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8 Nov 2019

Hebridean Heaven – cruise in May 2021

A sailing boat is anchored in the middle of the sheltered bay on a shimmering sunny day on Canna.
The shimmering waters of Canna
After the popularity of the Noble Caledonia cruises to the Northern Isles, they have planned a third exciting voyage for us, this time exploring Scotland’s beautiful Hebridean islands from 15–23 May 2021.

Over the past 29 years Noble Caledonia has operated hundreds of different cruises in the Hebrides. Take a look at the itinerary for this voyage if you have a hankering to see and learn more about the natural world, history and culture of the Hebrides. It promises to be an enchanting journey with like-minded travellers. 

We can all be guilty of forsaking the beauty that’s close to hand for far-flung enticing foreign shores. But the call of the wild and the enchanting Hebrides cannot be ignored. This is not a ‘traditional’ cruise but a thought-provoking journey, at the time of year when the islands and west coast of Scotland will be at their best. The wildlife, gardens and wild flowers will be at their richest, thriving in some amazing habitats. 

There will be many highlights along the way but perhaps none more so than the visit to the St Kilda archipelago, an extraordinary place that has earned a dual designation as a World Heritage Site for both its natural and cultural significance. 

The lounge on the ship, showing soft seating arranged around white circular tables.
The comfortable lounge on board MS Serenissima

MS Serenissima

Join Noble Caledonia aboard the 95-passenger MS Serenissima, an ideal vessel for exploration. This charming ship began her career as the Harald Jarl, cruising the Norwegian coastline and fjords. She was extensively renovated in 2003 and has since been operating as a classic cruise ship. With her small size and fleet of Zodiac landing craft, she can navigate into small, remote ports inaccessible to the big cruise ships. 

Expert team

Travelling with us will be a team of naturalists and experts who’ll add much to your enjoyment and knowledge in such diverse places as Glencoe, Inverewe, Crarae Garden, Fingal’s Cave on Staffa and the holy island of Iona.

John Love – guest speaker

We’re delighted that John Love will be part of the team again. In 1975 John went to live on the Isle of Rum where he successfully managed a project to reintroduce the sea eagle. While he remains involved with birds of prey, seabirds are another passion. In the 1990s John acted as guide and lecturer on several small charter vessels around the Hebrides and he has lectured on cruises around Scotland and to Norway for the National Trust for Scotland. He first worked for Noble Caledonia in 2009 and now participates in various expedition cruises for 3–5 months each year, mainly around the UK – and the Hebrides in particular.

An aerial view of Glenfinnan Monument, taken from above the viaduct and looking towards the loch and mountains in the background.
Glenfinnan Monument

Hebridean Heaven itinerary

Day 1: Oban, Scotland 

Embark MS Serenissima this afternoon. A transfer will be available from Glasgow Central Station and Glasgow International Airport at a fixed time. Enjoy welcome drinks and dinner on board as you sail along Loch Linnhe and anchor overnight at Fort William.

Day 2: Fort William 

Awake this morning in Fort William, the largest town in the Scottish Highlands and a great base to explore the surrounding beautiful scenery of the Nevis Range. On a morning tour, you’ll drive to two of the best-known monuments in Scotland: the statue to commemorate Bonnie Prince Charlie and the failed Jacobite rising of 1745, and the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Having enjoyed stunning views of Ben Nevis on the way, you’ll explore the National Trust for Scotland’s Glenfinnan Visitor Centre and then watch the famous Jacobite steam train chug across the famous landmark. 

After returning to Fort William for lunch, you’ll travel south along the shores of Loch Linnhe to visit Glencoe, one of Scotland’s most spectacular places and now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. The glen provides some of Scotland’s most dramatic scenery and is also the site of the infamous 1692 massacre. The scenic drive continues via the Pass of Brander, taking in the impressive landscapes of the Scottish Highlands – mountains, sea lochs, castles and islands – before travelling back up the west coast to Fort William and returning to the ship.

Day 3: Canna and Loch Scavaig

Strategically placed between the mountains of Rum and the Outer Hebrides, the island of Canna and its adjoining neighbour Sanday have an amazingly rich archaeological landscape, with remains dating from all periods of settled occupation in Scotland. Canna is looked after by the National Trust for Scotland and enjoys the best harbour in the Small Isles. The fertile soil and diversity of habitats mean that the island has an incredibly rich plant life, with 248 native flowering plants recorded. You’ll see Canna House and wander across grassy plateaus to the 600-feet cliffs in the north of the island. 

You’ll then sail during lunch to lovely Loch Scavaig on the island of Skye. Just beyond is the freshwater Loch Coruisk with breathtakingly beautiful views over the Cuillins. This is great walking country, but for those who prefer a less energetic afternoon our Zodiacs will explore the coastline looking out for seals.

An aerial view of Inverewe Garden focusing on the shoreline by the loch. The water is turquoise and clear. Mountains can be seen in the distance.
Inverewe Garden

Day 4: Inverewe and the Shiant Islands

This morning you’ll visit Inverewe, surely one of the finest sited gardens in all Scotland. Cared for by the National Trust for Scotland since 1952, it was first designed by plant hunter Osgood Mackenzie in the late 19th century and is home to a multitude of exotic and tender plants. They thrive in this northerly location, warmed by the effects of the Gulf Stream and protected by over 40 hectares of woodland shelter. After a guided tour of the gardens, you’ll return to the ship and sail over lunch. 

In the afternoon you’ll board the Zodiacs for a cruise around the spectacular basalt cliffs of the Shiant Islands, a group of little islands located a few miles off Lewis. This is an excellent place to spot puffins, razorbills, guillemots, seals and hopefully white-tailed eagles.

Dozens of gannets fly over the sea, close to the shore of St Kilda.

Day 5: St Kilda

Awake this morning in St Kilda, a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some 40 miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. Dominated by the highest cliffs and sea stacks in Britain, Hirta (St Kilda’s main island) was occupied on and off for at least 2,000 years, with the last 36 islanders evacuated at their own request in 1930. Immediately after the evacuation, the islands were bought by the Marquess of Bute to protect the thousands of seabirds including puffins and fulmars, and in 1957 the islands were bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland. 

St Kilda is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites with dual status, reflecting both its natural and cultural significance. The National Trust for Scotland ranger will join you on board before the expedition staff lead a number of guided walks on Hirta. Later, you’ll cruise past two of the largest gannetries in the world at Stac Lee and Berneray. These impressive stacs rise 170m from the sea and are home to up to 60,000 breeding pairs of northern gannets.

An aerial view of the island of Mingulay, surrounded by calm blue waters.

Day 6: Mingulay and Barra

Arrive over breakfast at Mingulay, the largest of the group of islands south of Barra. Its towering cliffs and stacks face the Atlantic while the east side slopes gradually down to the sandy beach of Mingulay Bay. Despite there being a continuous population on the island for at least 2,000 years, evacuation began in 1907 and the island was completely abandoned in 1912. Ruins of the village remain close to the shore which you’ll explore on a guided walk. The island, now cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, also has important breeding populations of razorbills, guillemots, puffins, fulmars and shags. 

Over lunch you’ll sail to Barra, which is near the southern tip of the Outer Hebrides, to visit Castlebay which curves around the barren rocky hills of a beautiful wide bay. Here we find the 15th-century Kisimul Castle, seat of the Clan Macneil and a key defensive stronghold situated on a rock in the middle of the bay.

Day 7: Staffa, Iona and Lunga

Over breakfast the ship will hopefully drop anchor off the south of Staffa, which has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland since 1986. Here, the perpendicular rock face features an imposing series of basalt columns, known as the colonnade, which has been cut by the sea into cathedralesque caverns, most notably Fingal’s Cave. Weather permitting, you’ll use the Zodiacs to explore closer before sailing to Iona, also in the Trust’s care. 

This flat Hebridean island has been occupied for thousands of years and has been a place of pilgrimage and Christian worship for several centuries. St Columba fled from Ireland in AD 563 and established a monastery here; his followers were responsible for the conversion of much of pagan Scotland and northern England. Many early Scottish kings are buried in the abbey. Visit the abbey or enjoy a walk along the white sandy beaches. 

Northwest of Staffa lie the Treshnish Isles, an archipelago of uninhabited volcanic islets, of which the island of Lunga is the largest. Lunga has been described as ‘a green jewel in a peacock sea’ and is a summer nesting-place for hundreds of seabirds.

A sunny view over the Sound of Jura from Arduaine Garden
The view out to sea from the beautiful Arduaine Garden

Day 8: Arduaine and Crarae Gardens

You’ll sail this morning along the Argyll coast to the anchorage at Ardfern. From here you’ll visit two very special National Trust for Scotland gardens. First stop is Arduaine, a delightful woodland garden on a rocky promontory beside the sea which enjoys the benefits from the warming effect of the North Atlantic Drift and is a paradise for plant lovers. Here you’ll see the magnificent collection of rhododendron species as well as azaleas, magnolias and many other shrubs and trees creating scents and splashes of colour throughout. Take a walk through the woodland to the coastal viewpoint and enjoy superb views of the Sound of Jura, or just spend some time relaxing at the water garden. 

Return to the ship for lunch and then drive to Crarae Garden, a Himalayan-style glen set in the gentle hills of Argyll. The garden was created in 1912 by Lady Grace Campbell, the aunt of intrepid plant hunter Reginald Farrer, who sourced trees and shrubs from China, Nepal and Tibet. Today, the sparkling waters of the Crarae Burn form the centrepiece for a woody paradise of rocky gorges, wooden bridges and thickets of maple, birch and evergreens, blending with sprays of flowers.

Day 9: Oban

Disembark this morning after breakfast. Transfers will be provided to Glasgow International Airport and Glasgow Central Station at a fixed time.

A suite on MS Serenissima
The Serenissima suite

Prices 

(per person based on double occupancy)

Swipe to view table

CategoryCabin DescriptionPrice
2Standard Stateroom£3,595
3Classic Stateroom £3,795
4Superior Stateroom £4,295
5Deluxe Stateroom £4,595
6Junior Suite £4,995
7Owner’s Suite£5,395
8Serenissima Suite £5,395
10Standard Single      £5,095

Price includes: Eight nights aboard MS Serenissima on a full-board basis – house wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner on board – Noble Caledonia onboard team – shore excursions – gratuities – transfers – port taxes

Not included: Travel insurance

Noble Caledonia will make a contribution to support the vital work of the National Trust for Scotland, much of which will be enjoyed during this voyage.

For further details and to book, please call 0207 752 0000 or visit the Noble Caledonia website.