Day 1: Aberdeen, Scotland
Many of Aberdeen’s historic stone buildings are of locally quarried granite; high in mica, they can sparkle like silver. The city is famed for its forty-five parks, gardens, and floral displays. In recent years, Aberdeen has become the gateway to the North Sea oil industry, but the city retains its old world charm and is a wonderful place for a walkabout. We board the Ocean Endeavour in the afternoon.
Day 2: Stromness, Orkney Islands
Off the north coast of mainland Scotland, Orkney is a gateway to ancient realms. The ancient village of Skara Brae and the standing stones at Stenness and Brogdar reveal a palpable prehistoric presence. Neolithic archeological sites include villages, ceremonial sites, and burial chambers dating to 8,000 years ago. From Viking times, the Kings of Norway held a strong presence here until the sixteenth century. Stromness was the last European port of call for Hudson’s Bay Company ships and for the Franklin Expedition of 1845.
Day 3: Fair Isle
Fair Isle was a Viking hub and is now an idyllic island colony of artists and shepherds. Its sixty residents include global citizens who have relocated to help maintain Fair Isle’s traditions including world-famous woolen crafts. Fair Isle boasts sightings of three hundred and fifty bird species including puffins and great skuas in substantial numbers. The local museum is dedicated to preserving island heritage. The National Trust Bird Observatory is now being reconstructed after a fire in 2019.
Day 4: Suðuroy Island and Sumba, Faroe Islands
Suðuroy Island, Faroes, is famed for its dramatic cliffs towering over the North Atlantic. It’s a paradise for bird, including northern fulmars, European storm petrels, European shags, black-legged kittiwakes, Atlantic puffins, common guillemots, and black guillemots. The village of Sumba, population 239, occupied since the seventh century, is a stronghold of Faroese chain dancing. Hiking is excellent in the foothills of nearby Beinisvøro Mountain, affording spectacular, panoramic views of the region.
Day 5: Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
Tórshavn, literally “Thor’s harbour,” is the Faroe Islands’ capital and largest town, with a population of 19,000. A former Viking trading centre, Tórshavn is a splendid little city to explore. The National Art Gallery is a treasure, surrounded by gorgeous grounds with walking trails. Nordic House is a must, widely considered the finest example of architecture in Scandinavia. Torshavn offers excellent shopping and handicrafts, restaurants and pubs, and a cathedral dating 1788.
Day 6-7: Western Faroe Islands
The northwestern shores of Eysturoy and Streymoy islands are beyond spectacular. Hiking, birding and photography are outstanding. Charming villages connected by high-tech tunnels through mountains and beneath the ocean floor are a unique and startling feature of Faroese life. The spectacular waterfall at Gásadalur is reached through one such tunnel—but look for the old switchback trail over the mountain, once used by the local postman!
Day 8: Mykines Island
Mykines is the westernmost of the Faroes and a geological marvel. Great columns of balsalt (called the Stone-wood) tower thirty metres above the ocean. On the western end of the island, connected by a forty-metre footbridge, is the islet Mykinshólmur, famed for its sea stacks and a lighthouse dating to 1909. Mykines has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for its large numbers of puffins and gannets, guillemots, razorbills, northern fulmurs, Manx shearwaters, European storm petrels, European shags, and black-legged kittiwakes.
Day 9: At Sea
Today we will enjoy a day at sea! With onboard education and time spent on-deck, we will keep our eyes open for marine wildlife and seabirds!
Day 10: Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands)
Vestmannaeyjar lies off the south coast of Iceland and comprises fourteen islands, numerous rocks and skerries. Only the largest island, Heimaey, is inhabited.
Numerous species of seabirds, including the famous puffin, nest in the steep rock faces along the ocean cliffs. The volcanically active area has seen two major eruptions in recent times: the formation of the island of Surtsey in 1963, and the Eldfell eruption ten years later that destroyed much of Heimaey and nearly blocked its harbour.
Day 11 | Reykjavík
Reykjavík, “steamy bay”, is a cosmopolitan capital city on the site of what is believed to be the first permanent settlement in Iceland, established in AD 874. Entirely powered by geothermal energy, Reykjavik is among the cleanest, greenest, and safest cities in the world.
Night life, cuisine and culture are vibrant here during the summer months, when locals and visitors alike make the most of the midnight sun. The Culture House promotes Icelandic national heritage, including treasures like the Poetic Edda, and the Norse Sagas in their original manuscripts. Today we will disembark Ocean Endeavour and journey home!