Blooming Gardens & Medieval Castles
- Wander amidst beautiful walled gardens
- View historic castles & Victorian estates
- Visit Kylemore, Donegal & Iona Abbeys
- Photograph the medieval Dunluce Castle ruins
At a glance
Duration: 12 Days, 11 Nights
Coverage: Portsmouth, England to Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland
Activities: Birding, Culture, History, Nature, Photography, Wildlife
On this voyage, you'll discover Europe’s most impressive castles, gardens, birdlife and ancient stone monuments, obtaining the truly rewarding experiences travellers dream about.
Visit the beautiful Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, fill with rare and exotic plants from all over the world. While in Abbotsbury, you'll view the multitude of birds and fowl in the area, including swans. Visit the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth and enjoy a private champagne reception. Tresco is the most attractive of the Isles of Scilly, especially with its world-renowned Abbey Gardens. Then, it's on to Waterford, world reknown for its namesake crystal. After a Zodiac ride ashore to the pretty, picturesque village of Glengarriff, you will join our local guide for a tour of the world renowned Ring of Kerry. Continue through Ireland with a visit to Kylemore Abbey. In the fishing village of Killybegs, visit the ruins of the ancient Franciscan Abbey, followed by a visit to Donegal Castle. Later that day, we'll enjoy the rich folklore and traditional music in the town of Glencolmcille. After a visit to the medieval Dunluce Castle ruins, we move on to Scotland and Iona Abbey and Isle of Arran for an exploration of Brodick Castle and a visit to the Arran Whisky distillery before concluding our voyage in Glasgow.
- Day 1 — Portsmouth, England
Embark the Silver Explorer this evening and depart on your exciting 11-day Silversea Expedition – Blooming Gardens & Medieval Castles. You will be introduced to your Expedition Team and receive a Zodiac briefing. Tonight we invite you to attend a special Welcome Aboard cocktail party.
- Day 2 — Lyme Regis, England
This morning we will depart on a half-day tour beginning with a visit to the beautiful Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens. Established in 1765 by the first Countess of Ilchester as a kitchen garden for her nearby castle, the gardens have been developed into a magnificent 20 acres filled with rare and exotic plants from all over the world. We will wander the charming walled garden walks taking in the spectacular woodland valley views and then enjoy some light refreshments at the Old Colonial Tea House.
Our excursion takes us next to the Abbotsbury Swannery, where we will walk among a colony of nesting Mute Swans. From mid-May to late June, hundreds of fluffy cygnets hatch from eggs in nests on or near the pathways. During our private tour, we will learn that the Swannery was established during the 1040s by Benedictine Monks who farmed the swans to produce food for their lavish banquets. At the conclusion of our visit, we will witness the fascinating spectacle of about 600 swans being fed en masse!
- Day 3 — Dartmouth, England
The idyllic town of Dartmouth has been home to the Royal Navy from its very earliest days, and a visit to the Britannia Royal Naval College has been specially arranged for us today. This magnificent building, set in 126 acres of landscaped gardens, overlooks the River Dart and the sea. The college has a small museum with a collection of historical pictures and artefacts from the college’s beginnings in 1863. At the conclusion of our visit, we will sip champagne and enjoy some canapés at a private reception with views over Dartmouth before returning to the Silver Explorer in time for lunch on board.
- Day 4 — Tresco, Isles of Scilly, UK
To many, Tresco is the most attractive of the Isles of Scilly, especially with its Abbey Gardens – home to 20,000 exotic plant species from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa. Botanist and plant collector Augustus Smith began the gardens in the 1830s on the site of an old Benedictine Abbey by channelling the weather up and over a network of walled enclosures built around the Priory ruins. He carved three terraces from the rocky, south slope and, in this way, maximised Tresco’s mild gulf stream climate. Here, there are generally more hours of sunshine and less rainfall than the UK average, yet many of these plants would stand no chance on the Cornish mainland, less than 30 miles away. Today we will tender ashore for a guided tour of this world-renowned attraction.
- Day 5 — Waterford, Ireland
The Vikings founded Waterford City some 1,100 years ago, and later the city was taken by the Normans. Learn the history of this fascinating city as your guide leads you through the narrow winding streets on a walking tour that concludes at The Granary. Housed in this historical building is the Waterford Treasures Museum with its treasures of gold, bronze, silver and crystal including the Penrose Decanter. Dating back to 1790, it is one of the oldest surviving pieces of Waterford Crystal.
Following lunch on board, we will again set off on a drive. This time to Mount Congreve – a spectacular woodland garden on the banks of the River Suir. This privately owned 70-acre garden with a four-acre walled garden is particularly stunning in May when the gardens are awash with magnificent sweeps of flowering azaleas, camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons.
- Day 6 — Glengarriff, Ireland
After a Zodiac ride ashore to the pretty, picturesque village of Glengarriff, we will join our local guide for a tour of the world renowned Ring of Kerry. We will travel the winding roads of West Cork, through the Caha Mountains to Kenmare, a heritage town nestled on the shore of Kenmare Bay. From Kenmare to Moll’s Gap and on to Killarney. A stop will be made at “Ladies View” to admire and photograph the beautiful Lakes of Killarney. Next, a stop will be made to visit Muckross House for a guided tour of this magnificent Victorian mansion. The elegantly furnished rooms portray the lifestyles of the landed gentry, while in the basement we can see the working conditions of the servants.
Onward through charming Killarney, where monarchs, poets, artists, writers and composers have been inspired by the region’s unsurpassed beauty. We will follow a winding road around the beautiful Iveragh Peninsula, better known as The Ring of Kerry, where bogs, mountains, valleys, lakes and sea blend into a magical landscape that is breathtaking beyond words. Lunch will be served in one of the many fine restaurants located on The Ring.
- Day 7 — Galway City, Ireland
Our explorations today begins with a leisurely drive through the Connemara countryside and a visit to Kylemore Abbey, nestled at the base of Duchruach Mountain on the northern shore of Lough Pollacappul. The Abbey was built in the 1860s for Mitchell Henry, the son of a wealthy Manchester merchant. Its Victorian walled garden was laid out in 1867, completing the transformation of a wilderness of rock and bog to a country estate in the Irish Highlands. Constructed as a memorial to Mitchell’s wife, the Neo-Gothic Church is an accurate replica of Norwich Cathedral. The exterior is built in grey limestone with impressive corner buttresses and angelic gargoyles. The interior is embellished with stunning sand-coloured limestone carvings. The impressive gothic arches that form the ceiling are supported by a variety of marble columns, and a beautiful stained glass window depicts the five graces: Fortitude, Faith, Charity, Hope and Chastity.
Today the Abbey is the monastic home of the Irish Benedictine Nuns. During our visit to the Abbey we will learn all the details of its romantic history, how the nuns undertook the intensive restoration of the Church, and of the bustling industries carried out by the nuns today. Having enjoyed the beauty of this wondrous place, we will make our return journey through the natural terrain and unspoilt environment of Connemara to the awaiting Silver Explorer.
- Day 8 — Killybegs, Ireland
The fishing village of Killybegs is the gateway to picturesque, fabled Donegal. Located at the mouth of Donegal Bay and surrounded by a vista of Blue Stack mountains, the area offers a rugged beauty and unique mystique. Our walking tour takes us first to the ruins of the ancient Franciscan Abbey. Founded in 1474, the Friary was besieged many times and in 1601 was partially destroyed by an explosion. The attractive centrepiece of Donegal Town is a tall obelisk known as the “Diamond”. This was the name given to the four friars who, in the 17th century, compiled the Annals of the Four Masters, one of the earliest historical texts of Ireland. We next visit Donegal Castle situated beside the River Eske. Built in the 15th century, the Castle is furnished throughout and our local guide will describe its history from the O'Donnell chieftains to the Brooke family owners. The town is a main centre for the tweed industry in Ireland and we will have some time to explore the shops before our return drive to Killybegs.
After lunch on board the Silver Explorer, we continue our explorations with a visit to the town of Glencolmcille, located in a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) area rich in folklore and traditional music.
We are welcomed to Glencolmcille Folk Village with afternoon tea accompanied by local musicians playing traditional Irish songs. The bygone lifestyles of Donegal are recreated in this replicated village that features an interpretative centre, craft shop, tea house, school house, sheeben and thatched cottages dating back to 1750. Sit in on an Irish language class, listen to a talk on old Irish cures and observe a demonstration of spinning and weaving. We will enjoy a variety of traditional activities in this picturesque setting overlooking a sandy curve of nearby Glenbay beach before returning to the Silver Explorer for dinner.
- Day 9 — Rathlin Island / Portrush, Northern Ireland
Tiny Rathlin Island has been settled for more than 6,000 years and has a storied past including a number of infamous massacres. Today it has a population of just over 100 persons and is a popular birdwatching destination. After going ashore by Zodiac, we will be greeted by our local guide and proceed to explore on foot. Rathlin has been designated as a special conservation area and its bird colony is home to tens of thousands of seabirds, including common guillemots, kittiwakes, puffins and razorbills – about thirty bird families in total. Boarding a local mini bus, we can explore the island further. Shaped like a boot, the island is eight miles long and less than one mile wide and surrounded by impressive limestone and basalt sea cliffs reaching 470 ft in places. Three lighthouses stand as testament to Rathlin’s wild coast.
This afternoon we explore the stunning North Antrim coastline beginning with a visit to the medieval Dunluce Castle ruins. Perched picturesquely (and precipitously!) at the edge of a rocky outcropping high above the sea, the castle is dramatically surrounded by terrifyingly steep drops, which the early Christians and Vikings would have considered a very important security feature. Next, visit the Giant’s Causeway of 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns that descend in a kind of pathway to the sea. Formed over 50 million years ago, visitors have marvelled at its majesty and mystery for centuries, and UNESCO has recognised this site with World Heritage status.
- Day 10 — Staffa, Hebrides, Scotland; / Iona, Hebrides, Scotland
At first light, we arrive at Staffa with its famous feature: Fingal’s Cave, a huge sea-cave near the southern tip of the island. It was the caves of Staffa that inspired Felix Mendelssohn to compose the famous Die Hebriden (Hebrides Overture). If sea conditions allow, we will explore the caves by Zodiac.
During lunch, we sail to Iona. St Columba came here from Ireland in 563 AD and early Christianity spread through northern Britain from this remote island community. Forty-eight Kings of Scotland are buried here, including Duncan, Macbeth’s victim. This morning, we will visit Iona Abbey, one of Scotland’s most sacred and historical sites. The abbey was restored during the early 20th century, and today the Iona Community continues the tradition of worship first established by St Columba.
- Day 11 — Brodick, Isle of Arran, Scotland
For our final voyage day, we will step ashore on the Isle of Arran for an exploration of Brodick Castle and Country Park – the very image of a Victorian ‘Highland’ estate. Here we will learn of its 600-year history as we tour the house, and enjoy some leisure time to admire its stunning views and formal walled garden.
Following a visit to this national treasure, we take a lunch break nearby before continuing our outing with a visit to the Arran Whisky distillery. Here, only the traditional methods of distilling are used. The location offers perfect water for whisky production, cleansed by granite and softened by peat as it comes down from the mountain above. The atmosphere of sea breezes and clear mountain air together with the warm flow of the Gulf Stream matures the Arran Malt to perfection in earthen-floored warehouses. The visitor centre is set in a mock 18th-century smugglers inn where we will learn about the production process and sample the award-winning products.
- Day 12 — Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland
Following breakfast, disembark the Silver Explorer.
Dates & Rates
|2012||Adventurer||Explorer||View||Vista Suite||Veranda Suite||Expedition||Medallion Suite||Silver Suite||Grand 1 Suite||Owner's 1 Suite|
Embark on a luxurious expedition to the best far-flung destinations in the world aboard Silver Explorer, a purpose-built expedition ship unlike any other. Designed specifically for navigating waters in some of the world’s most remote destinations, including both of earth’s polar regions, the 6,072-ton vessel boasts a strengthened hull with a Lloyd’s Register ice-class notation (1A) for passenger ships. With eight Zodiac boats, her 132 privileged guests can visit even the most off-the-beaten path locations. Experience the thrill of a true expedition aboard Silver Explorer. Venture deep into regions where other vessels cannot go whilst enjoying a privileged lifestyle that is simply second-to-none. View ship details...