Dreaming of a relaxing cruise with white-sand islands, amazing wildlife, fine wine and interesting local architecture? You might be surprised to find the coastline of the British Isles has everything you could wish for. Words: Steve Newman
1. FOR WILDLIFE
The Inlets and Islands cruise around Mull is a fantastic trip if you want to see puffins, sea eagles and other wildlife. The itinerary almost circumnavigates the whole island from Tobermory in the Sound of Mull to the magical offshore islands including the Treshnish Isles, Staffa – where you can see the basalt sculpture of Fingal’s Cave which inspired Felix Mendelssohn’s famous Hebrides Overture – and the white-sand beaches of Iona. Some overnight stays are in secluded inlets with only seals, otters and deer feeding on the shoreline to keep you company.
RECOMMENDED EXCURSION: Sample the delicious local seafood in colourful Tobermory.
The Majestic Line’s ‘Around Mull Inlets and Islands’ cruise on Glen Massan or Glen Tarsan departs Oban on 6, 20 and 27 May 2017. Prices from £2,140pp for 6 nights (themajesticline.co.uk).
2. FOR THE LOVE OF LOCHS
If it’s natural beauty and tranquillity you’re seeking, then look no further. Cruise on picturesque Loch Fyne, calling at Tarbert, and then on to Loch Linnhe, with a stop at Fort William, Loch Shieldaig, Loch Torridon and the Sound of Raasay. Portree, the largest town on Skye, is followed by Invergordon, where you can visit Loch Ness, then Kirkwall and scenic Ullapool. Loch Broom and the Sound of Mull are next on the itinerary – cruise past Duart Castle – before the trip ends back in Belfast.
RECOMMENDED EXCURSION: 13th-century Dunrobin Castle houses a collection of paintings and family memorabilia of the Earls of Sutherland.
Fred Olsen’s ‘Lochs of Scotland’ cruise on Boudicca departs Belfast on 8 May 2017. Prices from £999pp for 8 nights (fredolsencruises.com). Photo: Dave Head/Shutterstock
3. FOR CIRCUMNAVIGATION
Starting from Tilbury, you get a little taste of Europe on this cruise, as Amsterdam is the first destination. Then it’s north to Orkney – where you can visit the fascinating Neolithic site of Skara Brae – and the famed Isle of Skye, as well as Mull. Next you’ll check out Dublin and Holyhead, then sail south to the Isles of Scilly, before moving on to St Peter Port on Guernsey. A call at the pretty French town of Honfleur completes the itinerary.
RECOMMENDED EXCURSION: Tresco’s Abbey Garden comprises 14 acres of beautiful sub-tropical gardens, first laid out in 1834.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ ‘Round Britain & Amsterdam’ cruise on Astoria departs London Tilbury Docks on 26 April 2017. Prices from £899pp for 11 nights (cruiseandmaritime.com). Photo: James LePage/Shutterstock
4. FOR LIFESTYLE
Starting with an overnight stay in Bergen, Norway, and ending with one in Greenwich, this British Isles Explorer cruise will allow you to immerse yourself in the British coastline. Discover the Highlands from Ullapool and Invergordon, and soak up the atmosphere in Edinburgh. Visit Shetland at Lerwick and Orkney at Kirkwall, then contrast modern Belfast with classic Dublin. Get a taste of Welsh culture from the Isle of Anglesey, while in England maritime Liverpool, historic Dover and London are all ports of call.
RECOMMENDED EXCURSION: The remarkable archaeological site of Jarlshof on Shetland – stunning evidence of 4,000 years of settlement and a thriving Viking presence.
Viking Cruises’ ‘British Isles Explorer’ on Viking Sun departs London on 5 May or Bergen on 11 August 2018. Prices from £4,640pp for 15 days (vikingcruises.co.uk). Photo: Stefan Mlynarcik/Shutterstock
5. FOR ART
Cruise around the British Isles for 13 nights on a trip with an arts and literary theme, with guest speakers aboard. Edinburgh, Invergordon (for Loch Ness and Culloden), Kirkwall on Orkney, and Greenock for Glasgow and the Burrell Gallery (with works by Degas and Cézanne), make up the Scottish element of the trip, while Dublin, Liverpool and St Peter Port in the Channel Islands also feature. There’s even a call to the Netherlands.
RECOMMENDED EXCURSION: Seek out beautiful Loch Ness and scan its glassy surface for the legendary monster.
Cunard’s ‘Arts and Literary Tour of the British Isles’ on Queen Elizabeth departs Southampton on 1 July 2017. Prices from £1,329pp for 13 nights (cunard.co.uk).
6. FOR ARCHITECTURE
Calling at St Peter Port, Guernsey, with a chance to see the world-famous Little Chapel – a historic miniature church inspired by Lourdes and decorated with shells, pebbles and broken china – this 12-night cruise then travels to Cork for a trip to Blarney Castle and a chance to kiss the Blarney Stone. An overnight stay in Dublin means you can explore the fair city under your own steam – visit Trinity College, St Patrick’s Cathedral or the Guinness Storehouse. Belfast – with its award-winning Titanic Museum – is followed by Greenock for Glasgow, Invergordon, Edinburgh, and Le Havre, before the return to Southampton.
RECOMMENDED EXCURSION: The Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim coast – Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site – is a spectacular landscape made up of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns.
Princes Cruises’ ‘British Isles with Dublin overnight’ on Caribbean Princess departs Southampton on 30 June 2017. Prices from £1,399pp for 12 nights (princess.com).
7. FOR ISLANDS
This voyage will appeal to those who wish to see some of the most remote islands around our coast, including Herm (Channel Islands), St Agnes and Tresco (Isles of Scilly) the Aran Islands and Tory Island off the west of Ireland, St Kilda and the world’s largest two-island gannet colony on Stac Lee and Boreray, as well as Fair Isle and the Shiant Islands. Iona, the Isle of Lewis, Orkney and Aberdeen are also on the itinerary. This is an expedition cruise with most landings made by Zodiac inflatables so you’ll need to be fairly fit, but it is an unforgettable experience.
RECOMMENDED EXCURSION: The 5,000-year-old village of Skara Brae on Orkney to see the remarkable dwellings revealed from beneath the sand dunes by storms only 150 years ago.
Noble Caledonia’s ‘Islands on the Edge’ cruise on Serenissima departs Portsmouth on 19 May 2018. Prices from £4,965pp for 12 nights (noble-caledonia.co.uk).
8. FOR GARDENS
This tour of ancient castles and gorgeous gardens calls at Colonsay and Iona, and visits densely planted Lip na Cloiche on Mull, overlooking Loch Tuath and the Isle of Ulva. More spectacular gardens on the itinerary include Dunvegan Castle, the 40-acre gardens of Armadale Castle on Skye, and Ardtornish Estate Gardens at Loch Aline, wrapping up with a Champagne reception at Duart Castle hosted by the Chieftain of Clan MacLean.
RECOMMENDED EXCURSION: Inverewe Garden in Wester Ross – a lush, sub-tropical oasis on a peninsula at the edge of Loch Ewe.
Hebridean Cruises’ ‘Historic Castles and Glorious Gardens’ cruise on Hebridean Princess departs Oban on 20 June 2017. Prices from £4,540pp for 7 nights (hebridean.co.uk). Photo: Spumador/Shutterstock
9. FOR LUXURY
With 12 ports of call, your own butler and high-end luxury accommodation, this cruise takes in Waterford and its famous crystal works, Skomer Island, the Isle of Man, tiny Rathlin Island, St Kilda and the Isle of Skye. Cities are not forgotten either, with Dublin and Aberdeen on the agenda, as well as the lovely town of Pembroke with its castle.
RECOMMENDED EXCURSION: The Isle of Man Steam Railway for a delightful trip to Castletown, the island’s capital until 1869.
Silversea’s ‘Northern Europe and British Isles’ cruise on Silver Explorer departs Portsmouth on 8 June 2017. Prices from £7,950pp for 11 days (silversea.com). Photo: Nahlik/Shutterstock
10. FOR LIVING HERITAGE
Although the only UK island call is Lerwick on Shetland, this exclusive cruise from Greenland to Norway includes Iceland and The Faroe Islands – think glittering glaciers and unique culture – and really brings home our Norse heritage. Among the tours offered to active explorers is a trip to Jarlshof, one of the biggest archaeological sites in Scotland, and a general tour of the island gives a fascinating insight into Shetland history.
RECOMMENDED EXCURSION: The complete Broch at Mousa – a tiny island full of history and a sanctuary for wildlife.
Hurtigruten’s ‘Island Hopping in the North Atlantic’ departs Greenland on Spitsbergen on 20 August 2017. Prices from £5,510 for 14 days (hurtigruten.co.uk). Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar Gmbh/Shutterstock