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ROYAL SCOTSMAN & REMOTE BRITISH ISLES

  • Overview
  • Accommodation
  • Itinerary
  • Fares

A journey overview

  • Edinburgh
  • Scottish Highlands
  • Keith
  • Ballindalloch
  • Dundee
  • London
  • Isles of Scilly
  • St Kilda
  • Vestmannaeyjar Islands
  • Thorlakshofn
  • Reykjavík

20 Days Expedition Voyage
  • Departing:
  • 27 May 2024 Sold Out

Explore the beauty of Scotland’s Highlands aboard the iconic Royal Scotsman train on an exclusive charter, before joining the small expedition ship Silver Wind for a remarkable cruise around the remote British Isles. Rich history, stunning landscapes and extraordinary wildlife encounters are the essence of this journey, reserved for 36 guests.

Map

Tour Manager - Denise Van Sever

Tour Doctor - Dr Victoria Hayes

As Your Tour Manager, Denise Van Sever Welcomes You On This Journey

Your Accompanying Tour Doctor For This Journey is Dr Victoria Hayes


In Scotland’s beautiful capital, Edinburgh, we check into our historic and luxurious hotel, The Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, a city landmark since 1903. Our afternoon is at leisure, so we can enjoy the hotel’s facilities or choose to explore the charms of Edinburgh’s Old Town. This evening, a regal treat awaits as we enjoy our Welcome Dinner in the palatial Queen Anne Room within iconic Edinburgh Castle.  A private tour of the Scottish Crown Jewels is also on the menu.

After our hotel breakfast, we take a walking tour through the medieval Old Town and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, we join our home for the next four days, the fabled Royal Scotsman, a Belmond train, which is exclusively chartered by our Captain’s Choice group. The Edwardian elegance of the train’s historic carriages provides the atmosphere of a grand country house. We leave Waverley Station and cross the iconic Forth Railway Bridge. Regarded as one of the great engineering achievements of the Victorian age, it was one of the first cantilever bridges ever built. We are treated to afternoon tea as we roll through the former Kingdom of Fife, arriving in the market town of Keith. We relax over an informal dinner, then retire to the Observation Car for a nightcap and some local entertainment.

We travel west along the Moray Firth towards Inverness, capital of the Highlands. Lunch is served on the way to our overnight destination, Kyle of Lochalsh, along one of Britain’s most scenic rail routes. We pass Loch Luichart and the Torridon Mountains, and climb to Luib summit and Achnashellach Forest before descending to Strathcarron. The train then follows the edge of Loch Carron through Attadale, Stromeferry and Duncraig. We alight in the picturesque fishing village of Plockton, and take a boat trip to see the colony of wild seals and enjoy magnificent views across the bay to the Applecross Mountains. We pause along the way in the Plockton Hotel to enjoy a traditional Highland welcome and a wee dram or two. We meet the train in Kyle of Lochalsh, gateway to the Isle of Skye. After an informal dinner, there is entertainment in the Observation Car.

Breakfast is served as we leave Kyle and retrace our route as far as Dingwall, with enchanting views of Plockton. Disembark in Garve to visit Glen Ord Distillery, one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, founded in 1838. Glen Ord continues to malt its own barley and practice centuries-old long fermentation and slow distillation methods. Enjoy a tour of the distillery and a private tasting and nosing session. After lunch on board, we visit the baronial castle known as the ‘Pearl of the North’, Ballindalloch Castle. Surrounded by hills, and with the Spey and Avon rivers running through its grounds, Ballindalloch is the family home of the Macpherson-Grants, and houses a fine collection of 17th-century Spanish paintings, a sumptuous dining room, vaulted hallway and impressive library. We re-join the train in Boat of Garten in the early evening and, as it makes its way to Dundee, prepare for a formal dinner to mark our last night on board. After our celebratory feast, we may feel inspired by our musicians to partake of some lively Scottish country dancing on the station platform.

After breakfast we arrive in Edinburgh and say farewell to the Belmond Royal Scotsman before boarding an express train to London Kings Cross Station. In London, we transfer to the ultra-luxurious Silver Wind, berthed majestically at instantly recognisable Tower Bridge. We settle into our suites, have dinner aboard, and then spend the night in this unforgettable setting.

The Silver Wind weighs anchor at 6.30am, bound for the Channel Isles. A day at sea allows us to become acquainted with the facilities aboard our ship, spend time reading, visiting the library, attending a lecture, or just relaxing. All meals are served on board.

We dock at 9am in St Peter Port, Guernsey’s picturesque capital. Once French – its original name is St Pierre Port – the town is at least 800 years old. Take the opportunity to join one of the following experiences. These options will be presented to you while aboard the ship.

The first is a coastal walk along a part of the island where Renoir painted in the summer of 1883. We enjoy the same views that inspired him, and pass bird-watching hides, World War II bunkers and a monument erected in honour of a former Governor of the island. The walk ends at Jerbourg Hotel, where you can enjoy a Guernsey cream tea. 

Your second option is a visit to locations from the novel The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. We walk to a viewing point where, on a clear day, the other Channel Islands and France are spotted, and where, in the book, Elizabeth met her German lover and watched planes flying over to drop their bombs on London. You will also visit the Little Chapel, the world’s smallest consecrated church, and a memorial dedicated to locals killed in a German bombing raid in 1940. 

The final option is a guided half-day walk through St Peter Port, followed by a visit to 800-year-old Castle Cornet and its museums. Castle Cornet, which originally was built on an island and is now reachable by a raised walkway, sits on the site of Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements and guards the entrance to Guernsey harbour. 

We all return to Silver Wind for its evening sailing

We dock at Tresco this morning. Scattered offshore from England’s most south-westerly point – Land’s End – the Isles of Scilly are home to rich wildlife, and green land sloping to powdery white beaches. Isolated and serene, life here hums along at its own pace in this archipelago's bubble, which enjoys the UK’s mildest climate, and some of its most spectacular beaches. We explore Tresco’s famous Abbey Garden, home to thousands of exotic plant species from 80 countries. Plant collector Augustus Smith began the gardens in the 1830s on the site of an old Benedictine Abbey. We have the option of visiting the garden with our Expedition Team or independently, crossing by Zodiac to the island. Smith had three terraces carved from the rocky south slope and maximised the benefits of Tresco’s mild Gulf Stream climate, and at all times of the year hundreds of species are in flower. We depart aboard Silver Wind again in the early evening.

Silver Wind approaches the Scottish mainland, our destination Girvan. The coastal town leads to an abundance of walking trails through lush forest, while its many castles and historic buildings are nicely juxtaposed against the area’s scattered wind turbines. Over the course of a short walk, we can enjoy the harbour of this traditional fishing village while, nearby, neat rows of terrace houses sit before a backdrop of undulating green hills. Just offshore, meanwhile, we spy the tiny island of Ailsa Craig, which was mined for its granite until the 1970s. A choice of experiences awaits you in Girvan. 

Take the coastal route to Culzean Castle. Enjoy a guided tour of the castle’s interior, once occupied by the president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Afterwards, explore some of the walking trails around the grounds of the property. 

Alternatively, meet with one of Galloway Forest Park’s rangers, who will provide insights into the history, topography, flora and fauna of the region. Choose your preferred trail and, accompanied by members of our Expedition Team, marvel at the woodlands, lochs and rolling hills that comprise the natural surrounds. Please note: A moderate amount of walking over uneven ground and steep terrain is involved during this activity. 

We cruise due north along the Firth of Clyde this evening.

Admire the colourful cafes, houses and shops that line Tobermory’s harbour. Located upon Scotland’s craggy Inner Hebrides, Tobermory serves as the capital of the Isle of Mull. The following shore excursions will be presented to you aboard the ship and do not require preselection. Learn some of the area’s fascinating history during a visit to the Mull Museum. Or head out to enjoy some of the fabulous wildlife watching opportunities on offer on a boat tour. Spot majestic birds like white tail and golden eagles circling in the skies, or turn your attention to the waves, where friendly dolphins and Minke whales are regular visitors. The last option is to treat yourself to a sample of one of the island’s finest exports before leaving, as you drop in at the Tobermory Distillery for some whiskey tasting. Established in 1798, it’s one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries

Overlooking the Slate Islands, Arduaine is a tiny hamlet that leads to the renowned gardens bearing its name. The gardens enjoy the warming effect produced by the North Atlantic Drift and boast an array of exotic plant species. Admire the garden’s collection of Rhododendrons, azaleas and Magnolias. After a guided tour, enjoy the coastal views of the Sound of Jura or relax at the water garden. 

We set sail again early this afternoon, before anchoring at Duart, on the Isle of Mull. Enjoy an in-depth exploration of Duart Castle, visiting the dungeons where officers from the Spanish Galleon were held captive by the chieftan of Clan Maclean. The castle is still owned and occupied today by Sir Lachlan Maclean, 28th chief of the clan. After our tour, we again depart aboard Zodiacs to return to our ship.

Our vessel anchors off the tiny island of Iona early this morning. Explore Iona Abbey, one of Scotland’s most reassured historical sites, during a short, guided tour. Afterwards, visit the museum, which houses the country’s finest collection of early medieval carved stones and crosses. 

Boarding our ship once more, we cruise north to Lunga, the largest island in the Treshnish archipelago, enjoying lunch on board. The great attraction of this uninhabited island is the delightful puffin, which breeds in profusion on the island’s plateau. Choose how to spend your time on the Isle of Lunga today. 

Perhaps join a Zodiac cruise along the shoreline to see puffins and shags up close, in the water and in the skies above us. 

Another option is to join a challenging climb and hike to get a closer look at the puffins. Please note: This is an adventurous hike and not for those who are not sure-footed or able to climb over rocks unassisted. 

You may prefer to set out in a kayak to see the puffins and shags from the water. 

We set sail this evening for the Shiant Islands.

Reaching the remote Shiant Islands, we are captivated by the tall, hexagonal columns which populate the landscape. These ancient rock formations are the result of volcanic magma that has cooled and eroded over millions of years. The islands are also home to a range of seabirds, among them black-legged kittiwakes. While aboard the ship, decide how you would like to explore the area. Join the Expedition Team and discover the rugged geology and seabird colonies from aboard a Zodiac. Perhaps you’d prefer the more relaxed pace of a kayak to take in more of the spectacular coastline and wildlife, including white-tailed eagles, Atlantic puffins and gray seals. 

We make our approach to the Scottish mainland early this afternoon. Loch Ewe, the only north-facing loch in Scotland, had a strong naval presence during World War II. It served as a strategic meeting point for vessels taking the voyage to Russian ports as part of the Arctic Convoy campaign. While here, we take a tour of the flourishing Inverewe Garden, where an estimated 2,500 exotic plants and flowers can be found. Enjoy some free time for further exploration this afternoon before we rejoin our ship.

Perhaps the best known of Scotland’s islands, Isle of Skye possesses some of the country’s most rugged and dramatic scenery. We anchor in Dunvegan, situated within a sheltered loch on the north-western coast. Boarding our Zodiacs, we cruise to Dunvegan Castle, otherwise closed to the public during our exclusive visit.

We wake this morning to the spectacular sight of St Kilda. While endemic animal species are rife, St Kilda has not been peopled since 1930 when the last residents chose to depart an island where life had become unsustainable. Their dwellings are now being restored, with St Kilda the holder of the UK’s only dual World Heritage status in recognition of its Natural Heritage and Cultural Significance – one of only 39 such sites in the world. Here you will be offered a choice of activities to join. 

Head out on Zodiacs with our Expedition Team and trace the spectacular and rugged coastlines of the archipelago. Hike to the ruins of St Kilda’s abandoned village, then negotiate the island’s grassy slopes to reach a viewpoint directly above the village for a bird’s-eye view of your surroundings. 

Or enjoy a spot of sea kayaking with members of our Expedition Team, getting up close to craggy cliff faces and soaring sea stacks.   

This afternoon, we cruise around the neighbouring island of Boreray. The island is home to Britain’s rarest sheep breed, which remained as a wild flock when the last people left St Kida in 1930. We keep watch for these sheep grazing along the hills, and also view some of the countless birds, including northern gannets, northern fulmars and Atlantic puffins. which thrive on the island and its two attendant sea stacks.

Relax during a day at sea. Take advantage of the ship’s many amenities, spend some time scanning the water for whales, catch up on some reading, or simply enjoy the fresh air up on deck.

Having crossed the waters of the North Atlantic, we reach the Icelandic archipelago of Vestmannaeyjar. Heimaey, the largest and the only inhabited island of the group, welcomes us ashore. The following five optional experiences are available for you to select from during your time on Heimaey. 

Join a tour of the island, whose harbour is populated by puffins, fulmars and guillemot. Drive into the Herjólfsdalur Valley to see ruins of Viking houses which date back to 900 AD. Pass between the island’s two volcanoes, Helgafell and Eldfell. The latter’s eruption in 1973 led to the evacuation of the island’s entire population safely to the mainland. 

You may prefer to join a hike through the island’s volcanic region, see the small stave church of Skansinn. Continue to the lava fields of Eldfell and the Eldheimar museum, which documents the experience of residents in response to the eruption of Eldfell. 

Should you choose, embark a boat for a cruise of Heimaey, sailing past its sea cliffs and bird colonies, and into caves that can only be approached by boat. While out on the water, keep watch for orcas, dolphins and porpoises. 

Set out on a RIB boat for an adventurous safari tour of Heimaey’s sea caves and rock formations. Cruise to Stakkabót, part of the Westman Islands, which boasts the world’s greatest population of puffins. 

Your final choice is to put on some protective gear and hold on tight as you explore the island’s dramatic and volcanic coastline aboard an ATV. Your guide will point out significant landmarks, including Prestvik beach and Eldfell, and you will have the opportunity to drive around the lava and into the volcano itself. 

Following our exploration of Heimaey, we briefly cruise around the tiny, remote island of Surtsey, which was born as a result of volcanic eruptions and only discovered in 1963.

This morning, we reach the small Icelandic fishing village of Thorlakshofn, along the country’s southern coast. The region’s seafaring heritage is revealed during a walk to the distinctive, yellow Hafnarnes lighthouse. We are taken even further back in time, as we spy sculptures of Viking boats dotted along the coast. Here, the black, volcanic sands stretch as far as the eye can see along this remote beach. These optional experiences offer various perspectives of the region. 

Continue to Stokkseyri and dine at a restaurant that specialises in Icelandic lobster. Then take a stroll along the beach before returning to the ship. 

Another choice is to visit the Volcano and Earthquake Centre, learning about the forces behind the volcanic eruptions and lava flow that leave their mark upon the Icelandic landscape. 

A further option is to join a cooking demonstration led by one of Fridheimar Farm’s chefs. Then adjourn to the region’s geothermal area, walking past hot springs and tasting smoked trout and rye bread cooked by geothermal heat. 

You also have the opportunity to take to the water again, this time by kayak, and notice how the striking coast here has been exquisitely formed by lava flow.  A final choice sees you riding across the black beach aboard an ATV, then take a detour through the area’s rugged interior.

Arriving in Iceland’s capital today, we discover a vibrant city, full of colour and charm. A creative atmosphere pervades Reykjavíks streets and a culinary flair inhabits its many fine restaurants. 

Choose from the following Your World experiences to round out your journey:
— Head out on Iceland’s famous Golden Circle route, which takes in the astonishing Thingvellir Naitonal Park, as well as the Gullfoss waterfall, whose waters plunge in a two-tiered cascade. Nearby, the Geysir geothermal area features an otherworldly topography of boiling mud and exploding geysers. Relax after your explorations and treat yourself to some of the local tomato schnapps at Fridheimar Farm. 
— Ease yourself into the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa whose mineral-rich waters are also responsible for the distinctive hue that it’s famous for. The spa’s 37-degree temperature is perfect for soothing tired muscles and minds. Finish with a leisurely lunch at LAVA restaurant before returning to Reykjavík.

This evening, celebrate our journey during a Farewell Dinner, before enjoying a final overnight stay at Canopy by Hilton Reykjavík City Centre.

Our journey across these wondrous lands concludes this morning. We farewell fellow travellers and new-found friends as we join our transfer to the airport.

Brochure