chiefs of MacLeod since medieval times, including such treasures as the Dunvegan Cup, the mysterious Fairy Flag and Rory Mor’s Horn. Wander through the lovely gardens that surround a waterfall known as Rory Mor’s Cascade. On our return to Portee, we will travel through various landscapes including the famous Cuillin Mountains.
This afternoon, join a local guide for a walking tour of historic Portree – a bustling fishing town with pretty painted buildings huddled around a charming harbour. Our guide will describe the vision Sir James MacDonald had of a town with education for all and a thriving trade and society. We will see impressive buildings with impressive histories, all the while enjoying the local tales shared by our knowledgeable guide as we stroll the streets of Portree. Following our tour, we can browse the lovely shops selling Scottish goods, crafts and tartans before returning to the Silver Explorer.
- Day 13 — Lunga, Treshnish Islands, Iona, Scotland
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.
In the afternoon, the Silver Explorer repositions to 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.
- Day 14 — Belfast, Northern Ireland
For the final day of our journey, we dock in the storied port of Belfast and venture inland to explore some of Northern Ireland’s most celebrated attractions. First we stop to photograph Dunluce Castle. Perched picturesquely (and precipitously!) at the edge of a rocky outcropping high above the sea, the castle is dramatically surrounded by terrifyingly steep drops. Most of the fortifications date from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Nearby, we will view the world-famous Old Bushmills Whiskey Distillery. While we are unable to visit inside the distillery, we can find a nice selection of whiskeys and souvenir items for purchase inside the shop.
Our next destination is the Giant’s Causeway of 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns that descend in a kind of pathway to the sea. Formed over 50 million years ago, UNESCO has recognised this unique site with World Heritage status. For centuries, visitors have marvelled at the rugged symmetry of the columns and their ability to withstand the unbridled ferocity of Atlantic storms. We will enjoy an audio-visual presentation and exhibition before boarding the “Causeway Coaster” minibus, which will bring us to the causeway itself.
Following lunch at a local hotel, we will drive along the spectacular and unspoilt Antrim Coast to the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. Upon arrival, we will hike uphill following a winding and bumpy pathway with wonderful vantage points, ultimately arriving out at the rope suspension bridge. The path is over 1 Km long with wonderful vantage points to stop and take in the natural beauty. The geology, flora and fauna have earned Carrick-a-rede recognition as an area of special scientific interest. For those not fearful of heights, step out onto the bridge as it sways high above the steep cliffs and crashing waves.
Alternatively, choose instead to visit the National Trust Properties of Mount Stewart House and Gardens, the finest in Northern Ireland. Home of the Londonderry family since the early 18th century, Mount Stewart has hosted many prominent political figures such as Robert Viscount Castlereagh, War Minister and Foreign Secretary throughout much of the Napoleonic Wars. The property is full of his memorabilia including 22 chairs brought back from the Congress at Vienna in 1814, correspondence with Nelson and Wellington, and a painting by Stubbs of the racehorse Hambletonian. We will enjoy a guided tour of this wonderful house and together admire the breathtaking profusion of astrological designs, stained glass and marble.
The magnificent gardens have made Mount Stewart famous and have been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. A stunning collection of fine trees and rare shrubs from all over the world flourishes, as does an unrivalled collection of rare and unusual plants. Beyond the Victorian kitchen garden lies a newly planted Arboretum divided into sections that represent each of the main regions of the world.
- Day 15 — Dublin, Ireland
We will arrive at Dublin in the early morning. Following breakfast onboard, 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...