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Day by Day Itinerary

Small in territory but vast in diversity, the island nations of Great Britain and Ireland boast an array of distinct cultures, colorful histories, and natural splendors, from highlands to cliff-tops. On this 14-day British Isles cruise, you’ll discover tiny islands and remote ports as easily as city harbors aboard you small ship—beginning with the Isles of Scilly. Then follow the coast of Wales to explore fishing villages and mighty castles. Witness Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral and get to know Scotland, sailing from the remote waters of the Hebrides to the far-flung shores of the Orkney archipelago and onward to Aberdeen and Edinburgh. As you meet local people and learn about traditional culture, you’ll discover that the sun never sets on the charms of these isles.

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    Depart today on your flight to London, England. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times. Or begin your discoveries early with our pre-trip extension.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Arrive in London, England where a Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your transfer to your hotel. You’ll also get acquainted with your surroundings when you venture out for an orientation walk.

    This evening, you’ll meet your fellow travelers during a Welcome Briefing with a drink, followed by a Welcome Dinner together.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    There's no better place to launch your discoveries than the actual Crown Jewel of the United Kingdom: London. After breakfast, begin with a panoramic London city tour, during which you'll witness some of the city's greatest icons—including the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, and Buckingham Palace.

    After an included lunch in a local pub, for a true taste of British daily life, enjoy the balance of the day to explore at leisure, and discover for yourself the highlights that inspired Samuel Johnson to write, “there is in London all that life can afford.”

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    After this morning's breakfast, you'll travel southwest to Poole and embark the Grand Circle small ship that will be your home for the duration of your British Isles cruise.

    We set sail from the largest natural harbor in Europe this evening and enjoy a Captain's Welcome Drink and Welcome Dinner onboard.

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    With shell-covered beaches, rolling heaths, granite outcroppings, and a pair of castles, windswept Tresco presents many faces despite its small size (just more than a square mile). After breakfast onboard, you'll explore Tresco on your way to Abbey Gardens. These gardens contain the remnants of an abbey first founded in the tenth century and the expanded in the twelfth. Elm, sycamore, oak, cypress, and pine trees provide natural protection from the elements, which allows exotic plants from all over the globe to thrive, including South African proteas, Canary Island echiums, Australian banksia, and more.

    Enjoy lunch aboard ship, with members of University of the Third Age, a lifelong learning organization for retirees and the semi-retired.

    Tonight, hear a Port Talk about your next destination—Fishguard, Wales—before enjoying dinner onboard.

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    After breakfast onboard this morning, your Wales tour begins in the tiny town of Fishguard, where the Gwaun River flows to the sea. The Lower Town of Fishguard is the setting where the original fishing village here was established in the tenth century. A Norse trading post that became a busy port town, Fishguard was the site of an incursion in 1797 that would be France's last successful invasion of Britain—a triumph that lasted only two days. The tale of the short-lived occupation is told in a 100-foot tapestry that was created for the 200th anniversary by a team of 77 local women, who used 97 colors and sewed for two years to create the piece. You'll visit Town Hall to view the tapestry and admire their handiwork.

    Then enjoy free time in Fishguard, perhaps visiting the Fishguard Farmers Market. Or, join our optional tour to St. David's, the ecclesiastical capital of Wales. You'll visit a woolen mill before exploring the Medieval cathedral named after the country's patron saint, as well as an adjacent bishop's palace.

    Enjoy lunch and dinner onboard your small ship today.

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    Your ship arrives in Holyhead, located on Holy Island, Wales, a seaport that has linked Wales and Ireland for 4,000 years. After breakfast aboard, a short drive will bring you to Caernarfon Castle, which sits on the strait that divides the mainland of Wales from Anglesey. King Edward I built a fortress here to control supply routes to the coast, as well as to control access to the agriculturally rich Angelsey. A walking tour to the castle will reveal its massive construction and imposing polygonal towers, of which 17th-century travel writer John Taylor wrote, "if [the castle] be well manned, victualled, and ammunitioned, it is invincible." This impressive setting is where His Royal Highness Prince Charles was invested in 1969.

    Then, enjoy two exclusive Discovery Series events. Get to know more about life in the present here as you join local community members for a light lunch in town. You'll also visit the National Slate Museum, on the site of a 19th-century slate quarry. The museum recounts the long industrial history here, and you'll view a slate-splitting demonstration to see how craftsman sliced the stone and made objects from it.

    This evening, enjoy dinner aboard your small ship as you sail toward Dublin.

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    This morning, enjoy breakfast onboard before you embark on an included sightseeing tour of Dublin, with a visit to Trinity College, where we view the ninth-century Book of Kells, one of the most elaborately illustrated illuminated Gospels. Then we visit St. Patrick's Cathedral. Built next to the legendary well in which Patrick was said to have baptized new converts, the cathedral dates back to the late twelfth century. The final resting place of Jonathan Swift, and now the National Cathedral, St. Patrick's is rich with history. In one tale, warring families brought their blood feud all the way to the church, with one family hiding inside and the other outside. To make a truce, a hole was cut in a doorway, and one patriarch dared to stick his arm through to shake that of the other—hoping it wouldn't be cut off. When they shook, peace was brokered, and ever since, it's been an Irish saying “ to chance your arm.” The so-called “Door of Reconciliation” is on display in the cathedral to this day.

    Return to the ship for lunch, or you may enjoy an included shuttle back to the ship this afternoon to explore more of Dublin independently and enjoy lunch on your own. Or, join us for our optional Malahide Castle tour, a twelfth-century fortress, where you'll enjoy an included lunch.

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    After your onboard breakfast, you'll go ashore to begin your tour of Scotland on one of the country's smallest inhabited islands: Iona. You'll enjoy a walk to Iona Abbey, which was key in fostering the rise of Christianity throughout the region. Saint Columba established a monastery here in 563, which faced its first great challenge in 800, when it was pillaged by the Vikings. The local faithful persevered and in 1200, the Abbey was established. With restoration completed in the 20th century, the site has been an active ecumenical religious center ever since.

    Following your Abbey visit, you'll meet a local artist and silversmith who will introduce you to this blend of skill and artistry, and exclusive Discovery Series event. Then, enjoy an included lunch of island produce for a true taste of Iona. 

    Dinner is aboard your ship this evening.

    Please note: In case of adverse weather conditions we may dock in Craignure and enjoy alternate discoveries there instead of Iona.

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    Your ship drops anchor in Barra, Scotland before breakfast. Go ashore on the most southerly of the inhabited Outer Hebrides islands for a walking tour. You'll view the seaside village of Castlebay, where a ship loaded with 50,000 cases of whisky ran aground in 1941 (spawning the film Whiskey Galore!). You'll visit a toffee manufacturer to taste why Hebrides toffee is considered the best in Scotland, and visit the Old Herring Harbor, once the hub of island industry. Then travel to Vatersay, visiting the wreckage of a World War II aircraft, as well as taking in the island's white sand beach and the surrounding machair, low, grassy dunes that sweep away from the coast.

    After lunch aboard ship, enjoy a talk about faith and local life from clergy featured in the BBC documentary, An Island Parish.

    Enjoy free time this afternoon before dinner onboard. Perhaps you'll visit Kisimul, a medieval castle built on a rock in the bay. Its name inspired by the Gaelic cìosamul (castle island), Kisimul is accessible via a short boat trip.

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    Today, enjoy breakfast onboard, then explore the Outer Hebrides. You will arrive in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, first settled by the Vikings as a sea trade port. With its lighthouse and fishing harbor, Stornoway has kept its maritime character ever since, as you'll see during an included walking tour. Enjoy time to explore at your own leisure here.

    Then set off to discover the island's rich past. You'll visit the 5,000 year-old Callanish Stones, an ancient standing stone circle roughly shaped like a Celtic Cross, then discover the Gaerannan Thatch Village, during which you witness a tweed-weaving demonstration and hear the music of a melodeon, a centuries-old local instrument.

    After a picnic lunch with a local storyteller, visit the Abhain Dearg (Red River) Distillery for a taste of single-malt whiskey, the making of which is a 170-year tradition in Scotland.

    This evening, enjoy dinner aboard your small ship before your Program Director leads a talk on the Orkneys, an archipelago of 70 or so islands located off the northern tip of mainland Scotland.

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    Today, you arrive in the Orkneys, an archipelago in the north of Scotland. After an onboard breakfast, go ashore in Stromness for an included walking tour.

    The second most populous town in the Orkneys, Stromness became a surprisingly vital seaport for British trade in the 17th century. With war waging against France, the British were unable to utilize the English Channel for shipping, which led shipping to take a northern route. Stromness was also a hub for the whaling trade—which is why many of the buildings today continue to be adorned by whale bones and maritime touches.

    You'll learn more about this history with a visit to the Stromness Museum. Then, witness the massive Churchill Barriers built to protect Orkney, as well as the little homespun chapel made by Italian POWs pressed into service to construct the barriers. Your tour continues with a visit to a local fossil center, where you'll discover specimens hundreds of millions of years old.

    After lunch aboard ship, enjoy leisure time. Or join us for an optional East Mainland tour, including Skara Brae, the most well-preserved Neolithic village in Northern Europe, as well as the most northerly brewery in the British Isles.

    Dine onboard your small ship this evening.

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    Arriving in Aberdeen, Scotland, this morning, enjoy breakfast onboard before you set off on a short sightseeing tour of Scotland's “Silver City,” so named for the local granite used in many of its buildings. Then visit Crathes Castle, a 16th-century castle built on what was once a bog. For centuries, it was known for its walled garden, interior ceiling paintings, and recurring rumors of a “green lady,” the spirit of a restless former occupant. But in 2013, it gained a new claim to fame when 10,000-year-old man-made pits were uncovered on the grounds. It's since been determined that the pits functioned as the oldest lunar calendar on Earth.

    Return to the ship for an onboard lunch and time at leisure. Or, join us for an optional Balmoral Castle & Tea tour to experience the grandeur of the royal family's summer home. When the Queen is not in residence, privately-owned Balmoral is open to the public, offering a fascinating look inside a working royal residence.

    Enjoy a Captain's Farewell Drink and Farewell Dinner aboard ship this evening.

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    Enjoy an included city tour of Edinburgh after breakfast today, and get to know this city where commerce and culture mix. Home to the world’s largest annual arts festival and a major center for banking, Edinburgh is not only a vibrant metropolis but also a repository of historic treasures. Its medieval Old Town and 18th-century New Town are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a memorable mix of old and new unfold this morning on your included tour.

    After lunch on your own, the balance of the day is yours for discoveries at your leisure. This evening, join your fellow travelers for a Farewell Drink and Farewell Dinner.

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    • Meals included:

    Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or begin your post-trip extension to Edinburgh, Scotland.

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    Depart today on your flight to Edinburgh, Scotland. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times. Or begin your discoveries early with our pre-trip extension.

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    Arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland, where a Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your transfer to to your hotel. 

    Following lunch on your own, enjoy an afternoon at leisure. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Drink and Dinner.

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    After an included breakfast, embark on an included city tour of Edinburgh this morning, during which you'll get to know this city where commerce and culture mix. Home to the world's largest annual arts festival and a major center for banking, Edinburgh is not only a vibrant metropolis  but also a repository of historic treasures. Its medieval Old Town and 18th-century New Town are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a memorable mix of old and new unfold this morning on your included tour.

    Then, transfer to your Grand Circle Cruise Line small ship, which will be your home for the duration of your British Isles cruise, in time for an onboard lunch.

    This evening, enjoy a Welcome Briefing and drink, followed by a Welcome Dinner together aboard your ship.

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    Your tour of Scotland continues in Aberdeen this morning. Disembark after breakfast to enjoy a short sightseeing tour of Scotland's “Silver City,” so named for the local granite used in many of its buildings. Then visit Crathes Castle, a 16th-century castle built on what was once a bog. For centuries, it was known for its walled garden, interior ceiling paintings, and recurring rumors of a “green lady,” the spirit of a restless former occupant. But in 2013, it gained a new claim to fame when 10,000-year-old man-made pits were uncovered on the grounds. It's since been determined that the pits functioned as the oldest lunar calendar on Earth.

    Return to the ship for an onboard lunch and time at leisure. Or, join us for an optional Balmoral Castle & Tea tour to experience the grandeur of the royal family's summer home. When the Queen is not in residence, privately-owned Balmoral is open to the public, offering a fascinating look inside a working royal residence. A proper cream tea will cap off your discoveries here. You'll return to the ship for an onboard dinner this evening.

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    Today, you arrive in the Orkneys, an archipelago in the north of Scotland. After breakfast, go ashore in Stromness for an included walking tour. Your discoveries include the Stromness Museum of maritime memorabilia. Then, witness the massive Churchill Barriers built to protect Orkney, as well as the little homespun chapel made by Italian POWs pressed into service to construct the barriers. Your tour continues with a visit to a fossil center with specimens hundreds of millions of years old.

    After lunch aboard ship, enjoy leisure time. Or join us for an optional West Mainland tour, including Skara Brae, the most well-preserved Neolithic village in Northern Europe, as well as the most northerly brewery in the British Isles.

    Enjoy dinner with your fellow travelers aboard your small ship this evening.

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    Today, enjoy breakfast onboard as your small ship arrives in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, first settled by the Vikings as a sea trade port. With its lighthouse and fishing harbor, Stornoway has kept its maritime character ever since, as you'll see during a walking tour. Enjoy time to explore at your own leisure here.

    Then set off to discover the island's rich past. You'll visit the 5,000 year-old Callanish Stones, an ancient standing stone circle roughly shaped like a Celtic cross, then discover the Gearrannan Thatch Village, during which you witness a tweed-weaving demonstration and hear the music of a melodeon, a centuries-old local instrument.

    After a picnic lunch with a local storyteller, visit the Abhain Dearg (Red River) Distillery for a taste of single-malt whiskey, the making of which is a 170-year tradition in Scotland.

    This evening, enjoy dinner aboard your small ship before your Program Director leads a talk on Barra, Scotland, as you sail there.

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    Your ship drops anchor in Barra, Scotland before your onboard breakfast. After dining, disembark to discover the most southerly of the inhabited Outer Hebrides islands during a walking tour. You'll view the seaside village of Castlebay, where a ship loaded with 50,000 cases of whisky ran aground in 1941 (spawning the film Whiskey Galore!). You'll visit a toffee manufacturer to taste why Hebrides toffee is considered the best in Scotland, and visit the Old Herring Harbor, once the hub of island industry. Then travel to Vatersay, visiting the wreckage of a World War II aircraft, as well as taking in the island's white sand beach and the surrounding machair, low, grassy dunes that sweep away from the coast.

    After lunch aboard ship, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event: a talk about faith and local life from clergy featured in the BBC documentary An Island Parish.

    Enjoy free time this afternoon before dinner on board. Perhaps you'll visit Kisimul, a medieval castle built on a rock in the bay. Its name inspired by the Gaelic cìosamul (castle island), Kisimul is accessible via a short boat trip.

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    Anchoring in Iona, you'll go ashore on one of Scotland's smallest inhabited islands to enjoy a walk to the Abbey, which was key in fostering the rise of Christianity throughout the region. Saint Columba established a monastery here in 563, which faced its first great challenge in 800, when it was pillaged by the Vikings. The local faithful persevered and in 1200, the Abbey was established. With restoration completed in the 20th century, the Abbey has been an active ecumenical religious center ever since.

    Then, revel in a multifaceted portrait of local culture. First, a local artist and silversmith introduces you to this blend of skill and artistry, an exclusive Discovery Series event. Then, enjoy an included lunch of island produce for a true taste of Iona. Round out your discoveries with a second exclusive Discovery Series event: a talk by a crofter, a farmer who tends a small, fenced plot and keeps alive uniquely Scottish agricultural traditions.

    Enjoy free time to explore this afternoon before returning to your ship for dinner.

    Please note: In case of adverse weather conditions we may dock in Craignure and enjoy alternate discoveries there instead of Iona.

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    This morning, enjoy breakfast onboard before you set off for an included sightseeing tour of Dublin, with a visit to Trinity Cathedral, where we view the ninth-century Book of Kells, one of the most elaborately illustrated illuminated Gospels. Then we visit St. Patrick's Cathedral. Built next to the legendary well in which Patrick was said to have baptized new converts, the cathedral was completed in 1220. The final resting place of Jonathan Swift, and now the National Cathedral, St. Patrick's is rich with history. In one tale, warring families brought their blood feud all the way to the church, with one family hiding inside and the other outside. To make a truce, a hole was cut in a doorway, and one patriarch dared to stick his arm through to shake that of the other—hoping it wouldn't be cut off. When they shook, peace was brokered, and ever since, it's been an Irish saying “ to chance your arm.” The so-called “Door of Reconciliation” is on display in the cathedral to this day.

    Return to the ship for lunch, or you may enjoy an included shuttle back to the ship this afternoon to explore more of Dublin independently and enjoy lunch on your own. Or, join us for our optional Malahide Castle tour, a twelfth-century fortress, where you'll enjoy an included lunch.

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    After this morning's breakfast, your small ship arrives in Holyhead, where you'll begin in Wales tour. Located on Holy Island, this Welsh seaport has been linking Wales and Ireland for 4,000 years. A short drive brings you to Caernarfon Castle, which sits on the strait that divides the mainland of Wales from Anglesey. King Edward I built a fortress here to control supply routes to the coast, as well as to control access to the agriculturally rich Angelsey. A walking tour to the castle will reveal its massive construction and imposing polygonal towers, of which 17th century travel writer John Taylor wrote, "if [the castle] be well manned, victualled, and ammunitioned, it is invincible." This impressive setting is where His Royal Highness Prince Charles was invested in 1969.

    Then, join members of the community for an exclusive Discovery Series village lunch, where you'll learn more about modern-day Welsh life. These insights will be complemented by your second exclusive Discovery Series event: a visit to the National Slate Museum, built on the site of a 19th-century slate quarry. You'll view a slate-splitting demonstration here to see how craftsman sliced the stone and made objects from it.

    This evening, savor dinner aboard your small ship as you sail toward Fishguard.

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    We arrive in Fishguard, Wales this morning. After breakfast onboard, visit Fishguard, where the Gwaun River flows to the sea. The Lower Town of Fishguard is the setting where the original fishing village here was established in the tenth century. A Norse trading post that became a busy port town, Fishguard was the site of an incursion in 1797 that would be France's last successful invasion of Britain—a triumph that lasted only two days. The tale of the short-lived occupation is told in a 100-foot tapestry that was created for the 200th anniversary by a team of 77 local women, who used 97 colors and sewed for two years to create the piece. You'll visit Town Hall to view the tapestry and admire their handiwork.

    Then enjoy free time in Fishguard, perhaps visiting the Fishguard Farmers Market. Or, join our optional tour to St. David's, the ecclesiastical capital of Wales. You'll visit a woolen mill before exploring the Medieval cathedral named after the country's patron saint, as well as an adjacent bishop's palace.

    Enjoy lunch and dinner onboard your small ship today.

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    With shell-covered beaches, rolling heaths, granite outcroppings, and a pair of castles, windswept Tresco presents many faces despite its small size (just more than a square mile). After breakfast onboard your small ship, you'll explore Tresco on your way to Abbey Gardens. These gardens contain the remnants of an abbey first founded in the tenth century and the expanded in the twelfth. Elm, sycamore, oak, cypress, and pine trees provide natural protection from the elements, which allows exotic plants from all over the globe to thrive, including South African proteas, Canary Island echiums, Australian banksia, and more. A local guide with lead your discoveries here, before you enjoy free time.

    During lunch aboard ship, you'll meet members of University of the Third Age, a lifelong learning organization for retirees and the semi-retired.

    This evening, enjoy a Captain's Farewell Dinner aboard ship as we sail toward Poole, England.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Enjoy breakfast onboard as your ship docks this morning in Poole, a major south coast seaport. Here you will transfer later from the ship to your hotel in London. After enjoying lunch on your own, get to know the area surrounding your hotel on a guided walk with your Program Director.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    There's no better place to end your discoveries than the actual Crown Jewel of the United Kingdom: London. After breakfast, begin with a panoramic London city tour, during which you'll witness some of the city's greatest icons—including the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, and Buckingham Palace.

    After an included lunch in a local pub, for a true taste of British daily life, enjoy the balance of the day to explore at leisure, and discover for yourself the highlights that inspired Samuel Johnson to write, “there is in London all that life can afford.”

    Tonight, enjoy a Farewell Dinner together in a local restaurant.

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    • Meals included:

    Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or begin your London, England post-trip extension.

Extensions

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Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

Currency Cheat Sheet: Submit

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Travel considerations for you and your small group of no more than 25, on Maritime Jewels of the British Isles.

Pacing

  • 14 days, with 10 nights aboard the Corinthian or M/V Clio, and 2 hotel stays, including 1 single-night stay

Physical Requirements

  • You must be able to walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 2 hours of physical activities each day
  • Travelers using mobility aids or with medical conditions that might require immediate attention will not be able to board the Corinthian or M/V Clio

Small Ship Cruising

  • In several ports along the Scottish Islands, it will be necessary to use local tenders or Zodiacs
  • Accessing the Zodiacs will require the use of a steep staircase; agility and balance are required for embarking Zodiac boats
  • If docked at a pier, gangway incline can be steep
  • Weather conditions and tides may require adjustments to your itinerary, especially in the Scottish and Scilly islands
  • Good agility, balance, and strength needed for possible rough seas
  • You must be cleared by a country’s local port authorities before disembarking the ship—you must wait onboard while this process is completed

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 60-74°F during cruising season

Terrain

  • Travel over uneven surfaces, including unpaved paths, steep hills, stairs, and cobblestones

Transportation

  • Travel by 33- to 45-seat coach, 89-passenger or 98-passenger small ship, and Zodiac

Cuisine

  • Meals will be a mix of regional specialties and familiar American standards
  • Meals onboard feature a variety of entrée options, including vegetarian

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • M/V Clio

    The ocean-cruising M/V Clio was recently acquired and will be refurbished with your tastes in mind in the spring of 2016. The ship is 328 ft. long and carries 89 passengers in 45 outside-facing cabins. The cabins range in size from between 194 sq. ft. and 205 sq. ft., with a single cabin measuring 161 sq. ft. While the majority of cabins include a window, nine also feature a sliding glass door and balcony. The cabins also have a queen-size bed that can be converted into two twins, closet, flat-screen satellite TV, DVD/CD player, telephone, mini-refrigerator, safe, and a private bathroom with shower. An elevator serves all passenger decks. Common areas include a dining room, lounge and bar area, indoor/outdoor veranda, Sun Deck with whirlpool, library, and shop. Additionally, Complimentary wireless Internet is available in all cabins and common areas. It may be necessary to use local tenders in some ports. 

  • Corinthian

    The ocean-cruising Corinthian is 290 ft. long and carries 98 passengers in 49 outside-facing cabins. Each of these cabins is at least 215 sq. ft. and has portholes, a window (some with partially obstructed views), or a balcony.  The cabins have a sitting area, queen-size bed (convertible to twin beds), a closet, flatscreen TV, a DVD/CD player, telephone, mini-refrigerator, and a private bath with shower, hair dryer, and toiletries. An elevator serves all passenger decks. Common areas include a restaurant and two lounges. During the cruise portion of your trip, you may need to tender to shore in some ports via Zodiac craft. Your landing may be “wet,” which means you’ll need to step into water up to ten inches deep and wade ashore.

Main Trip

  • Tower Hotel

    London, England | Rating: First Class

    The First-Class Tower Hotel is situated on the River Thames, right in the heart of London and within walking distance of the iconic Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Amenities include access to a gym, restaurant, and lounge. Each room features coffee- and tea-making facilities, a TV, complimentary toiletries, and private bath.

  • The Roxburghe Hotel

    Edinburgh, Scotland | Rating: Superior First Class

    The Superior First-Class Roxburghe Hotel is within walking distance of Princes Street and overlooks the stunning Edinburgh Castle. Hotel amenities include an indoor swimming pool, a health club, and a spa. Each room features cable TV, complimentary wireless Internet, coffee-making facilities, and a safe.

Extensions

  • Tower Hotel

    London, England | Rating: First Class

    The First-Class Tower Hotel is situated on the River Thames, right in the heart of London and within walking distance of the iconic Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Amenities include access to a gym, restaurant, and lounge. Each room features coffee- and tea-making facilities, a TV, complimentary toiletries, and private bath.

  • The Roxburghe Hotel

    Edinburgh, Scotland | Rating: Superior First Class

    The Superior First-Class Roxburghe Hotel is within walking distance of Princes Street and overlooks the stunning Edinburgh Castle. Hotel amenities include an indoor swimming pool, a health club, and a spa. Each room features cable TV, complimentary wireless Internet, coffee-making facilities, and a safe.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two vacations to maximize your value.

  • Extend your vacation and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip excursions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
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What Makes This Trip Unique

Exclusive Discovery Series Events:

  • Enjoy a warm Welsh welcome during a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family
  • Stroll the exotic Abbey Gardens of Tresco, Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall
  • Visit the massive Caernarfon Castle in Wales
  • Witness the ancient, illuminated Book of Kells at Trinity College  
  • Visit the Churchill Barriers protecting the remote Orkney islands 

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Dates & Prices

*All figures and savings shown are examples only. Vacation Ambassador and Frequent Traveler savings shown are based on the average credits earned by Grand Circle Travelers. Good Buy Plan savings are calculated after Frequent Traveler Credits, Vacation Ambassador rewards, and multiple trip credits are deducted from your initial tour price; some benefits cannot be combined. For your specific savings, contact a Traveler Counselor. Every effort has been made to produce this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

History, Culture & More

Learn more about the history, art, culture, and more you’ll discover on this trip by reading the features below. These articles were collected from past newsletters, Harriet’s Corner, and special features created for Grand Circle by our team of writers.

Edinburgh Castle: Shrouded in Secrets

Learn about Edinburgh’s mysterious tales of falsely accused witches, sneaky prisoners, and paranormal activity.

Read More »

Written in Stone

The castles of the British Isles each have a story to tell. Read about some of the best here.

Read More »

Hot Potato

Try making this delicious potato and leek soup that is quintessentially Irish and super creamy.

Read More »

History, Culture & More

Edinburgh Castle: Shrouded in Secrets

The myths and mysteries of Scotland’s iconic landmark

by Catherine Groux, Grand Circle associate

With more than 800 years of history, Edinburgh Castle is shrouded in secrets. Centuries of royals lived within its illustrious chambers and great halls, while countless prisoners awaited their death deep in its dungeons. While today one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing more than a million visitors a year, at various points, the castle served as execution site, royal treasury, and even a fortress. Over the years, Edinburgh has spawned mysterious tales of spying kings, falsely accused witches, sneaky prisoners, ancient relics, and paranormal activity. Below is just a sample of the many myths and mysteries of Edinburgh Castle and the people who lived and died there:

The Stone of Destiny

Protected in Edinburgh Castle is a mysterious block of sandstone. Bearing only a Latin cross, there is little remarkable about its appearance—but throughout history, the Stone of Destiny has inspired legends, sparked great reverence, and spurred several conflicts between Scotland and England.

Beginning in the ninth century, the stone was used during the crowning of the kings who would go on to shape Scotland’s history. Some say the stone has biblical origins, claiming that Jacob used it as a pillow in Bethel when he dreamt of a ladder to heaven. Others believe it came from Scotland or Ireland. But as the stone traveled from Iona to Scone to serve Scotland’s crowned rulers, it became revered as a national relic—a symbol of Scotland’s power and independence.

It was for this reason that Edward I of England, after invading Scotland in 1296, moved the Stone of Destiny to London’s Westminster Abbey, where he put it under the Coronation Chair—sending a message to Scots that the English ruler was their ruler as well. To many Scots’ dismay, the stone remained in Westminster until Christmas morning 1950, when a group of Scottish students stole it—claiming they were taking the ancient relic back to its rightful owners in Scotland. After performing the bold heist (and breaking the stone in half in the process), the nationalists smuggled it back to Scotland, dousing it in whiskey to welcome it home.

After police questioning, however, the students eventually gave up the stone, leaving it in Arbroath Abbey. When it was found, it was moved back to London until 1996, when the British government agreed to return it to Edinburgh Castle. While this was cause for celebration for many Scots, others say the stone you see in the castle today is not the original. Some historians believe the true Stone of Destiny was hidden in the Perthshire hillside when the English invaded in the 13th century—meaning Edward I plundered a counterfeit—while others say the Scots hid the real stone after the 1950 heist, returning a fake to England.

The Lone Piper

Edinburgh Castle is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in the world, and though countless visitors claim to have seen various ghosts wandering the grounds, one of the castle’s most famous paranormal residents is the Lone Piper. Legend says that in the 19th century, a series of underground tunnels was discovered below the castle, connecting Edinburgh to the Royal Mile and Holyrood Palace. Because the tunnels were too small for adults, the authorities asked a young piper to investigate, telling him to play his bagpipes while he explored. As the boy made his way through the mysterious tunnels, the authorities tracked his movements with the sound of his pipes, until the boy stopped playing—vanishing into the dark, underground labyrinth. No one knows what happened to the boy, but visitors still report hearing the ghostly sound of pipes on the castle grounds.

The Witches’ Well

Near the entrance to the castle esplanade sits a small wall fountain called the Witches’ Well. Although the well would be easy to miss, it serves as a reminder of one of the darker times in Scottish history. Between 1479 and 1722, more than 300 suspected witches were burned at the stake near the site of the well. Among them was Janet Douglas, a.k.a. Lady Glamis, a noblewoman whose husband suddenly died while eating alone. Lady Glamis was charged with poisoning him, but when she was deemed innocent, King James V acted on his deep hatred of the Douglas family and accused her of another crime—trying to kill him with witchcraft. Although it seems clear that Lady Glamis was innocent, the king tortured her loved ones until they were willing to testify that she conspired to murder the monarch. Lady Glamis was ultimately condemned and burned at the stake on the castle’s esplanade, along with countless others who met this unfortunate fate.

The Escape Artists

Deep below the Great Hall and Queen Anne Building are stone vaults that housed countless prisoners of war, from a group of Caribbean pirates to a five-year-old drummer boy captured in the Battle of Trafalgar. Over the years, several of these prisoners tried to escape. In 1799, for example, a prisoner tried to sneak out of the castle by hiding in a dung barrel. Unfortunately, the man’s plans were dashed when a guard dumped him—and the other contents of the barrel—over the castle wall. During another famous escape in 1811, a group of 49 French prisoners managed to break through a wall and use a cloth rope to lower themselves down the south crag. Unfortunately, the Frenchmen didn’t escape scot-free. One prisoner fell to his death and four were captured almost immediately. The rest were caught within six weeks, after a successful ad in the Edinburgh Evening Courant named and described each one.

History, Culture & More

Written in Stone

Castles of the British Isles each have a story to tell

by David Valdes Greenwood, for Grand Circle

William the Conqueror. Richard the Lionheart. Henry VIII. It’s hard to imagine these iconic rulers commanding their kingdoms from any other setting than a castle. Yet these fortifications didn’t come into being until 1066, when William first began constructing them as military bulwarks. The first castles were mixed use, equal part military stronghold and living quarters. Soon, they became the homes from which royals and nobles ruled.

Over time, castles came to contain all the elements of feudal life in one setting: the ruling class, the servant class, and soldiers who defended them all. With medieval standards of living, castles were cold and dark much of the time, but became ever more elaborately decorated over the years, and the scene of the grandest pageantry of the day. With groundskeepers, stable hands, kitchen staff, and servants living in or near the castles, in addition to the lords and the military, these strongholds were like miniature cities unto themselves, often long before cities appeared.

The castles of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales have since become iconic symbols of history and culture, and each has a story of its own. With no one-size-fits-all approach to feudal architecture, these seats of power are as varied and colorful as the nations in which they rise.

Shoring up the Isles of Scilly

Like any island, Tresco was vulnerable to attack from the sea, and, with a central location among the Isles of Scilly, being captured provided its holders with access to other islands. Despite the first castle being named for King Charles, it was actually young King Edward VI who determined that Tresco was at risk of falling into the hands of the covetous French, and he ordered construction of a worthy fortress in the mid-16th century.

Built in the shape of a semi-hexagon, King Charles’s Castle boasted a massive central chamber with openings that gave its crew the ability to fire on vessels below in five directions simultaneously. This would have been more impressive had the architects considered their design a little more carefully. Because the edifice rose a full 130 feet over the harbor, the only way to fire its weapons was to aim them dramatically downward; but in this position, cannonballs simply rolled out before they could be fired. Only interlopers who came ashore were in actual danger, as soldiers above were well-armed with bows and arrows. No wonder then, that in 1651 during the English Civil War, the anti-royalist forces led by Robert Blake simply sailed past the harbor and went ashore elsewhere, to take not only Tresco but St. Mary’s, the next island.

To embellish his point, Blake sent a team to partially blow up King Charles’s Castle, then used some of the rubble as stone for a new castle. Named for Oliver Cromwell, this castle was closer to the harbor and was thus actually useful. With its six gun ports on a two-story façade, it was definitely the bigger, badder brother to the first castle. Showing more foresight than Edward VI, Blake got it right: No one could gain control of the island without passing in the line of fire from the castle. Meanwhile, its shape and size made it unlikely that the castle could be destroyed from sea—and, in fact, it still stands.

In for a pretty penny, out for a pound

Although some castles changed hands due to political shifts or as the spoils of war, 15th-century Kisimul Castle off the Isle of Barra in Scotland has been strongly associated with the fortunes of a single family for nearly 600 years. For most of that time, this castle—which covers an islet but seems from a distance to float on the water—was the property of Clan MacNeil, which traces its roots back to a legendary High King of Ireland, Niall of the Nine Hostages. The head of the MacNeil family was called the chief and 20 consecutive chiefs oversaw Kisimul as their own.

In 1838, however, with the family fortunes falling, the 40th chief sold the island (and with it, the castle), and much of the clan moved to America, Canada, and other English-speaking lands. With no clan to maintain the castle, it fell into disrepair, some of its masonry being hauled away for paving stone. But 100 years later, Robert Lister MacNeil, an America-born clan descendant, determined to set things right. Using all of the money he’d earned as an architect in the States, as well as most of his wife’s inheritance, he bought back the island and set to work restoring the castle, which became one of Scotland’s treasures as the only remaining significant medieval castle in the Hebrides.

In 2011, 46th clan chief Roderick MacNeil, trying to avoid letting the island fall into disrepair ever again, made an unusual offer: The family would lease the castle to Historic Scotland, a National Trust organization, for 999 years. The terms? Rent of one British pound per year—and a bottle of Scotch whisky. It was an offer Scotland could not refuse.

Haunted house

At Dublin’s Malahide Castle, many families and political factions have walked the halls—and some, it is said, still do. Built in the 12th century by King Henry II of England and given as home to the family of his knight Sir Richard Talbot, the stone manse was expanded in the 18th century to include more imposing towers, and boasts a 22-acre garden with 5,000 species of plants. But what makes Malahide Castle stand out in the Irish imagination is its legendary ghosts, an array of colorful figures from 800 years of history.

There’s Miles Corbet, who sided with Oliver Cromwell against King Charles I in the English Civil War, and briefly claimed the castle. After Cromwell’s overthrow, Corbet was hung, drawn, and quartered, to set a grisly example for future anti-monarchists. His was the first ghost said to haunt the castle, often in full armor. As if it is not enough to encounter a ghost to begin with, his specter might fall apart, separating into quarters before your eyes.

Corbet was followed by Walter Hussey, who was murdered by a spear-throwing rival on his way to his own wedding. Adding to insult to (fatal) injury, his bride-to-be later married the rival, so Hussey’s ghost is said to wander the halls clutching his side asking if anyone has seen his former sweetheart. One Malahide couple, Maud Plunkett and her husband the Lord Chief Justice, never parted at all—it’s said that she can be seen chasing him through the castle at night, hounding him in the afterlife the way she is said to have done in their mortal years.

Puck, the four-foot-tall jester, haunts Malahide in a different fashion. He provided amusements for the ruling family and fell in love with Lady Elenora Fitzgerald, who had been detained at the castle under suspicion of plotting against King Henry VIII. Puck was found murdered, likely by pro-Henry forces, but his death was attributed to suicide. Legend says his ghost promised never to hurt anyone, and that remains true. But he also refuses to be forgotten and is said to show up unwanted in photographs taken inside the castle.

The original dream home

One of the oldest Welsh tales is that of Macsen Wledig, emperor of the Western Roman Empire in Britain, who dreamed of sailing a ship and crossing the sea to a land that was home to the world’s greatest castle and most beautiful maiden. After leaving Britain for Rome, the emperor found no such castle or maiden, and sank into despair. He sailed back to Britain—but when he ventured ashore in Wales, he found a castle at Caernarfon as great as he imagined, and a maiden beyond his hopes. He settled there, refusing to ever return to Rome. Macsen Wledig was a real person but the story was a myth, created long after his passing, which somehow caught the Welsh fancy. By the time Edward I ruled the British Empire in the 13th century, the story was part of local lore, and Edward was determined to build a castle as impressive as the one of legend. Replacing a smaller castle (which itself had replaced a smaller Roman fort that bore no resemblance to Macsen’s grand dream), mighty Caernarfon Castle rose in less than five years, with massive polygonal towers, multicolored stone meant to invoke the glories of Constantinople, and a stone enclosure wall that encompassed all of the original town as well.

Impressed with his own handiwork, Edward determined to make this castle a formal part of British royal tradition. He achieved this by insisting that his wife be moved to Caernafon for the birth of their first child, so that the Prince of Wales would be, in fact, English. To this day, Caernafon is the site of investiture for the Prince of Wales, including His Royal Highness Prince Charles in 1969.

It is likely that Prince William will follow suit, should his father Charles assume the throne in the coming years.

Last queen standing

Not every royal family is as close as the current House of Windsor. Mary, Queen of Scots, maintained a running battle with cousin Queen Elizabeth I that can only be called epic.

Mary’s seat of power seemed secure enough: Edinburgh Castle sits atop a chunk of 350-million year-old volcanic rock 390 feet above sea level, a truly immutable base. But even before she arrived in the 16th century, the castle had evolved multiple times over the years. First built in 1093 as the Castle of the Maidens, it had been damaged often in the continual battles with the English, requiring a steady stream of repairs. In 1360, King David II added 90-foot towers, and a century later, King James III brought the rest of the castle into line with more elegant furnishings and elaborate royal apartments.

Mary was by far the most famous of its residents, but when Elizabeth forced Mary to abdicate, a cadre of Mary’s supporters barricaded themselves in the castle to support their queen and sustain local rule. That turned out to be a bad idea, because Elizabeth, at her boiling point, simply gave orders to retake the castle. Her forces did considerable damage—including felling David’s mighty towers—in the process. The nobles lost, Mary was later executed, and the castle itself never recovered its height. Nonetheless, like all great castles, its value to the culture, and the history written in its stonework, endures to this day.

History, Culture & More

Hot Potato

from Harriet’s Corner

Nutritious, satisfying, and incredibly versatile, potatoes have been a cornerstone of Irish cooking since they were introduced to the Emerald Isle in the early 17th century. Tiny plots could yield enough tubers to feed a large family and turn a profit, making them the perfect crop for subsistence farmers. Today, the enchanting island produces nine varieties of potato. The Irish favor the high-starch, fluffy varieties—ideal for mashing, baking, and pureeing into soups. But some low-starch, waxy potatoes are grown there, and their firmer texture means they hold their shape through boiling, roasting, and steaming. No matter your preferred preparation, you’re sure to get your potato fill on Ireland in Depth.

Potato and Leek Soup

When the mercury drops in the fall, nothing satisfies quite like a steamy bowl of soup. In Ireland—where the temperatures rarely climb above 70 degrees Fahrenheit—soup is always a welcome addition to the menu. This delicious potato and leek version is quintessentially Irish, and relies on the preferred high-starch potatoes for creaminess. With just seven ingredients, it requires minimal prep, and makes enough to feed a hungry family or freeze for a future chilly day.

Ingredients

1 lb (3 medium) leeks, chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb. (3-4 medium) Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
5 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Soak the chopped leeks in cold water to clean, and drain.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the leeks and onion, cover with a tight lid, and sweat until the leeks are soft.
  3. Add the chopped potatoes, cover, and cook for an additional 10 minutes, watching carefully so they don’t burn.
  4. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.
  5. Season well with salt and pepper, and blend the soup until smooth and creamy.
  6. Serve hot with crusty bread.

Serves: 6

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