Historic Towns, Castles & Gardens of England, Ireland & Scotland—Swan Hellenic Vega
This voyage from Portsmouth to Dublin via Ireland’s west coast and the Scottish Isles focuses on historic sites and the region’s extraordinary natural beauty. Call in quaint villages on picturesque bays like Penzance and Bantry. Marvel at the windswept Isles of Scilly and the rugged Irish coastline between Dingle and Galway—the heart of Ireland’s “Wild Atlantic Way.” Also visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Giant’s Causeway and the remote Scottish isles of Mull and Lewis, plus striking Bodnant Gardens. This is a world of myth and legend not to be missed.
- Pricing from
- Trip Type
- Group Travel Tour, International Ocean & Sea Voyages
- Departure Dates
May 21, 2023 - Jun 3, 2023
Vega Stateroom Types and images
Swan Hellenic’s Vega is a new-generation expedition cruise ship. Although at 10,500 tons the ship is large enough to accommodate more than 250 passengers, Vega will accommodate a maximum of 152 guests in 76 spacious staterooms and balcony suites. The low guest density results in one of the most generous indoor and outdoor space-to-guest ratios among cruise ships.
Vega has been designed to meet the stringent requirements of the new Polar Code for ships navigating in Polar regions. Its high PC5 Category A ice-strengthened hull, and other technical and mechanical features allow the ship to cruise the world’s remote regions in safety and utmost comfort. Technologically advanced hybrid engines and a system of powerful batteries make it possible for the ship to cruise in ecologically sensitive areas, leaving a minimal footprint, while a computer-controlled Dynamic Positioning System allows the ship to maintain position without anchoring. Operated by a complement of 120 experienced European officers and international crew members, Vega will carry a fleet of Zodiacs, versatile landing boats, kayaks, and a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that will reveal marine life in the deep. Powerful stabilizers provide a smooth ride. All staterooms and suites face outside and are equipped with private facilities, climate control, TV, Wi-Fi and USB connections as well as other amenities. Of the ship’s 76 staterooms, 60 have balconies. Public areas include a spacious observation lounge that is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for lectures and presentations; a club lounge; a restaurant that accommodates all guests at one seating; an outdoor café/bar that surrounds the heated swimming pool; a wellness area with gym, spa and sauna that includes an adjoining outdoor jacuzzi; library; beauty salon; a “mud room” with lockers for storing expedition gear; and an infirmary that is attended by a full-time doctor. The ship also features expansive open-deck areas. Two elevators connect all decks. Attentive service is provided on a 24-hour basis.
CANCELLATIONS & REFUNDS: All cancellations are subject to a $300 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received 61-90 days prior to departure will be assessed a penalty equal to 50% of the total program cost per person. Cancellations received within 60 days of departure are subject to 100% cancellation penalties. Requests for cancellations must be made in writing. No refunds will be made for any part of this program in which you choose not to participate.
day 1 & 2
Depart the United States/Arrive in London
Arrive in London and transfer to our deluxe hotel, located not far from Heathrow Airport overlooking the Thames River. This evening, join fellow travelers for a welcome dinner. (D)
Today, drive through the scenic countryside of Surrey and Hampshire to arrive at the great port of Portsmouth, where we embark Vega and set sail late in the afternoon. (B,L,D)
From Penzance, a lovely coastal town at the end of the Great Western rail line, travel to St. Michael’s Mount, a small tidal island just offshore. It is the site of an imposing medieval castle and church, as well as the home of the St. Aubyn family, who manage St. Michael’s house and gardens in partnership with the National Trust. After our tour here, we return to Penzance and to the garden at Trengwainton, celebrated for the collection of award-winning rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias that thrive within its 25 acres. (B,L,D)
Isles of Scilly
Located about 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly are a cluster of low-lying islands that have been specially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Due to their mild winter climate and long hours of summer sunshine, they are able to host the botanical marvel that is Tresco Abbey Gardens. Benefitting from high walls and hedges that protect it from the Atlantic winds, this world-class garden prides itself on a collection of 20,000 plant species from as far away as New Zealand, South America, and Southern Africa, all flourishing in latitudes that seem impossible. (B,L,D)
The town of Bantry is situated beneath sheltering hills at the head of one of the most beautiful bays along the Irish coast, and is home to Bantry House and Gardens. The ancestral home of the Earls of Bantry, the house has a splendid collection of tapestries and other works of art gathered by the 2nd Earl during his travels in various parts of Europe. The gardens, based on plans sketched during these travels, are a beautiful series of terraces surrounding the house, and include the famous Hundred Steps, a monumental staircase built of local stone, set amidst azaleas and rhododendrons. (B,L,D)
Today we call at the small port of Dingle on the southwest coast of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. The only town on Dingle Peninsula, it is an ancient fishing village in a tiny well-protected harbor. Fishing is still an important part of life here, but Dingle is now best known for its eclectic shops, offering designer weavings and tapestries, exquisitely crafted crystal, and much more. Spend some time exploring this charming community of artists and artisans before traveling to the opposite shore of Dingle Bay to explore Kells Bay Gardens. The gardens contain an impressive collection of southern hemisphere plants, including a Tree-fern Forest that seems more suitable to southeast Asia than to the Ring of Kerry. (B,L,D)
Galway is our launching pad for an exploration of Connemara, which one writer has aptly described as “a place of legend, folklore, and profound beauty.” We will travel some 40 miles across this landscape of bogs and heaths, dotted with lakes and traversed by ancient stone walls, marveling along the way at the everchanging soft-hued colors that range from green to rust to blue-grey. Our journey pauses when we reach the stunning neo-Gothic castle of Kylemore Abbey and explore its Victorian Walled Gardens. We then resume our drive, returning through the heathlands as we make our way back to our ship. (B,L,D)
Portrush, Northern Ireland
Today we call at Portrush, a small resort town on Northern Ireland’s spectacularly scenic Antrim Coast. Our excursion takes us first to the nearby Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site of over 40,000 interlocking, hexagonal basalt columns formed by the cooling of molten lava some 6 million years ago. Then, on our way back to Portrush, we visit ancient Dunluce Castle, whose ruins are perched on a steep cliff, high above the North Atlantic. (B,L,D)
Craignure, Scotland, Iona/Mull
Craignure, Scotland, Iona/Mull We begin today on the Isle of Iona, site of the first Christian settlement in Scotland, dating from 563, when St. Columba landed in this remote place. It is here that the Book of Kells was created. Iona also bears the distinction of harboring in its “Graves of the Kings” some 60 Scottish monarchs, including Macbeth and Duncan. In the afternoon, visit the Isle of Mull and Duart Castle, the ancestral home of Clan Maclean. It is a fascinating place, full of stories about the clan, their rivalries, and the role they have proudly played in Scottish history. (B,L,D)
Stornoway, Isle of Lewis/Lock Ewe
Today we call at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis and begin our exploration with a visit to the Standing Stones of Callanish, a ring of megaliths erected some 5,000 years ago, about the same time as Stonehenge. Unlike Stonehenge, the Stones of Callanish are still accessible, and visitors are welcome to walk among them. Over lunch, Vega sails to Loch Ewe on Scotland’s west coast for a visit to Inverewe Gardens. Designed by Osgood MacKenzie, the gardens were opened to the public soon after WWII and became part of the National Trust in 1953. The warm currents of the North Atlantic Drift create a welcoming climate where tropical plants from around the world flourish at a latitude more northerly than Alaska’s Glacier Bay. (B,L,D)
As Vega turns southward toward our final ports of call in Wales and Ireland, we pause in the small seaside resort of Oban for one last day in Scotland. We will explore the area around Oban, famous for its numerous medieval castles—many of them associated with Clan MacDougall—and for the distillery in the center of the town that produces an award-winning single malt. We will also visit Arduaine Garden, famous for its rhododendrons, and enjoy a leisurely sail along scenic Loch Linnhe to historic Fort William. (B,L,D)
The seaside resort of Llandudno on the Creuddyn Peninsula is one of Wales’s most popular vacation destinations, with all of the beaches, hotels, and arcades one would expect. Our visit here will focus on nearby Bodnant Gardens, established in 1874 by scientist, businessman, and politician Henry Pochin. Pochin’s vision was to create a garden to showcase plants from around the world. In 1949 the Garden was gifted to the National Trust, who now maintain it and carry on its traditions. During your visit, the flowers of spring—daffodils, camellias, magnolias, and rhododendrons—should be in full bloom, while the rose beds and wildflower meadows of summer will be beginning to make their presence known. (B,L,D)
After breakfast aboard, disembark and transfer to the airport for flights homeward. (B)
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