Welcome back to the Ultimate World Cruise Itinerary series. The series is based on a survey asking Storylines residents where they would like our ship MV Narrative to visit. Due to the extensive number of bucket-list destinations requested (133), we have broken down the answers into separate blog posts exploring different regions.
So far we have covered:
- Eastern Mediterranean
- Middle East
- South East Asia
- Australia and New Zealand
- South Pacific
- North America
- South America
Now we are headed to:
- The Scottish Isles including Skye, Orkney and Faroe Islands
England and Wales, unfortunately, weren't requested in this region, but MV Narrative will certainly make some stops there. Let’s get on with exploring the requested destinations. First up:
The Scottish Isles
Located on the northeastern coast of Scotland, the peaceful atmosphere of the Isles consists of over 900 islands. These islands have countless national parks full of surreal natural wonders and outdoor activities such as whitewater rafting for the adrenaline junkies. Here are some wish list destinations for the Scottish Isles:
Isle of Skye
Skye is Scotland's second-largest island. Although it does not offer a port large enough for a ship like MV Narrative, we can drop anchor in Loch Portree and tender ashore. The Isle of Skye weather is chilly and breezy. The main drop-off point is at Portree's famous pier, with colored buildings lining the harbor wall. From here, it is only a short walk (roughly half a mile) into the city center. This charming little village has cobblestone streets with fish and chips, handicraft shops and a classic Scottish pub.
Portree has many great hiking trails around the island if you enjoy hiking. A relatively easy hike that offers incredible scenery is the Scorrybreac Circuit, which takes you around the stunning natural beauty of the bay, a total of only 1.9 miles. Note, there are a few steep sections, and this is better in the dry season and warmer months. There are also several scenic horseback riding tours in Portree. Or you could simply relax or grab a bite to eat or drink along the picturesque Portree Waterfront.
If you are keen to see the best the region has to offer, we recommend booking an Isle of Skye Tour, which will take you to most of the main attractions listed below.
- Quiraing: The Quiraing Loop is one of the most scenic walks in Scotland, taking you through spectacular landscapes of plateaus, deep valleys and cliffs. Note: it's classified as "hard" and takes roughly 2 hours with no stops.
- Kilt Rock: These ancient cliffs drop into the sea and appropriately resemble a kilt.
- Fairy Pools: This walk from Carbost takes roughly 40 minutes and rewards you with beautiful crystal-clear pools you can swim in if you're into cold water therapy.
- The Skye Museum of Island Life: This award-winning museum allows you to step back to experience island life 100 years ago.
- Dunvegan Castle: This beautiful 800-year-old castle sits on an elevated rock overlooking Loch Dunvegan and has an award-winning tour of the castle and its gardens.
- Armadale Castle: Armadale Castle is also a museum where you can learn about the history of Scotland's largest and most powerful clan, Clan Donald. There is also accommodation in the spectacular castle gardens.
- Talisker Beach: This is a great short, easy walk for families from the village of Carbost. For surfers, take your board, as it's one of the few beaches in Scotland where you can catch a wave (if conditions are right).
The most likely dock is at Kirkwall, Orkney’s capital, either at Hatston Pier or anchored in Kirkwall Bay. Kirkwall has many popular guided tours, or you might choose to get lost wandering this charming old town independently. If you choose the latter option, it will take you about an hour at a relaxing pace to stroll into the city center. Otherwise, your private tour will pick you up in coaches from the pier.
Besides the incredible scenery, fascinating archaeological sites, nature, and abundant wildlife, perhaps the most endearing aspect of this remote village is the local community, home to some of the world's friendliest people. They are incredibly welcoming and happy to share their must-see attractions dating back over 5000 years.
- Skara Brae: Regarded by many as one of the most remarkable prehistoric monuments in Europe, this ancient site was unearthed after a great storm in 1850.
- Maeshowe: This Neolithic chambered cairn dates to 2800 BC and is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site.
- St. Magnus Cathedral: this cathedral that dominates the skyline in Kirkwall is a magnificent example of Romanesque architectural influence in Orkney.
- Tomb of the Eagles: This 5000-year-old Neolithic tomb is located on the edge of the dramatic South Ronaldsay cliffs. The tomb was closed to the public as of the time of this writing for restoration purposes; however, you can still view the outside.
- The Standing Stones: Like Stonehenge, these standing monuments date back to the first settlers in Scotland over 10,000 years ago.
Another popular stop on a world cruise itinerary is the Faroe Islands, located in the north above Scotland and roughly halfway between Norway and Iceland. Interestingly, this group of 18 mountainous islands belongs to none of those countries, but to Denmark. Yes, this self-governing territory is part of the Danish Kingdom. Even more interesting is that the locals speak Faroese. This Norse language originates from the Norsemen who settled on the islands over 1200 years ago during the Viking age.
You can learn about this fascinating history with things to do on the Faroe Islands when docked in the port of Tórshavn. This lost-city-type small village gets its name from Thor, the God of Thunder. You know, that blonde, long-haired muscled guy from Norse mythology and Marvel movies. Anyway, Thor is a big deal in this part of the world.
Faroe Islands must see:
- Tórshavn City sightseeing: The cobblestone streets make this worth it.
- Footsteps of the Viking's Hike: This historic hike takes you to Mannafelsdalur, the site of a bloody Viking battle 700 years ago.
- Gásadalur, Bøur, Sørvagsvatn: Walk alongside these dramatic cliffs dropping into the sea. Just don't get too close to the edge.
- Nólsoy: A small island just 20 minutes sailing from Tórshavn with just 200 inhabitants.
- The medieval architecture of Kirkjubøur & Saksun: If Gothic architecture interests you, visit Kirkjubøur and Saksun.
- Delicious food: Are you a foodie? Then get stuck into the local cuisine, mainly seafood and lamb dishes.
Faroe Islands volunteer opportunities
At the time of writing, the Faroe Islands are closed to tourism. Instead, they offer a terrific volunteer tourism opportunity for those who would like to lend a helping hand restoring nature walks, maintaining fences, and preserving wildlife. In return, they offer accommodation. To learn more: Visit Faroe Islands.
As we were only given 'Ireland' as the desired location in the survey results, which is very general, we have broken it down into a few popular port stops:
Located in the north of the Irish Sea, Belfast is one of Ireland's major cities yet still small enough to explore on foot. Cruise ships dock at Stormont Wharf, and shuttle buses run every 15 minutes into the city center. To make the most of your visit, we recommend your first port of call be The Belfast Welcome Center, opposite the city hall. You can't miss it. Here, they will recommend itineraries, tours, and supply maps.
If your time is limited, you know what we recommend. Yes, that's right, the good old City Sightseeing hop-on hop-off bus tours. We clearly love these, but only because they're so good! Besides getting an incredible view from the open-roof upper deck of the bus, they will take you around to all the must-see attractions.
- St. Georges Market: Be sure to visit one of Belfast's oldest attractions and one of the best markets in the UK and Ireland.
- Terrace house with famous murals: You will find some incredible street art in the suburbs of Belfast.
- Botanic Gardens and Tropical Ravine: Discover a tropical oasis in the unlikeliest of places.
- Crumlin Road Gaol: You can do self-guided tours of Northern Ireland's only remaining Victorian-era prison and maybe witness paranormal experiences in this haunted site.
- Hillsborough Castle and Gardens: Discover Northern Ireland's royal residence and stunning gardens.
- Observatory Cocktail Lounge, Grand Central Hotel: Have a drink at one of Belfast's most sophisticated bars with amazing views over the city.
After cruising down the Irish Sea, the next likely stop would be Alexandra Port at Dublin, the capital and Ireland's biggest city. The port is located in an industrial area about 1.5km (about 1 mile) from the city center. You cannot walk through the port so a free shuttle bus takes passengers to the port entrance. From there, shuttles or taxis can be arranged to the town center.
Dublin City Sightseeing busses alight from O'Connell Street in town. Sit up top to take in a great mix of rich architecture, 18th-century Georgian mansions, spacious town squares and beautiful public parks. Hop off the bus to visit the many museums, art galleries and the famous Guinness Storehouse. It tastes much better on tap!
If you want to truly experience Dublin's pub culture, here are some insider tips. Temple Bar is a bit of a tourist trap. Instead, head out to O'Donoghue's on 15 Merrion Row. for the best pint of Guinness in town. While you're there, check out the Shelbourne Hotel and Grogans Pub. For some great grub, we recommend The Winding Stair, Brasserie Sixty6, Fade Street Social, The Rustic Stone and the Michelin-rated Patrick Gilbaud.
- Guinness Storehouse: Home of the famous Guinness beer; come here for a brewery tour and the best taste of Guinness you will ever have.
- National Museum: Learn about the history, archeology, life and culture of the Irish nation and people.
- Municipal Gallery of Modern Art: Admission is free to view the best of Irish contemporary art.
- National Library: This grand old library is worth the visit for the architecture alone.
- Royal Irish Academy Library: Ireland's premier research library.
- Trinity College: A truly impressive college. Again, the architecture alone is worth the visit.
- Dublin Castle: Highly recommend booking a tour of the fascinating Dublin Castle.
Make sure you're out on deck when you cruise into Cork Harbour as the nature and scenery are spectacular. The dock is close to the village near the Cobh Heritage Centre, which is worth visiting. Cobh is situated on the Great Island in Cork Harbour. Along with Little Island and Fota Island, The Great Island is interconnected by bridges to the mainland.
If you're interested by dark tourism, you will find the history of Cobh (then Queenstown) fascinating with its involvement in drawing the US into the Great War. It was also the Titanic's last port of call.
- Cork City Gaol: Tour this magnificent castle-like heritage building that once housed 19th-century criminals.
- St. Fin Barre's Cathedral: Another example of mind-boggling architecture, the detail in the building is artwork in itself.
- Fitzgerald Park and Cork Public Museum: This mid-nineteenth-century Georgian style house is Ireland's oldest local authority museum.
- Crawford Art Gallery: This national cultural institution is dedicated to historical and contemporary visual arts.
- Blarney Castle and Gardens: This magnificent castle was built over 600 years ago. You can climb to the top of the tower. The surrounding gardens are just as impressive.
- Ballycotton Cliff Walk: A scenic coastal walk from Ballycotton to Ballyandreen - a 7km return trip.
- Blackrock Castle Observatory: This (personal favorite) Irish castle looks like it's straight out of Game of Thrones. Great for the kids with exhibits, events and educational workshops.
- Spike Island: Spike has many attractions, including a fortress built to protect an empire, a remote monastery, and an infamous island prison, among others.
Galway is located on the west coast, making it an excellent base for overland trips throughout the beautiful nature of western Ireland. However, the peaceful atmosphere, welcoming locals, and rich culture make Galway village worth a visit. The dock is within walking distance of town.
We recommend taking one of the excellent guided walking tours of Galway city. Expert guides will take you around to visit must-see attractions while teaching you the history and culture of this Medieval City of the Tribes. Head to the tourist office to organize shore excursions and day tours for keen day-trippers and nature lovers. If Galway is experiencing its typical heavy rain, head to one of the classic Irish pubs for an ale and sing along with the locals!
- Eyre Square: The central square in Galway city has a rich history dating back to medieval times.
- The Spanish Arch: Another Galway historical gem dating back to medieval times.
- Galway City Museum: Come here to learn about the history and heritage of Galway and its people.
- Galway Market: Open every weekend, enjoy an eclectic mix of food and craft stalls.
- The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher: Escape to nature with a day tour to this UNESCO Global Geopark, where they practice sustainable tourism.
- Connemara: Take a day tour to see the breathtaking scenery of Connemara on the Wild Atlantic Way.
- The Aran Islands: You can also do day tours to see both the Aran Islands and The Cliffs of Moher.
- Any Irish pub: Nothing beats a classic Irish pub. Have a drink and sing along with the friendly locals.
That completes our UK and Ireland leg of the world cruise journey. We hope you're getting as excited as we are. If you are reading this and not yet part of the Storylines family, we welcome you to join our globe-trotting adventures.
Storylines is a luxury lifestyle ship with a like-minded community of globally-conscious citizens traveling the world. We seek unique experiences, cultural events, and community participation while practicing and promoting sustainable travel. To learn more, visit our website.