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

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. Prices from £2,260pp for 6 nights (April from £2030) (themajesticline.co.uk). 

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.

Check out Fred Olsen’s full range of cruises at fredolsencruises.com. Photo: Dave Head/Shutterstock

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’ , prices from £5490pp for 15 days (vikingcruises.co.uk). Photo: Stefan Mlynarcik/Shutterstock

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.

Looking for the perfect holiday? Try out our selection of exclusive cruise trips around the British Isles here.

Princes Cruises’ ‘British Isles with Dublin overnight’ on Caribbean Princess departs Southampton on 30 June 2017. Prices from £1,539pp for 12 nights (princess.com).

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. Prices from £4,985pp for 11 nights (noble-caledonia.co.uk).

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.

Visit Hebridean Cruises website at hebridean.co.uk to see their full range of cruises specialising in castles and gardens of Scotland. Photo: Spumador/Shutterstock

Although the only UK island call is Lerwick on Shetland, this exclusive cruise 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 ‘Shetlands, Faroe Islands, Iceland – In the Wake of the Vikings – Westbound’ £3504pp for 11 days (hurtigruten.co.uk). Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar Gmbh/Shutterstock

For more holiday inspiration and coastal guides, click here or pick up a copy of the magazine.

For more holiday inspiration and coastal guides, click here or pick up a copy of the magazine.