Scotland’s western and northern isles are a dream destination—and for many, a long-awaited return to ancestral homelands. Culture, heritage, and natural history abound here, echoes of Europe’s ancient past.
In Medieval times, an already-archaic society in the Hebrides evolved into the Lordship of the Isles, a sea-kingdom blending Gael and Viking under the powerful domination of Clan Donald. In the north, Orkney and Shetland were wed into a formidable Scandinavian earldom. Both island groups preserve some of the oldest monuments in Europe, dating back to the Stone Age.
Kinship and community are two of the constants in this story; Gaelic-speaking clans retained their independence despite acknowledging the Lords of the Isles, while free Norse landholders battled the forces of feudalism in the Northern Isles.
Aboard the Ocean Endeavour, we’ll enjoy contemporary comforts as we explore our way out from Glasgow, through the western isles and the Pentland Firth to Orkney and Shetland. Abundant ecology and spectacular geology beckon adventurers for a closer look. June is an ideal month to visit Scotland in search of birds, with breeding well underway, and avian enthusiasts will be rewarded with excellent opportunities. Photographers will be in their glory amid the gorgeous scenery; small-group tutorials will help shutterbugs capture the experience at its finest.
Island folk have always been extremely conscious of the natural environment, as its bounty has sustained them. We’ll experience a bit of island life too—with music and laughter in community halls and local pubs. Though modern touches grace many homes, the people who live here still remain close to their roots, tracing traditions to the original settlers who first made their homes here centuries ago.