Escape tourist crowds and explore the British Isles off the beaten path with an authentic expedition cruise. You’ll journey aboard the Sea Spirit from Portsmouth to Edinburgh, visiting the tucked away gems of the British Isles, with their historic heritage, magnificent landscapes and unique wildlife. Explore hidden bays and hard-to-reach cliffs with rare seabirds in our small Zodiac boats and land on pristine beaches. For those who want to explore at their own speed, we recommend joining our kayak club.
Enjoy magnificent views from deck, engage in our citizen science projects, join lectures by our onboard specialists and perfect your photography skills in our expert workshops.
British Isles Expeditions
Discover the region’s history, unique nature and wildlife off the beaten path on this 13 day cruise! Start your expedition aboard the small expedition ship, the Sea Spirit, in Portsmouth and cruise to your first stop: the beautiful flora and fauna of Tresco (Isles of Scilly). Enjoy stunning views of the scenery and wildlife from aboard your comfortable ship. Continue to Dunmore East on the southeastern coast of Ireland and further to Christian historic sites on Iona, Scotland. Discover magnificent archeological sites on the Orkney Islands and an abundance of rare seabirds on Fair Isle (Shetland Islands). You can enjoy this cruise with an average level of physical fitness! You can choose to explore the beautiful scenery on foot and in our small Zodiac boats or join the kayaking club if you’re look for a more active adventure.
About the British Isles
The British Isles consist of 315,159km2 of landmass in the North Atlantic Ocean and make up Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Shetland Islands, Isles of Scilly and more than 6,000 smaller islands. While most of the islands are uninhabited (only 136 are permanently inhabited), the total population of the islands amounts to around 72 million people. The isles feature predominantly low altitudes, with the highest point being Ben Nevis at 1,345m in the Scottish Highlands.
With their mild climate, the British Isles lack extreme temperatures. It’s around 20 °C in the summertime. Rain is abundant in the region due to the North Atlantic Drift.
The discovery of Paleolithic tools suggest that the first inhabitants reached the British Isles some 750 thousand years ago. The modern humans arrived around 30 thousand years ago according to skeleton remains found in Wales (The Red Lady of Paviland cave). Neolithic sites are predominant throughout the islands, including early stone houses on the Orkney Islands and ancient stone circles. Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Celts shaped the region’s history, as well as the Vikings (who arrived around 790 AD).
This beautiful port city, located in the south, is home to a large British naval base. It’s the perfect place to soak in the local history. Visit Portsmouth Cathedral, a Romanesque building dating back to 1182, with a fascinating history intertwined with the Royal Navy. Visit the local D-Day Story Museum, stroll through historic cobblestone streets or see the famous dockyard (home to the National Museum of the Royal Navy). Want to get a look from above? Get great views from Spinnaker Tower, a modern 170-meter-tall (558 ft) construction and interesting contrast to the historic city architecture.
This picturesque Victorian-Era harbor with its 700-meter-long (2,295 ft) pier is the perfect place to spend a day ashore during your British Isles cruise. It features a beautiful promenade with restaurants and cafes running along North Shore Beach. Board the iconic Great Orme tramway from the 1900s and enjoy the quaint landscape of Great Orme Country Park and Nature Reserve. For medieval castle connoisseurs, Conwy Castle (constructed 1277-1307) is a must with its stunning views of the Welsh countryside.
Portrush, Northern Ireland
This small seaside resort town with beautiful beaches and white rock cliffs will charm any traveler on our British Isles cruises! The fantastic coastline is perfect for scenic walks and photography and one of the most beautiful in Western Europe. Take the Causeway Coastal Route from Portrush and visit Dunluce Castle, just a 10-minute drive out of town. And if the weather gets rainy, seek shelter in one of the pubs and gourmet restaurants in town.
Kirkwall, Orkney (Scotland)
Located on the Orkney Islands, this quaint port town was founded around 1000 years ago at the site of an ancient Norse town. This historic place combines Scottish and Norse heritage. Be sure to remember that while you stroll through the city: you may stumble over artifacts and buildings dating back to Viking times! Want to learn more about its history? Visit the Orkney Museum with its extensive collection of Viking artifacts and remains from the Iron Age and the Picts. Don’t skip a visit to the St. Magnus Cathedral, one of the most famous places in Kirkwall.
What to see on the British Isles
Top Things to see
Tresco, Scilly Isles (England)
Visit this quaint family-owned island 28 miles off the Cornish coast with its secluded beaches, enchanting wildlife and nature. Discover Bronze Age burial sites and 17th century castle ruins, as well as the Tresco Abbey Garden with its collection of over 20,000 exotic plants from all over the world. Relax in the quaint cafes and local shops on the island or visit the Valhalla Museum (known its collection of colorful figureheads salvaged from the islands’ shipwrecks).
Dunmore East (Ireland)
Take a stroll through this popular fishing village on the southeastern coast of Ireland. Take a guided tour of the House of Waterford Crystal and see the beautiful crafts of the factory. Visit Mount Congreve with its botanical gardens and woodlands.
Saltee Islands (Ireland)
The islands are a birder’s paradise! See gannets, gulls, puffins and manx shearwaters.
Explore northern Wales and scenic Snowdonia National Park. See waterfalls, mountains and crystal-clear lakes boasting wildlife such as otters, wild ponies and rare birds such as dotterels and peregrine falcons. Visit the quaint Welsh town of Betws-y-Coed, Gwydyr Forest and the 13th century Conwy Castle.
Portrush and Rathlin Island (Northern Ireland)
Visit the famous Giant’s Causeway and discover the hexagonal basalt columns descending into the sea. Look out for seabirds such as fulmars, petrels, cormorants, redshanks, guillemots and razorbills.
Inner Hebrides (Scotland)
Explore the uninhabited island of Staffa with its volcanic origin hexagonal basalt pillars and Fingal’s Cave. Off the Isle of Mull, we’ll discover Iona, a small beautiful island with the gorgeous Iona Abbey founded in 563 AD, historic sites of early Christianity and resting place to numerous medieval kings.
Outer Hebrides (Scotland)
These isolated and rugged islands feature ancient stone buildings nestled in dramatic landscapes and wild nature. Home to an abundance of seabirds, two ancient species of sheep and 130 species of flowers, it’s a photographer’s paradise!
Kirkwall, Orkney Islands (Scotland)
Explore the 5000 year old village at Skara Brae and the ancient Neolithic Ring of Brodgar stone circle. Visit Kirkwall’s 12th century Romanesque landmark, Saint Magnus Cathedral.
Shetland Islands (Scotland)
The isolated and rugged coastline of Fair Isle is famous among avid birders for an abundance of rare species. You can also see beautiful wildflowers in bloom on our May cruises.
Isle of May and Bass Rock (Scotland)
Spot grey seals along the shores as well as puffins and other seabirds. Visit historical sites such as St. Ardin’s Chapel, the lighthouse and the Low and Light Cottages.
Plan you British Isles Tour
How to get to the British Isles
Our travelers organize airfare to London by themselves. We recommend flying into London Heathrow, where we’ll arrange one night at the Hilton Garden Inn Terminal 2 before the cruise starts (included in your cruise cost). The next morning you’ll be transferred by bus to the departure port, Portsmouth (England), where you’ll board our cruise ship, the Sea Spirit, to begin your British Isles cruise. When booking airfare, please note that we complete the cruise in Edinburgh (Scotland). We’ll transfer you from there to the airport or any central location in the city.
Please check ahead of time if you require a visa to visit the UK. You’ll have to obtain the visa by yourself. If you need assistance, please contact us and we can help contacting the necessary consulates for further information.
British Isles Ships
We cruise aboard our small expedition ship, the Sea Spirit, which is suited for a maximum of 114 travelers. Choose your personal level of comfort from various cabin categories. The ship features a restaurant, bar, outdoor bistro, 24-hour tea and coffee station, library, lecture hall and gym.
When to visit British Isles
The best time to visit is during early summer when temperatures are mild at around 20°C (68°F). Winter can be windy, rainy and cold. The weather in the northern parts is usually much colder than in the south of the isles. Precipitation ranges from 800 mm (31 inches) to about 1,400 mm (55 inches) per year. Summer is also the best time for birdwatching and spotting British wildlife. During their spring migration, you’ll see an abundance of iconic bird species! It’s also an incredible time to see the mesmerizing landscapes in bloom.
Facts about the British Isles
· The British Isles are a group of islands off the north-western coast of continental Europe and encompass England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland.
·The largest lake of the British Isles, Lough Neagh, is located in Northern Ireland.
·Native languages spoken on the British Isles apart from English are Cornish, Gaelic and Shelta.
·The highest peak is Ben Nevis in Scotland (in the Scottish highlands).
· The Orkney Islands consist of more than 70 islands and only 20 of them are inhabited.
· Iona Abbey is regarded as the birthplace of Christianity on the British Isles.
Important to know
On all of our British Isles cruises there is free Wi-Fi aboard, which is included in the cost of the cruise.
Like with all our trips to Northern Europe, we recommend you bring water- and wind-proof outerwear in case of rain and wind during excursions, as well as lighter summer wear for warmer days. Don’t forget sunglasses and sun hats.
You’ll get our signature Poseidon Expeditions windbreaker jacket, which is yours to keep. We also provide rubber boots throughout the duration of our luxury cruises for landings.
We allow 2 pieces of luggage per person (standard size). We also provide onboard laundry service.
You will need an emergency evacuation insurance with a minimum coverage of USD 200,000 per traveler for your expedition. We also highly recommend cancellation insurance.
We cruise during the early summer season when temperatures are fairly mild. Expect average temperatures of 6-14°C during your cruise.