Join Naturalist Journeys in Scotland for a fascinating cruise into the Scottish Islands. Scotland offers a rich tapestry of history, culture, and beauty. We begin in Edinburgh with a city tour and time to explore, eat, and drink on your own before we embark and set sail into the wilds. Each day we explore off the ship in the company of expert guides, cruising in Zodiacs and enjoying walks on shore.

On the route we explore the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Shetland Islands, and The Orkney Islands, soaking in time to observe massive seabird colonies, watching for marine mammals, and learning about the fascinating history, archeology, and culture of the islands. North Atlantic cruise is not to be missed!

This cruise is fantastic for friends and couples who have a variety of interests—wildlife abounds, as does history, archaeology, and good food. Bring your friends and enjoy this fun Scottish Islands cruise.

Tour Highlights

  • Arrive in Edinburgh with time to explore the city
  • Spend two days exploring the golden beaches, jagged peaks, bleak moors, and heathered hills of the Inner Hebrides
  • Take three days to discover the Outer Hebrides, home to fascinating archeological sites and the largest seabird colonies in the world
  • Island-hop around the Shetland Islands to soak in the wilds and wildlife and visit the northern-most point of Britain at Muckle Flugga
  • Enjoy two days on the Orkney Islands; Fair Isle lies on the intersection of major flight-paths from Scandinavia, Iceland, and Faroe—June boasts fantastic birding!

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Sun., May 18: Edinburgh


Welcome to Scotland! You are met by a representative of our cruise operator and transferred to our group hotel. Upon arrival, please visit the cruise company’s hospitality desk to collect your luggage cabin tags and to speak with their ground operations team, who share pre-embarkation information and ideas about where to dine, withdraw cash or purchase last minute items from a local pharmacy or supermarket.

The remainder of your time is at leisure today.
Accommodation at Courtyard Edinburgh Hotel (or similar)

Mon., May 19: Edinburgh | Troon, West Scotland


Edinburgh awaits us this morning as our local guide welcomes us with stories of Scotland's capital city. Stretching just over one mile, five cobblestoned streets make up the walking precinct of the Royal Mile. Starting at The Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, we step back in time to hear tales of princes, poets, and politicians as we stroll past some of Edinburgh’s most iconic buildings including the Church of Canongate and Scotland's own parliament house.

Perched atop an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle dominates the capital city’s skyline just as it has dominated Scotland’s long and colorful history. This instantly recognizable fortress is a powerful national symbol, and part of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site. Our audio tour brings the castle’s inhabitants alive as you discover highlights such as the Royal Palace, the Crown Jewels, Mons Meg, and the Scottish National War Memorial.

We have time to explore the castle precinct and Royal Mile which are scattered with friendly pubs and charismatic restaurants. Our two-hour transfer takes us to the west coast port of Troon where our expedition team welcomes us aboard the Greg Mortimer in the late afternoon.

Once onboard, settle into your cabin before our important briefings. We set sail along Scotland's northwest coast in the evening and meet your expedition team and crew at Captain’s Welcome Dinner. (D)

Tues., May 20 - Wed., May 21: Inner Hebrides


From golden beaches to jagged peaks, bleak moors and heather clad hills; from abandoned settlements to picturesque villages, our days in the Hebrides archipelago are packed with variety. We may explore remote lochs beneath some of Britain’s most untamed mountains and wander between unusual rock formations. We may watch for Pilot and Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Bottle-Nosed, White-Beaked, and Striped Dolphins, Eurasian Otter, Scottish Common Seal and Grey Seal, and the increasingly rare Basking Shark. Possibly we land at an island reserve that is home to Red Deer and White-tailed Eagle. We also keep our eyes peeled for eiders and Long-tailed Duck, as well as Red-throated, Black-throated and Great-Northern Divers. Shorebirds include anderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper, Redshank, beautiful Eurasian Oystercatcher, and Curlew.

Kayakers are introduced to their craft briefed for their adventures before picking up paddles to circumnavigate tiny islets or glide into narrow waterways that intertwine the islands. Hikers may opt for panoramic views from summits and ridges.

Early the second morning we aim for the tiny island of Iona. Barely 3 miles long, Iona is renowned as the birthplace of Christianity in Britain. It is also a burial ground of early Scottish Kings. The Irish monk, St. Columba and twelve disciples, landed here and founded a monastery in 563 CE. From this base, St. Columba set about converting Scotland and much of Northern England to Christianity.

On Staffa, we hope to have the chance to explore Fingal’s Cave, where the melodious sound of waves crashing against towering basalt pillars inspired Mendelssohnn’s Hebridean Overture. We may enter the cave in Zodiacs, or clamber ashore to walk into the mouth of the cave. We scan for the few Great Skua that sometimes breed here. Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, and Shag are present, with Black Guillemot, Manx Shearwater, and perhaps tiny Storm Petrel, Great Skua, Arctic Tern and “real” Greylag Goose offshore. On shore we find Atlantic Puffin in abundance.

The rugged Isle of Skye, named after the Norse word for ‘cloud’, is a hikers’ paradise. It is a centre of Gaelic culture and some islanders still speak the language. The wildlife, history, geology and beautiful scenery make it one of our favorite islands to explore. We hope to make the following landings: The Cuillin Hills have earned a reputation as Britain’s most untamed and challenging mountains. The rocky jagged Black Cuillins attract rock climbers. The smoother conical granite peaks of the Red Cuillins are crowned with heather. We may land at Loch Scavaig in the heart of the Cuillins and take a short hike, perhaps to Loch Coruisk, for spectacular views and get a glimpse of the range’s grandeur. Keener hikers may be able to venture further afield, weather permitting. Meanwhile kayakers can paddle around Loch Scavaig, into Loch Coruisk. They may even have the chance to explore the island of Soay and an abandoned shark fishing station—all against the backdrop of classic views of the Cuillins.

To the south of the Cuillin Hills we may visit Rubha’ an Dùnain, a small uninhabited peninsula on the southwest corner of Skye, commanding an impressive view of the sea routes nearby. As a result of its strategic position we can see archaeological remains—from a Neolithic chambered cairn, to a Viking canal and more recent black houses. Depending on weather conditions, we may choose to visit the small island of Canna in search of rare Basking Shark, seals, and seabird nesting cliffs. (B,L,D)

Thurs., May 22 - Sat., May 24: Outer Hebrides


From the Inner Hebrides we make our way to the Outer Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles, that stretch for nearly 130 miles and look out on their western side to the Atlantic Ocean. Our first stop is at the Isle of Lewis, the largest and northern-most island in the Outer Hebrides. We plan to make a stop at Callanais, where archaeology buffs are keen to see the fascinating group of Standing Stones, dating from around 3,000 BCE. Nearby we may visit Bostadh House, a remarkable reconstruction of an Iron Age dwelling tucked away just above a beautiful white beach.

Weather permitting we plan to land at the isolated archipelago (and World Heritage site) of St. Kilda, where derelict crofts bear testament to the fortitude of islanders who once tended the unique Soay sheep and harvested seabirds for food—and to pay their rent in the form of wool, meat, and feathers. The isles hold Europe’s most important seabird colony, home to 60,000 pairs of Northern Gannet and 64,000 pairs of Northern Fulmar, and is home to Britain’s highest sea stacks. Huge colonies of Atlantic Puffin, guillemots, and Razorbills can also be found, as well as breeding Storm Petrel, shag, cormorant, Black Guillemot, kittiwakes, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Arctic Tern, Common Tern, and Little Tern. Impressive! Island hopping northeast, we aim to visit tiny specks of land that bear the brunt of violent Atlantic storms and rarely see visitors. Home to breeding seals, Sula Sgeir, North Rona, and Flannan boast spectacular cliffs, fantastic rock stacks, hidden beaches, and luxuriant heaths where sheep once grazed. (B,L,D)

Sun., May 25 - Mon., May 26: Shetland Islands


Britain’s most northerly islands lie almost 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland, at a similar latitude to the southern tip of Greenland, or Bergen in Norway. Kept relatively warm by the Gulf Stream, Shetland’s 100 islands experience almost 24 hours of daylight in summer. They abound with nature reserves and archaeological sites and offer a taste of traditional island life. We plan to explore some of the following sites:

The island of Foula is the most remote inhabited island in the UK. Its small community of about 30 residents welcome us to their island to enjoy the magnificent scenery, large seabird colonies, beautiful wildflowers, and remarkable community life. We look for Western Marsh Harrier, striking Gray Wagtail, darling Common Quail, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Bluethroat, and possibly even Black Redstart. Papa Stour offers some of the best sea caves in Britain where we may explore with Zodiacs and kayaks.

Jarlshof is one of Shetland's best preserved and most complex archaeological sites. It was exposed by storms in the late 19th Century. The Old House of Sumburgh, built here in the 17th Century, was named 'Jarlshof' by Sir Walter Scott in his novel The Pirate. The record of human occupation dates from around 3,200 BCE. Jarlshof’s main Bronze Age site is the house of a bronzesmith working around 800 BC. Clay molds into which molten bronze was poured revealed that he was casting axe heads and short swords. It seems that Shetland suited early Norse settlers, for they quickly settled here and left their mark on Shetland's history for ages to come.

Mousa Broch, on the small uninhabited island of Mousa, is the best preserved of Scotland’s 570 brochs (fortified Iron Age towers). Storm Petrels nest among its stones, which can be seen when visiting the broch at night. In daylight, a large colony of Common and Grey Seals bask on its shores and we may spot Eurasian Otter (Dratsi, in Shetland dialect).

Hermaness National Nature Reserve is close to Britain’s most northerly point. The reserve is a place of bird cries and sea smells, of myth and mist. The cliffs rise nearly 560 feet above the Atlantic. During summer they are alive with the cacophony, and raw guano smell of over 100,000 breeding seabirds: kittiwakes, shags, Snipe, Dunlin, Golden Plover, and Arctic Skua, making this one of Europe’s most diverse colonies. The grasslands, moors, and cliff tops are a tapestry of colorful wildflowers—gentians, heather, orchids, and thrift are a few of the species here.

A rocky islet, Muckle Flugga is Britain’s most northerly point and only 170 miles from Norway. A lighthouse was established here in 1854, to protect navy ships during the Crimean War.

With its mile-long seabird cliffs, the Island of Noss is a National Nature Reserve. In breeding season, the sound of around 150,000 birds and chicks fills the air. Millions of years of wind and ice have honeycombed thousands of nesting ledges in sandstone cliffs almost 650 feet high. Resident seals and visiting otters feed in dense kelp around the shores. (B,L,D)

Tues., May 27 - Wed., May 28: Orkney Islands


Midway between Orkney and Shetland, Fair Isle houses a major European ornithological research station, the Fair Isle Bird Observatory, and is also famous for knitwear and historic shipwrecks. Just three miles by two miles in area, it is surrounded by impressive cliffs. The 70 or so islanders mainly live in traditional crofts on the more fertile low-lying southern part of the island.

A bird watchers’ paradise, Fair Isle lies on the intersection of major flight-paths from Scandinavia, Iceland, and Faroe. In summer, the cliffs teem with breeding fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, shags, and puffins. The Isle is an excellent place to view seabirds, especially puffins at close range. Typical June migrants include Marsh Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Honey-Buzzard, and Eurasian Hobby, while rarities can include Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, and Citril Finch. Fair Isle also has over 250 species of flowering plants, including wetland flowers, rare orchids, alpine species and common wildflowers. We are welcomed by the hospitable villagers and may take a hike or visit the museum. Grey and Common Seals inhabit these waters around Fair Isle, while sharp eyes may spot Harbour Porpoise, White-beaked Dolphin, Atlantic White-sided Dolphin, Orca, and Minke Whale.

Orkney’s archipelago of 70 windswept islands, 6 miles north of the Scottish mainland, boast a rich tapestry of archaeology, history, and wildlife. We follow the passage of time—from 5,000-year-old World Heritage Neolithic sites, past relics from Vikings and reminders of World War II occupation—to present day crofting communities. Imposing sea cliffs teem with seabirds and cliff top paths beckon the keen hikers among us. Our kayakers use paddle-power to explore sections of Orkney’s fascinating coastline.

At the Knap of Howar on Papa Westray lies the earliest known house in Northern Europe, occupied by Neolithic farmers over 5,000 years ago. At the east end of Scapa Flow, remnants from World War II include an Italian Chapel, created by Italian prisoners of war made out of two Nissen huts, and the Churchill Barriers, constructed on the orders of Winston Churchill to keep out U-Boats.

Discover the rich history in Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Islands. Initial impressions are misleading, as the harbor area looks modern, but the narrow winding streets and lanes of the old town, which have remained relatively unchanged over the centuries are appealing. Explore magnificent St. Magnus Cathedral, built from red and white sandstone and considered the finest medieval building in the north of Scotland, before popping across the road to Tankerness House and Gardens, a restored 16th Century former manse, now housing the Orkney Museum featuring archaeological artefacts from Neolithic times to the Vikings. The exhibition is a great way to whet your appetite for the archaeological gems you find on the mainland, including the unique and well-preserved 5,000-year-old semi-subterranean village of Skara Brae.

Everything west of Kirkwall is known as West Mainland, an area of rich farmland, rolling hills and moorland, with dramatic cliffs along the Atlantic coastline. Some of the main archaeological attractions we may see include the standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and the chambered tombs of Maes Howes that to this day still have unresolved mysteries. One of the mainland’s main attractions is Skara Brae, the best-preserved Stone-Age village in northern Europe, located in the spectacular white sands of the Bay of Skaill. Revealed in 1850 after a storm below away the dunes, the site dates from approximately 5,000 years ago and was occupied for about 600 years, showing a unique picture of the lifestyle of the original inhabitants. (B,L,D)

Thurs., May 29: Aberdeen | Disembarkation


On arrival in Aberdeen, we disembark in the early morning and bid a fond farewell to fellow travelers before a transfer to the airport to continue your journey. Please book flights out after 12:00 PM. (B)

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Cost of the Journey

Cost of the journey starts at $9,644*, per person for a Twin Stateroom. If you would like a different cabin category, please ask and we can work with our operator to see which cabin categories are available at the time of your booking.

Cost includes: all accommodations; all meals aboard the cruise; airport transfers and ground transportation; professional guide services; park, preserve, and other activity fees; gratuities, wine with dinner, all excursions, all port taxes/fees, and miscellaneous program expenses.

Tour price does not include: round trip airfare to Edinburgh and from Aberdeen, or items of a personal nature such as laundry, porterage, and telephone charges. Please note: Cruise payments are subject to the terms and conditions of the cruise company, Aurora Expeditions, we contract with and may be fully non-refundable. These terms and conditions are primary over those of Naturalist Journeys.

Naturalist Journeys Added Value: Why cruise with Naturalist Journeys? First and foremost, it doesn’t cost you more to cruise with us. You pay the same rate you would if you booked directly through the operator. That’s where the perks come in! When you book with Naturalist Journeys, you’re part of a group. We send a leader with you who adds excellent hosting and interpretation skills, and facilitates group interaction. We also send you a species list and trip report once the trip is over. So really, you get the benefit of a small-group guide without the added cost! *This is a promotional price and is subject to change without notice. The list price starts at $10,395 per person.

Travel Details

Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.

Arrival Airport: Edinburgh Airport (EDI)

Arrival Details: Plan flights to arrive May 18, 2025 at your leisure.

Departure Airport: Aberdeen International Airport (ABZ)

Departure Details: Plan flights to depart May 29, 2025 after 12:00 PM.

Travel Tips: If you arrive early to rest up from your travels, you can book an early night at our first night tour hotel, Courtyard by Marriott Edinburgh. You can book online and send us the confirmation number, with the goal being you won’t have to switch rooms. We’ll visit the famous Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile on our tour, but there are many other things to do in Edinburgh if you want to explore. If you enjoy museums, a visit to the National Museum of Scotland will allow you to explore Scottish history, art, and culture. The Royal Yacht Britannia is another popular attraction in Edinburgh. It’s the former royal yacht of the British monarchy that was in service for over 40 years and is now available to the public for tours. There are plenty of transportation options in Edinburgh including trams, taxis, and Uber.

VISA Requirements: At this time US citizens do not need a visa for tours of less than 90 days.

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.

Scotland

Map for Wild Scotland Cruise

Essential Information +

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have Read more

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!

Ahead of Your Tour

  • Make sure your passport will be valid for the duration of your stay. However, we suggest at least 3 months validity beyond end of tour to allow for unexpected delays in return travel. No Visas are required for U.S. citizens for stays of this duration. If you are from another country, please contact the Embassy of Scotland website for guidelines.
  • Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Scotland and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “General Health and Inoculations” section below.
  • Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is required by our cruise operator. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
  • Plan your flight reservations arriving into Edinburgh (EDI) and departing Aberdeen (ABZ). Please email client services with your flight information.
  • Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Arrival into Edinburgh, Scotland (EDI)

Please note. If you are delayed in travel, please FIRST call the number of our Scotland operator. As a backup, contact our office (numbers are on your emergency contact list).

Plan flights to arrive at your leisure. A representative of our cruise operator will meet you and and transfer you to our group hotel. Upon arrival, please visit the cruise company’s hospitality desk to collect your luggage cabin tags and to speak with their ground operations team.

Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.

Departures from Aberdeen, Scotland (ABZ)

Our operator will transfer to the airport to continue your journey after breakfast. Please book flights out after 12:00 PM. 

Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.

Passport, Visas & Documents

You must have a passport that is in good condition and is valid for the duration of your stay. However, we suggest at least 3 months validity beyond end of tour to allow for unexpected delays in return travel. You should have at least one blank page per stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted. If you are from another country, please contact the Scotland embassy website for guidelines. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/UnitedKingdom.html

It is always smart to check for changes 60-90 days before tour departs but at the time of writing, a tourist visa is not required for stays of this duration. You will need proof of a return ticket. The necessary documents will be distributed by your airline while in flight or provided for you upon arrival. We advise that you bring your eContact list of hotels for use at immigration as well.

As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep electronic backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.

General Health & Inoculations Information – Be Prepared!

We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency. 

Vaccinations: Bring your up-to-date vaccination records with you. At the time of writing there were no required vaccinations to enter Scotland, however the CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine and basic travel vaccinations before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. A helpful resource is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage for the UK, or you may contact them by phone (800) CDC-INFO or (800) 232-4636.

Prescriptions: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage.  Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use, a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. 

Allergies: To be prepared for environmental triggers to allergies or breathing difficulties, please bring your allergy and/or asthma medication(s).  If you have severe allergies talk to your doctor about carrying an EPI pen and notify your guides. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.

Common Ailments: We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over-the-counter medications for prevention or treatment of common ailments (such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, cough, congestion, head or body aches, insect bites and sunburn); as well as ointments, moisturizer, sunscreen, oral rehydration salts, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, cotton swabs, nail clippers, and tweezers, etc.

Please note: travel insurance is required by our cruise operator. The ship has a small, well equipped medical clinic designed to provide initial care for most medical illnesses and injuries.

Weather & Climate

Plan for a large variation in weather conditions. Brilliant sunshine and rain are equally as possible. The weather is often cool in Scotland, even in the summer, with thunderstorms and rain. Expect highs in the 60s and 70s, and lows in the 40s and 50s, with comfortable to high humidity, though it will be colder on the water. Come prepared with layers of clothing, including a waterproof jacket that can double as a windbreaker (polar jacket provided onboard the ship), waterproof pants (essential) and an umbrella. Bring waterproofs walking boots or shoes and warm clothing. Scotland does have rain ... we suggest you be well prepared!

Food & Drinks

Meals during this journey will reflect local cuisine and specialties, and will be varied and flavorful. Many special dietary requests can be accommodated with advance notice. All meals include vegetarian options and the onboard chefs can tailor offerings for food intolerances such as gluten intolerance. Please ensure you list any dietary requirements on your online expedition check-in. We are unable to cater to all requirements such as kosher or halal, nor can we guarantee that our onboard meals do not contain traces of peanuts or other nuts.

Bottled water will be available for field trips and drinking water is provided for you to refill a bottle. One of the many ways we strive to do our part for the environment is by trying to reduce our consumption of plastics; if convenient we appreciate if you can bring reusable water bottles.

Packing, Clothing & Laundry

Dress is informal on board. Close-toed shoes with good grip are necessary. Some may choose to dress up a bit for the Captain's Welcome and Farewell Dinner but formal clothing is not necessary.

When outside, and on zodiacs you will want to be prepared for cold temperatures by taking a layered approach to clothing. A waterproof polar jacket will be provided for you use. Designed to be worn over your essential base layers, it will be waiting for you in your cabin. Please note: jackets are unisex and designed to be over-sized to allow for easy movement and layering underneath.  Rubber "muck" will be available to borrow.

When arriving back from an outing, you will leave your Muck boots, hang up your jacket and any wet clothing in the mud room. There are no passenger laundry facilities for you to do your own washing, but there is a laundry service available on board. Prices are listed in your cabin. All cabins have a sink.

Please, pack light, and do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down please! And please do not pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!

TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field, have one day’s clothing change, and a change of underwear!

Spending Money

The official currency in Scotland is the pound sterling (GBP). We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a major credit card. or the current exchange rate, please refer to an online converter tool like www.xe.com or your bank. If you plan to exchange cash in country, bring large U.S. bill ($50 or $100) in good condition that will give you the better rate when exchanging to local currency.

Onboard currency is US dollars. All your onboard purchases are charged to your shipboard account and settled by credit card or cash (US dollars only) at the end of the voyage.

We recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees. (Onboard payments are charged in US dollars to a financial institution in Miami.)

Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise you use them.

Gratuities

Tipping is not compulsory in Scotland but is always appreciated for good service; 10 percent is a good rule of thumb. Gratuities for the crew are included in your voyage price. It is not necessary to tip the expedition team members.

*Please note that suggested tips are quoted in U.S. Dollars. You will want to convert and tip in Pounds.

Cell Phones & Internet Service

The country code for Scotland is +44. 999 is used as an emergency number. Wireless internet connection is available free of charge onboard the ship (subject to change) although speed and reliability may vary given the remote locations. In case of an onboard emergency, the expedition team can facilitate communication with your family members if necessary. Phonecards that allows you to make calls from the phone in your cabin is available for purchase from reception.

If you plan on using your cell phone on this trip, please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country. Ask for “international roaming” to be turn on your phone. Or you can buy a local SIM card at the airport and insert this in your mobile phone (just make certain your phone can accept one). Renting an international phone may also be an option.

If your phone can connect to Wi-Fi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Please contact your cell phone provider for further details. Another option if you have access to Wi-Fi, is to use smartphone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls. Many smartphones, tablets, or laptops come with one of these apps pre-installed or you can download for free. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.

Make sure if you do NOT want to use your cell phone that you turn off your cellular data. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. Putting your phone in airplane mode if you mainly use it for photos will save the battery as well.

Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls when traveling with other passengers, unless it appears to be an emergency. This disrupts other guests, plan on cell phone call use on your own time.

Electricity

The standard voltage in Scotland is 240V, higher than in the United States (120V), with frequency of 50 Hz. Electrical outlets in Scotland are primarily "Type G". Onboard, the electrical supply is 220 volsts, 60 hertz. You will need to bring a converter for 110 volt devices. Check the labels on your appliances (hair dryers are provided onboard the ship.) More information can be found at www.power-plugs-sockets.com.

Time

Scotland is in the Greenwich Mean Time Zone, which is 5 hours earlier than New York (Eastern Time). Scotland does observe Summer Time (or Daylight Savings Time). A great website if you want to tell someone to check ahead of calling you is www.timeanddate.com.

Questions?

Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!

 

Pace & Protocols +

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of Read more

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect

You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.

Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.

The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.

We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.

Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role

Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.

Smoking

Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.

Transportation

As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.

Photo Release & Sharing

We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.

By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.

Travel Insurance

You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global RescueWorld Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.

Questions?

Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.

 

Packing List +

Please pack light! Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid Read more

Please pack light!

Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a waterproof day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.

Dress is very informal. Scotland is known for its cool, mild weather and its frequent cloud cover and rain. Best be prepared for this variable climate by bringing rain gear and warm clothes. June highs average in the low-60s°F, and lows in the mid- 40s°F. You’ll encounter rain which will cause the temperatures to drop. Temperatures on the water can be much cooler.

Dress is informal on board. Close-toed shoes with good grip are necessary. Some may choose to dress up a bit for the Captain's Welcome and Farewell Dinner but formal clothing is not necessary.

When outside, and on zodiacs you will want to be prepared for cold temperatures by taking a layered approach to clothing. A waterproof polar jacket will be provided for you use. Designed to be worn over your essential base layers, it will be waiting for you in your cabin. Please note: jackets are unisex and designed to be over-sized to allow for easy movement and layering underneath.  Rubber "muck" will be available to borrow.

When arriving back from an outing, you will leave your Muck boots, hang up your jacket and any wet clothing in the mud room. There are no passenger laundry facilities for you to do your own washing, but there is a laundry service available on board. Prices are listed in your cabin. All cabins have a sink.

Clothing & Gear

  • Long pants, 2-3 pair (warm and comfortable, synthetic fabrics or wool are best underneath your waterproof layer, perhaps a layer of each. Jeans are not suitable as an under layer.)
  • Long-sleeved shirts (2-3)
  • T-shirts or equivalent (4-5 – remember you may be buying some anyway!)
  • Personal underclothing and pajamas
  • Thermal underwear, medium to thick
  • Socks (a mix of thick and thin is ideal)
  • Comfortable clothes for evening
  • Hat with broad brim
  • Lightweight hiking boots – preferably waterproof
  • Comfortable light shoes with good grip for onboard the ship (closed toed, please)
  • Jacket - a warm fleece fabric is ideal
  • Warm sweaters or sweatshirts
  • Raincoat/Waterproof shell (polar jacket is provided but you may bring your own if preferred)
  • Waterproof pants (ESSENTIAL to keep you warm and dry in wind and on the Zodiacs)
  • Wind/waterproof gloves (2 pairs)
  • Warm hat & scarf (earflaps are recommended)
  • Swimsuit (optional - for sauna and plunge pools)

Equipment & Miscellaneous

  • Passport & photo Identification with copy kept elsewhere
  • E-ticket verification
  • Binoculars (a shower cap is great to cover these when raining)
  • Umbrella - compact, not brightly colored (a great option for occasional rain as you can keep using your binoculars)
  • Waterproof daypack for landings
  • Waterproof dry bags to protect equipment, preferably reusable
  • Small flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Alarm clock, or use your cell phone
  • Sunscreen/lip balm with SPF
  • Sunglasses with neck strap and UV protection
  • Toiletry articles, including moisturizer for wind and/or sunburn
  • Camera and extra batteries/battery chargers, film or digital chips, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual (optional)
  • Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB cord and charger (optional)
  • Chargers for cameras and/or phones, and three prong adapters if needed
  • Water bottle (or you can use one of ours and refill during the journey)
  • Collapsible hiking poles (recommended, some landings can be slippery)
  • Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
  • Field guides (optional)
  • Earplugs (especially if you are sharing a cabin)
  • Sleep eye mask (optional)
  • Cell phone
  • Laundry soap for hand washing, travel sewing kit
  • Rechargeable power bank (optional)
  • Power plug adapter & electrical transformer

 

WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!

Medical & First Aid Items

  • Personal medications
  • Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments
  • Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed
  • Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
  • Foot powder, lotions for dry skin, general “comfort” items
  • Small bottle of hand sanitizer
  • Copy of eyeglass prescription, copy of medical prescriptions, and any medical alerts
  • Insurance information
  • Vaccination records
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts

 

Suggested Reading List +

There are many titles of interest for Scotland; the following are a few that we Read more

There are many titles of interest for Scotland; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.

Top Picks

Seabirds: The New Identification Guide

Field Guides

Collins Bird Guide, The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe

Birds of Europe

Oceanic Birds of the World: A Photo Guide

Collins Scottish Birds

Mammals of Britain and Europe

Wildlife & Nature

The Complete Illustrated Guide to Animals, Birds & Fish of the British Isles: A Natural History and Identification Guide with Over 440 Native Species from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Natural History

Set in Stone: The Geology and Landscapes of Scotland

The Hebrides: A Habitable Land

History & Culture

How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It

The Scottish Isles: Shetlands, Orkneys and Hebrides

The Outer Hebrides: A Historical Guide

The Mystery of Skara Brae: Neolithic Scotland and the Origins of Ancient Egypt

Blue Lightening: A Thriller

Memoir/Non-Fiction

Hebrides

Sea Room: An Island Life in the Hebrides

A House by the Shore: Twelve Years in the Hebrides

Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.

 

Useful Links +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more

General

Scotland

Edinburgh

Troon

Inner Hebrides

Outer Hebrides

Shetland Islands

Orkney Islands

Aberdeen

Nature, Wildlife & Biology

Key Species

Scotland Birding

Northern Gannet

Kittiwake

Puffin

Otters

Dolphins, Whales, and Porpoises

Wildflowers of Scotland

Scotland Trees

Conservation, Parks & Reserves

Hermaness National Nature Reserve

Staffa National Nature Reserve

Geology & Geography

How Scotland’s Geological Foundations Came Together

Scottish Geography

Fingal’s Cave

History & Culture

Historical Timeline of Scotland

Scotland’s Culture

History of Iona

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds History

Traditional Scottish Food

Helpful Travel Websites

Arrival:  Edinburgh Airport (EDI)

Departure:  Aberdeen International Airport (ABZ)

National Passport Information Center

U.S. Department of State International Travel Information - UK

Homeland Security Real ID Act

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - UK

Travel Health Pro (UK) - UK

Foreign Exchange Rates

ATM Locator

Electricity and Plugs - Scotland

Date, Time, and Holidays


Photo credits: Banners: Zodiac Cruising (Ania Baranek), Puffin (Scott Portelli), Callanish Stones (Scott Portelli) Thumbnails: Northern Gannet (NJ Stock), Atlantic Puffin (NJ Stock), Razorbill (NJ Stock)

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