4 DAYS FROM $1,399
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Discover the land and legends of some of the United Kingdom’s greatest heroes, admiring craggy shores, cobbled cities, and remote castles on our newly enhanced European tour and small ship river cruise Hidden Gems of the British Isles & Ireland. From Viking lore to the historic stones of Callanish—which predate Stonehenge—you’ll travel back in time in style with just 72 travelers on a deluxe small ship, and easily step onto shores where larger ships just can’t go.
Sip smoky whiskeys, savor regional flavors, and learn more about the history and culture of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Whether you’re admiring the Book of Kells, or trekking through the iconic Scottish Highlands, you’ll enjoy a total of 12 guided tours and shore excursions, and visit up to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites (depending upon whether you join us for extensions and optional tours). Plus, new for 2019, we’ve enhanced our optional trip extensions to Edinburgh and London with an extra day for just the right balance of free time and included features—maximizing your trip value and experience. Experience a European vacation like no other when you join one of Vantage’s unforgettable river cruises!
Fly overnight to Edinburgh, Scotland
Your British Isles vacation begins with an overnight flight to Edinburgh.
Arrive in Edinburgh in time to relax, and enjoy a Welcome Dinner
If you arranged your flights with Vantage a representative will greet you at the airport, and transport you to your hotel for a Welcome Briefing, reception, and Welcome Dinner.
Travel from Edinburgh through the Scottish Highlands to romantic Inverness
The explorations begin with a tour through the rugged Scottish Highlands. This land of high mountain valleys, rushing trout streams, and pastures dotted with sheep, was once the stronghold of Gaelic-speaking Scottish clans. Following the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries, small farmers were largely driven from the land, and today the Highlands is one of the least-populated areas in Europe. Our route today takes us through wildly scenic Cairngorms National Park, the largest in the U.K. We’ll stop for lunch in the town of Pitlochry, which blossomed as a tourist destination after Queen Victoria visited in 1842. Our destination is the picturesque port of Inverness. After embarking the my Variety Voyager, join the Captain and crew for a welcome briefing, followed by your first dinner aboard ship
Ancient seafarers and WWII heroism on Stromness in the Orkney Islands
Named for the strong tides that rip past the Point of Ness, it’s no surprise that Stromness was once a vital whaling port — in fact, it was used by the British for shipping in times of war in lieu of the English Channel. Cultural Connections: You’ll discover Stromness’ maritime heritage and fascinating archaeological history today after breakfast during an included visit to the Stromness Museum. Then visit a local farm to view some of the impressive fossil specimens discovered here and learn about the Churchill Barriers, a series of four causeways linking the Orkney Islands that were built as naval defenses in WWII. Today, they serve as vital roads. World War II left a spiritual mark as well, and you and your fellow travelers will visit the ornate Catholic chapel built by Italian POWs.
Viking might and Celtic customs: the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
Enchanting thatched-roof cottages await you today when you arrive on the Isle of Lewis, first settled as a trade port by the Vikings. You’ll have free time to explore independently here, then your group will visit the prehistoric Callanish Stones — a hilltop, cross-shaped arrangement of standing stones even older than Stonehenge. Cultural Connections: Next, visit the thatched-roof cottages of Gearrannan Blackhouse Village for a demonstration of the region’s most time-honored craft: tweed-weaving. Discover the colorful patterns and eye-catching tartans of the clan of Lewis before feasting on a picnic. During your countryside repast, you’ll be entertained by a troupe of Scottish dancers.
Misty, magical Isle of Skye: the “cloud island”
Docking at the port of Kyle of Lochalsh, we’ll cross the Skye Bridge to spend the day touring the Isle of Skye, the rugged, mountainous island just off Scotland's west coast. During your tour, marvel at dramatic sea cliffs, sharply ridged mountain peaks, medieval castles, and fishing villages that nestle along the deeply indented coast. For lunch, we’ll stop in the picturesque town of Portree, set on a harbor fronted by pastel shops and houses. You’ll receive money for dining on your own at a local pub or restaurant. Cultural Connection: music performance by traditional Scottish duo.
Clan heritage and a Scotch whiskey experience in Oban
Located on the west coast of Scotland, Oban is known as the “Gateway to the Isles.” In the morning, you’ll be welcomed by kilted guides for your walking tour. Cultural Connection: Afterwards, visit the Oban Distillery — one of the oldest in Scotland — where you will learn all about whiskey and perhaps have a “wee dram.” In the afternoon, you may take time to explore Oban at your leisure, perhaps hearing locals speaking Gaelic, or opt for the optional tour of Inveraray Castle, ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell. This iconic Scottish castle, set on the banks of Lock Fyne, also has bonnie grounds and gardens for you to enjoy.
See the best of Belfast, Northern Ireland, plus an optional tour to the Antrim Coast and Giant’s Causeway
Enjoy a morning walking tour of Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland. The city that launched the Titanic was an industrial powerhouse from the Victorian Era through World War II, but is often remembered today for the Troubles, the decades-long conflict between Loyalists and Republicans over the political status of Northern Ireland. As you’ll discover on your tour, with those days well behind it, Belfast bubbles with activity, centered on a revitalized Victoria Square. Enjoy the afternoon free to explore the city on your own, or see another side of Northern Ireland by joining our optional tour to the Antrim Coast and the eerie Giant’s Causeway, created when basaltic lava from an ancient eruption solidified into thousands of hexagonal columns. Cultural Connection: Learn about the peace process, facilitated in part by former U.S. Secretary of State Ed Muskie, which brought the Troubles to an end.
Celebrate Dublin, Ireland, with a tour and toast!
One of Ireland’s finest national treasures and a true artistic masterpiece — the Book of Kells — is yours to admire today during your discoveries in Dublin. Your guide will tell you more about this ninth-century tome on an included tour at Trinity College, where you’ll view the illuminated Gospel. Cultural Connections:
Afterwards, learn all about a different sort of national treasure, on an entertaining and informative tour of the Irish Whiskey Museum, followed by a comparison tasting of several varieties of the smooth spirit. You’ll then return to the ship for lunch, or opt to stay in the city for free time before an included shuttle bus transports you back to the Variety Voyager this afternoon. This evening enjoy traditional Irish entertainment, including storytelling, music, and dancing.
Step into medieval Wales at Holyhead and Caernarfon Castle
This morning, the Variety Voyager arrives in Holyhead, where you’ll enjoy a short drive to Caernarfon Castle, built by King Edward I. Its impressive towers loom over the shoreline, and you can imagine why the monarch built this fortress centuries ago to control coastline supply routes and access to the agricultural resources of neighboring lands. Cultural Connections: Your Cruise Director will tell you more about the castle’s fascinating history before you depart for a traditional pub lunch. Then visit the National Slate Museum, nestled into a mountainside, for a Victorian-era demonstration of this vanishing trade. Later this evening, enjoy a Captain's Dinner.
Make the pilgrimage to St. David’s, the spiritual heart of Wales
After a relaxing morning of sailing and breakfast, your ship arrives in Fishguard. Unforgettable Moment: You’ll then venture to St. David’s, the religious capital of Wales and smallest city in the country. There, you will enjoy a guided tour of the 12th-century Cathedral of St. David, which has been a pilgrimage destination for hundreds of years. Other highlights include the 14th-century Tower Gate, charming art galleries, pubs, and folks who flock here for St. David's position along the water forming part of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Cultural Connection: Welsh harpist performance.
Discover a garden paradise in Tresco in the Isles of Scilly
This morning, after a mouthwatering buffet on board ship, you’ll learn more about the U.K. during a lecture on immigration, as your ship sails toward Tresco, the second-largest of the Isles of Scilly. It’s sure to be a glorious day as you board a small vessel tendered by locals to be transferred onto shore.
You’ll be fascinated by the horticultural paradise of Abbey Gardens, home to more than 20,000 species of lush, colorful plants from 80 countries. The island is hospitable to subtropical species not native to the U.K. because of its mild winter climate and long hours of summer sunshine, as well as high walls and hedges that protect them from Atlantic winds.
Behold the mystical majesty of Stonehenge, then proceed to London
Disembarking in Poole on England’s Dorset coast, which lies at the head of a large natural harbor, we’ll head to the open Salisbury Plain and the great circle of standing stones known as Stonehenge. The ancient ritual site, part of vast complex of prehistoric burial mounds and earthworks, attracts modern-day druids for summer and winter solstice celebrations. You’ll also enjoy a pub lunch in Salisbury. Continue to London for an overnight stay. This evening, gather with your fellow travelers a final time for a Farewell Dinner.
Fly home from London or stay a while longer with our optional post-trip extension
This morning you’ll be transferred to the airport for your return flight home if you purchased your airfare through Vantage. Or, opt to enrich your journey with our optional post-trip extension in London.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Tour Director or regional expert.
Please Note: Port-of-call orientation walking tours are subject to change based on port time and weather conditions