Day 1 Departure Aberdeen
We embark in Aberdeen, famed as the granite city and many times a winner of the Britain in Bloom competition.
Day 2 Shetland Islands
At Fair Isle, in the Shetlands, we are welcomed by the 70 or so inhabitants (famed for their knitwear, examples of which we will see) and walk to the bird observatory. We view Grey Seals, Black Guillemots, Puffins, Fulmars, Red-throated Divers, Arctic Skuas and a colony of Gannets and a wonderful spring flora. At the southwestern part of the island we make a zodiac cruise through a wonderful maze of channels and stacks, where we observe Grey Seals and Harbor Seals. If the weather is poor we will sail by Westray, with impressive bird cliffs at the northern tip, and land at Papa Westray, an inhabited island with accessible and varied bird cliffs, and good photo opportunities.
Day 3 Foula
To the west of Shetland lies the small island of Foula, home to the largest colony of Great Skuas in the northern hemisphere. There are small ponds with Red-throated Divers and spectacular cliffs (The Noup) crowded with nesting seabirds. We visit Arctic Tern and Arctic Skua colonies as well as calling on the islanders who number only about 30.
Day 4 North Rona - Sula Sgeir
Out in the Atlantic to the north-west of Scotland lie the tiny islands of North Rona and Sula Sgeir. We shall land on North Rona to see the seabird colonies and the Grey Seals. The island was inhabited in the 18th century and some remains are still visible: Leach's Petrels can be heard calling from their nesting burrows in the ruined walls of a small church in the village'. Sula Sgeir is the last island in Britain on which Gannets are harvested annually. There will be spectacular views of its cliffs as we sail around.
Day 5 Flannan Islands - Lewis
There will be great opportunities to watch and photograph Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins on the Flannan Islands, a group of small islands to the west of the Outer Hebrides. Later we visit Lewis to see the prehistoric stone circle of Callanish, one of the finest in Britain with stones over 3m tall. There are several smaller stone circles and chambered cairns on the moorland near Callanish.
Day 6 St. Kilda
To the west of North Uist lie the St. Kilda group of islands, built of volcanic rock and with cliffs rising to over 400m, the highest in Britain and home to the largest seabird colony in the country. St Kilda has its own sub-species of birds and mice, and of sheep, the Soay, probably brought here by Stone Age man over 5,000 years ago. Until 1930 St Kilda was inhabited, but then the last of the islanders left leaving a handful of windswept ruins, though there is also a military base which may be visited.
Day 7 Mingulay - Berneray - Pabay
The small islands of Mingulay, Berneray and Pabay, to the south of South Uist, are a nature reserve with important breeding populations of razorbills, guillemots, black guillemots, puffins, fulmars and shags. There are also five species of gull, all the seabirds being attracted by the cliffs and caves which offer safe nesting sites. The islands also have significant historical sites, including the old village on Mingulay which the last islanders left in 1912. The islanders were fishermen and collected the seabirds and eggs for food. They also traded the feathers.
If the weather is poor we will sail to Canna, one of the 'Small Isles of the Inner Hebrides. It has a tiny agricultural and cattle-rearing population. From a walk along the cliff top we may see Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles and Peregrine Falcons. At the cliff edge the rare Loose-flowered Orchids grow.
Day 8 Oban
We disembark at Oban, a small and cozy harbor town in west Scotland. From there we take the train to Glasgow, a marvelous journey through one of the most scenic parts of Scotland, to join our homeward flights.
The channels between the Scottish Islands offer excellent possibilities to spot Minke Whales (a small baleen whale), White-beaked Dolphins and Harbor Porpoises. Several other cetaceans, including Orcas (Killer Whales), are also native to these waters.
In reverse order:
MOL03, May 26 June 02 (Oban - Aberdeen)
GMK03, May 27 June 03 (Oban Aberdeen )
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