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Bird Islands of Britain

"The seabird islands of the western British Isles are the envy of the birding world, yet it is not easy to sample the wonderful diversity of their character and come face-to-face with seagoing inhabitants."

The seabird islands of the western British Isles are the envy of the birding world, yet it is not easy to sample the wonderful diversity of their character and come face-to-face with seagoing inhabitants. This unusual expedition cruise will appeal to those who wish to explore our coastal waters, observe the marvellous seabird and marine life and walk across untouched coastal wilderness areas. The focus of our expedition is the prolific birdlife but the region is also rich in cultural heritage and we will visit the spiritual island of Iona, the historic island of Rathlin and the city of Derry, regarded by many as one of the finest examples of a walled city in all of Europe.

Cruising aboard the 84-passenger Ocean Nova, we will be able to enjoy expedition cruising at its best. Although we will set sail with a schedule, it will not be set in stone. The Captain and expedition team keep a flexible approach allowing you the opportunity to fully experience the unexpected, whether it be a sighting of dolphins, a whale or any unusual event. Our exploration of inlets, estuaries and protected coastal waters will be made all the more enjoyable by the use of our Zodiac landing craft which enable us to land in remote places such as St Kilda and Lunga, providing for an unusual perspective and making the otherwise inaccessible readily available. This is a wonderful opportunity to see some of our most beautiful places and view some of the extensive birdlife. No matter your level of expertise you will find a warm welcome and a cornucopia of stunning sights and sounds.

What's included: Ten nights aboard the Ocean Nova on a full board basis • House wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner on board • Shore excursions • Experienced Expedition Team • Gratuities • Transfers • Port taxes.

01 May, 2019 to 11 May, 2019 Make a booking request for Bird Islands of Britain, departing on 01 May, 2019

Prices quoted here are often dependent on currency fluctuations. Please check with (01432 507450 or info@small-cruise-ships.com) for the very latest price, which may well be cheaper than the one advertised here.

Category 1 - Bunk beds £ 3795 GBP pp
Bunk Bedded cabins for twin occupancy - all with sea-view and private facilities. These cabins have upper and lower beds. In your cabin you will also find a desk with chair and ample storage space for clothes and equipment. They are well designed with typical Scandinavian light woods.
view cabin photo
Category 2 £ 4195 GBP pp
Twin Bedded cabins - all with sea-view and private facilities. The double cabins have fixed twin lower beds. In your cabin you will also find a desk with chair and ample storage space for clothes and equipment. They are well designed with typical Scandinavian light woods.
view cabin photo
Category 3 £ 4495 GBP pp
Superior Cabins. Cabins are on the upper deck all with sea-view and private facilities. In your cabin you will also find a desk with chair and ample storage space for clothes and equipment. They are well designed with typical Scandinavian light woods.
view cabin photo
Category 1 Solo £ 4595 GBP pp
Cabins are spread over two decks and include cabins for the single traveller, double and triple cabins, all with sea-view and private facilities. The double cabins have either two lower beds or upper and lower beds. The triple cabins have upper and lower beds. In your cabin you will also find a desk with chair and ample storage space for clothes and equipment. They are well designed with typical Scandinavian light woods.
view cabin photo
Category 2 Solo £ 4995 GBP pp
Cabins are spread over two decks and include cabins for the single traveller, double and triple cabins, all with sea-view and private facilities. The double cabins have either two lower beds or upper and lower beds. The triple cabins have upper and lower beds. In your cabin you will also find a desk with chair and ample storage space for clothes and equipment. They are well designed with typical Scandinavian light woods.
view cabin photo

Bird Islands of Britain itinerary:

show reverse itinerary
Day 1. Plymouth
Embark the Ocean Nova this afternoon. Transfers will be provided from Plymouth railway station at a fixed time. Enjoy Welcome Drinks and Dinner as we sail this evening.
Day 2. Isles of Scilly
Spend the morning on traffic-free Tresco, walking its idyllic lanes from the beach to the famous subtropical Abbey Gardens. Defying the Atlantic weather, this miracle of a garden is home to more than 20,000 species of plants from over 80 countries. Enjoy time to wander at your own pace along the paths, maybe visit the Valhalla collection of ship figureheads from ships wrecked on the islands or relax in the café. We spend the afternoon on St Agnes, the most south-westerly community in the UK. Surrounded by rocks and reefs this delightful tiny island offers marvellous coastal walks. The small island of Gugh lies across a narrow sandbar and here we find a single stone monolith called the ‘Old Man of Gugh’ which dates back to the Bronze Age. Alternatively join a boat trip to the nearby island of Annet the second largest of the uninhabited Islands and a bird sanctuary. We are not allowed to land but will cruise the coastline alive with puffins, European storm petrels and shag.
Day 3. Lundy, Skomer and Grassholm Islands.
We have scheduled a morning on Lundy, a remote island in the Bristol Channel. Walk along its traffic free lanes and paths, explore the wide bays and coves by way of hanging valleys, observe the puffins nesting in abandoned rabbit warrens, have a drink at the inn and buy the islands ‘puffin stamps’ at the island’s shop. In the afternoon sail on to Skomer Island, one of the most important wildlife sites in Northern Europe. It is a marvellously peaceful and scenic island with fantastic birdlife including 6000 pairs of puffins, countless numbers of guillemots, fulmar, kittiwakes and the elusive Manx shearwater and storm petrel. Enjoy a Zodiac excursion and return to the vessel for dinner as we sail around Grassholm to view one of the world’s largest gannetries with over 34,000 breeding pairs.
Day 4 - Holy Island, Wales.
We arrive at Holyhead, adjacent to Anglesey with its spectacular sea-cliffs. Here we will visit the RSPB’s reserve at South Stack, a beautiful but fragile maritime sward and heathland which is home to a large population of guillemots and razorbills, if we are lucky we might also see some choughs. Return to the ship for lunch and spend the afternoon on board as we cruise through the Irish Sea. Maybe join a lecture in the lounge or find a spot on deck to watch for wildlife.
Day 5 - Ailsa Craig, Scotland & Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland.
At dawn we will anchor off the granite island of Ailsa Craig. The tiny island, just 2.5 miles circumference was once a refuge for sailors and base to a 19th century lighthouse. Today it is an RSPB reserve and home to the third largest gannet colony in Britain. We will use the Zodiacs for a closer look and also search for puffins, guillemots and gulls. Sail in the late morning towards Rathlin Island. Located just a few miles from the North Antrim coast, Rathlin has been settled for more than 6000 years. Today, there are only 80 or so souls, whereas before the famine there were 1200 inhabitants. History is everywhere with historic buildings and ruins. Enjoy a guided walk which will also take in the prolific sea bird life with astonishing numbers of auks, kittiwakes and grey seals. In the evening sail past the magnificent cliffs to the north of the island which is home to the largest sea bird colony in Ireland.
Day 6 - Derry.
Berth this morning at the historic city of Derry, renowned as one of the finest examples of a walled city in all of Europe. Derry is our base for a morning at the Inch Wild Fowl Reserve, Ireland’s premier wetland site, a Special Protected Area and an important staging ground for migrating birds. On a guided walk we will spot for grebes, herons and tern whilst we may see otters in the water. Return to the ship for lunch and this afternoon choose to either independently explore the city of Derry or join an afternoon tour to the Giant’s Causeway which became widely known from the 1700s as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ and large numbers of visitors came to view this amazing array of basalt columns - it is estimated that there are around 40,000 in total.
Day 7 - Iona & Lunga.
This morning we land on Iona. For more than 1000 years the island of Iona has been a place of deep spiritual significance and no less than 62 Kings of Scotland are buried here. St Columba came here from Ireland in 563 AD and early Christianity spread through northern Britain from this remote island community. After exploring the Abbey, time permitting you may care to take a short walk on the wild side to the ‘Bay at the Back of the Ocean’. Over lunch we sail to Lunga, the largest of the Treshnish Isles. Of volcanic origin, Lunga has been described as a ‘green jewel in a peacock sea’. Populated until the 19th century, the island still bears the remains of black houses. There is prolific birdlife on the island including storm-petrels, puffins, kittiwakes and Manx Shearwaters.
Day 8 - St Kilda.
Arrive at first light in St Kilda, a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some fifty miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. Dominated by the highest cliffs and sea stacks in Britain, Hirta, St Kilda’s main island was occupied on and off for at least two thousand years, with the last 36 Gaelic speaking inhabitants evacuated at their own request in 1930. Immediately after the evacuation, the island was bought by the Marquess of Bute to protect the island’s thousands of seabirds including puffin and fulmars, and in 1957 it was bequeathed to The National Trust for Scotland. St Kilda is one of only two dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites with dual status reflecting its natural and cultural significance. The local ranger will join us on board before our expedition staff lead a number of guided walks on the island. Later, cruise past two of the largest gannetries in the world at Stac Lee and Boreray. These impressive stacs rise 170 metres from the sea and are home to up to 60,000 breeding pairs of northern gannet.
Day 9 - Handa & Shiant Islands.
Spend the morning at Handa where we will use our Zodiacs to explore the magnificent sea cliffs of Torridonian sandstone which rise from the Atlantic. The island comes alive each summer when nearly 100,000 seabirds gather to breed, including internationally important numbers of guillemot, razorbill, puffins and great skua. We will spend the afternoon exploring the Shiant Isles. Anyone who has read Adam Nicholson’s captivating book ‘Sea Room’ will want to visit these lonely little islands located a few miles off the shores of Lewis. We will use our Zodiacs to explore the coastline and see the abundant birdlife and seals.
Day 10 - Canna & Loch Scavaig.
Strategically placed between the mountains of Rum and the Outer Hebrides, the island of Canna, and its adjoining neighbour Sanday, are bound together like some rare text that reveals over 60 million years of Hebridean geology and history. They have an amazingly rich archaeological landscape with remains dating to all periods of settled occupation in Scotland. Canna is run as a single farm and bird sanctuary by the National Trust for Scotland and enjoys the best harbour in the Small Isles, a horn-shaped haven. The fertile soil and its diversity of habitats mean that the island has an incredibly rich plant life with 248 native flowering plants recorded. We will see Canna House and wander across grassy basalt plateaus to the 600 foot cliffs on the north shore. Enjoy lunch as we sail to lovely Loch Scavaig on the island of Skye. Just beyond is the freshwater Loch Corruisk with its breathtakingly beautiful view over the Cuillins. This is great walking country and our expedition team will run a series of hikes for all interests. For those who prefer a less energetic morning our Zodiacs will explore the coast looking out for seals.
Day 11 - Oban.
Disembark this morning. Transfers will be provided to Glasgow Central Station and Glasgow International Airport to arrive in the late morning.

Bird Islands of Britain reverse itinerary:

show main itinerary
Disembark this morning. Transfers will be provided to Glasgow Central Station and Glasgow International Airport to arrive in the late morning.
Strategically placed between the mountains of Rum and the Outer Hebrides, the island of Canna, and its adjoining neighbour Sanday, are bound together like some rare text that reveals over 60 million years of Hebridean geology and history. They have an amazingly rich archaeological landscape with remains dating to all periods of settled occupation in Scotland. Canna is run as a single farm and bird sanctuary by the National Trust for Scotland and enjoys the best harbour in the Small Isles, a horn-shaped haven. The fertile soil and its diversity of habitats mean that the island has an incredibly rich plant life with 248 native flowering plants recorded. We will see Canna House and wander across grassy basalt plateaus to the 600 foot cliffs on the north shore. Enjoy lunch as we sail to lovely Loch Scavaig on the island of Skye. Just beyond is the freshwater Loch Corruisk with its breathtakingly beautiful view over the Cuillins. This is great walking country and our expedition team will run a series of hikes for all interests. For those who prefer a less energetic morning our Zodiacs will explore the coast looking out for seals.
Spend the morning at Handa where we will use our Zodiacs to explore the magnificent sea cliffs of Torridonian sandstone which rise from the Atlantic. The island comes alive each summer when nearly 100,000 seabirds gather to breed, including internationally important numbers of guillemot, razorbill, puffins and great skua. We will spend the afternoon exploring the Shiant Isles. Anyone who has read Adam Nicholson’s captivating book ‘Sea Room’ will want to visit these lonely little islands located a few miles off the shores of Lewis. We will use our Zodiacs to explore the coastline and see the abundant birdlife and seals.
Arrive at first light in St Kilda, a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some fifty miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. Dominated by the highest cliffs and sea stacks in Britain, Hirta, St Kilda’s main island was occupied on and off for at least two thousand years, with the last 36 Gaelic speaking inhabitants evacuated at their own request in 1930. Immediately after the evacuation, the island was bought by the Marquess of Bute to protect the island’s thousands of seabirds including puffin and fulmars, and in 1957 it was bequeathed to The National Trust for Scotland. St Kilda is one of only two dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites with dual status reflecting its natural and cultural significance. The local ranger will join us on board before our expedition staff lead a number of guided walks on the island. Later, cruise past two of the largest gannetries in the world at Stac Lee and Boreray. These impressive stacs rise 170 metres from the sea and are home to up to 60,000 breeding pairs of northern gannet.
This morning we land on Iona. For more than 1000 years the island of Iona has been a place of deep spiritual significance and no less than 62 Kings of Scotland are buried here. St Columba came here from Ireland in 563 AD and early Christianity spread through northern Britain from this remote island community. After exploring the Abbey, time permitting you may care to take a short walk on the wild side to the ‘Bay at the Back of the Ocean’. Over lunch we sail to Lunga, the largest of the Treshnish Isles. Of volcanic origin, Lunga has been described as a ‘green jewel in a peacock sea’. Populated until the 19th century, the island still bears the remains of black houses. There is prolific birdlife on the island including storm-petrels, puffins, kittiwakes and Manx Shearwaters.
Berth this morning at the historic city of Derry, renowned as one of the finest examples of a walled city in all of Europe. Derry is our base for a morning at the Inch Wild Fowl Reserve, Ireland’s premier wetland site, a Special Protected Area and an important staging ground for migrating birds. On a guided walk we will spot for grebes, herons and tern whilst we may see otters in the water. Return to the ship for lunch and this afternoon choose to either independently explore the city of Derry or join an afternoon tour to the Giant’s Causeway which became widely known from the 1700s as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ and large numbers of visitors came to view this amazing array of basalt columns - it is estimated that there are around 40,000 in total.
At dawn we will anchor off the granite island of Ailsa Craig. The tiny island, just 2.5 miles circumference was once a refuge for sailors and base to a 19th century lighthouse. Today it is an RSPB reserve and home to the third largest gannet colony in Britain. We will use the Zodiacs for a closer look and also search for puffins, guillemots and gulls. Sail in the late morning towards Rathlin Island. Located just a few miles from the North Antrim coast, Rathlin has been settled for more than 6000 years. Today, there are only 80 or so souls, whereas before the famine there were 1200 inhabitants. History is everywhere with historic buildings and ruins. Enjoy a guided walk which will also take in the prolific sea bird life with astonishing numbers of auks, kittiwakes and grey seals. In the evening sail past the magnificent cliffs to the north of the island which is home to the largest sea bird colony in Ireland.
We arrive at Holyhead, adjacent to Anglesey with its spectacular sea-cliffs. Here we will visit the RSPB’s reserve at South Stack, a beautiful but fragile maritime sward and heathland which is home to a large population of guillemots and razorbills, if we are lucky we might also see some choughs. Return to the ship for lunch and spend the afternoon on board as we cruise through the Irish Sea. Maybe join a lecture in the lounge or find a spot on deck to watch for wildlife.
We have scheduled a morning on Lundy, a remote island in the Bristol Channel. Walk along its traffic free lanes and paths, explore the wide bays and coves by way of hanging valleys, observe the puffins nesting in abandoned rabbit warrens, have a drink at the inn and buy the islands ‘puffin stamps’ at the island’s shop. In the afternoon sail on to Skomer Island, one of the most important wildlife sites in Northern Europe. It is a marvellously peaceful and scenic island with fantastic birdlife including 6000 pairs of puffins, countless numbers of guillemots, fulmar, kittiwakes and the elusive Manx shearwater and storm petrel. Enjoy a Zodiac excursion and return to the vessel for dinner as we sail around Grassholm to view one of the world’s largest gannetries with over 34,000 breeding pairs.
Spend the morning on traffic-free Tresco, walking its idyllic lanes from the beach to the famous subtropical Abbey Gardens. Defying the Atlantic weather, this miracle of a garden is home to more than 20,000 species of plants from over 80 countries. Enjoy time to wander at your own pace along the paths, maybe visit the Valhalla collection of ship figureheads from ships wrecked on the islands or relax in the café. We spend the afternoon on St Agnes, the most south-westerly community in the UK. Surrounded by rocks and reefs this delightful tiny island offers marvellous coastal walks. The small island of Gugh lies across a narrow sandbar and here we find a single stone monolith called the ‘Old Man of Gugh’ which dates back to the Bronze Age. Alternatively join a boat trip to the nearby island of Annet the second largest of the uninhabited Islands and a bird sanctuary. We are not allowed to land but will cruise the coastline alive with puffins, European storm petrels and shag.
Embark the Ocean Nova this afternoon. Transfers will be provided from Plymouth railway station at a fixed time. Enjoy Welcome Drinks and Dinner as we sail this evening.
* = Indicative
Map for Bird Islands of Britain
Ocean Nova, the ship servicing Bird Islands of Britain

Ocean Nova

Vessel Type: Expedition

Length: 73 metres

Passenger Capacity:86

Built / refurbished: 1992 / 2005

The ice-strengthened expedition ship Ocean Nova was built in Denmark in 1992 with high ice class to serve Greenland’s west coast. In 2004 to 2005 she was completely refurbished and has now a career as a small and comfortable expedition ship. The Ocean Nova accommodates 86 passengers in single, double and triple cabins, all with sea-view and private facilities. The double cabins have either two lower beds or upper and lower beds. The triple cabins have upper and lower beds. In your cabin you will also find a desk with chair and ample storage space for clothes and equipment.


In the dining room you are treated to delicious meals in between landings and in the panorama lounge you can enjoy a drink with a breathtaking view of the surrounding polar landscape. This is where PolarQuest’s on board specialists entertain and educate you with lectures on polar biology, history, geology and conservation. There is also a library with panoramic views and a good selection of polar books. On board there is a satellite phone, gym and medical doctor. Passengers are welcome on the bridge around the clock and there is always something to see or search for from the spacious observation decks. The ship has North European officers and there is a friendly and informal atmosphere on board. Travelling with this small expedition ship offers an entirely different experience and perspective than you can get on a larger and more conventional cruise ship.


Ice Class: Ice 1B, E0 (Hull Ice 1A)

Some Deck plans may vary, please ask for details.

Cabin layout for Ocean Nova
• Spend the morning on traffic-free Tresco, walking its idyllic lanes from the beach to the famous subtropical Abbey Gardens

• Discover Lundy, a remote island in the Bristol Channel

• Anchor off the granite island of Ailsa Craig. The tiny island, just 2.5 miles circumference was once a refuge for sailors and base to a 19th century lighthouse

• Land on Iona. For more than 1000 years the island of Iona has been a place of deep spiritual significance and no less than 62 Kings of Scotland are buried here
Enquire now about Bird Islands of Britain

Travel on the Ocean Nova

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