London (Tower Bridge) to Dublin
11 days with Silversea Rating:
Days 1-2 London (Tower Bridge), England
London is an ancient city whose history greets you at every turn. If the city contained only its famous landmarks—the Tower of London or Big Ben—it would still rank as one of the world's top cities. But London is so much more. The foundations of London's character and tradition endure. The British bobby is alive and well. The tall, red, double-decker buses (in an updated model) still lumber from stop to stop. Then there's that greatest living link with the past—the Royal Family with all its attendant pageantry. To ice the cake, swinging-again London is today one of the coolest cities on the planet. The city's art, style, and fashion make headlines around the world, and London's chefs have become superstars.
Day 3 St Peter Port, Guernsey
Cobblestone streets, blooming floral displays, and tiny churches welcome you to this wonderfully pretty harbour. The town of St Peter Port is as pretty as they come, with glowing flower displays painting practically every street corner and window-ledge with colour. As the capital, and main port of Guernsey, St Peter Port puts all of the island’s gorgeous beaches, wonderful history and inspiring stories at your fingertips. Feel the gut punch of the midday gun firing at Castle Cornet, which stands guard over one of the world's prettiest ports. This 800-year-old, Medieval castle offers staggering views of the harbour from its imposing, craggy island location, and you can look out across to the looming shorelines of the other Channel Islands from its weathered battlements. With four well-tended gardens, and five museums offering a rich overview of Guernsey's history, you’ll want to leave a few hours aside to explore the many treasures that lie within the castle’s walls.
Day 4 St Mary's (Isles Of Scilly) - Tresco (Isles Of Scilly)
St Mary’s is the Isle of Scilly’s largest island with a population of 1800 residents and an area of 6.58 square Kilometres; this is the gateway to the rest of the magnificent islands. Hugh town -a beautiful Old town with its own beach, nature reserve and church is the main attractions of St Mary’s, with tiny streets brimming with shops to pick up the perfect souvenir. St Mary’s is a hidden gem, with long stretches of white sandy beaches and a breath-taking untouched landscape. The coastline holds many archaeological sites along with miles of splendid walks along the coastal and country paths.
For many visitors Tresco is the most attractive of the Isles of Scilly. This is especially due to its Abbey Garden, which is home to thousands of exotic plant species from around 80 different countries. 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 had three terraces carved from the rocky south slope and maximised Tresco’s mild Gulf Stream climate. Even in mid-winter there still are hundreds of plants flowering here. Another surprising attraction at the Abbey Garden is the collection of figureheads from ships that wrecked among the Isles of Scilly.
Day 5 Pembroke, Wales
Pembroke is located on the Pembroke Peninsula of Wales amidst long stretches of sandy beaches and stunning coastal scenery. This historic valley settlement features a number of timeless buildings centered along its quaint Main Street that runs inside the original walls of the town. The municipality itself is surrounded by residential estates, farmland and woods along the estuary of the River Cleddau. Pembroke’s rich history dates back to the 11th century when the namesake was little more than a timber fortification on the banks of the Pembroke River. In 1457, this scenic spot was the birthplace of Henry VII of England, also known as Henry Tudor.
Day 5 Skellig Islands, Ireland - Knightstown (Valentia Island), Ireland
The magnificent Skellig Islands lie 8 miles (12 km) off the coast of Portmagee in South West Kerry. Rising majestically from the sea, Skellig Michael towers 714ft. (218 metres) above sea level. On the summit of this awe-inspiring rock you will find a remarkably well preserved sixth century monastic settlement now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Small Skellig is equally renowned in matters of ornithology as the home of some 27,000 pairs of gannets – the second largest colony of such seabirds in the world. The final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was shot on Skellig in July 2014, with additional filming taking place there in September 2015. The remains of the Skellig Michael monastery appear in the film, representing an ancient Jedi temple. From any angle, or from any vantage point on the nearby Ring of Kerry, they are spectacular pinnacles, which have magnetised viewers throughout all history – and beyond.
Knightstown is the largest settlement on Valentia Island, County Kerry, in Ireland and has a population of 156 people. Knightstown itself is one of the few ‘town-planned’ villages of Ireland. The village of Knightstown was laid out by Alexander Nimmo in 1830-31, but it wasn’t built until the early 1840’s when the local quarry was greatly expanded and the works were moved to Knightstown. The local RNLI lifeboat station moved to Knightstown in 1869 from Reenard Point and has since been known as the Valentia Lifeboat Station. There is a selection of local coffee shops and bars in the town, as well as Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland churches.
Day 7 Galway, Ireland - Cliffs Of Moher
Galway is a city in the West of Ireland in the province of Connacht. It lies on the River Corrib between Lough Corrib and Galway Bay and is surrounded by County Galway. It is the fourth most populous urban area in the Republic of Ireland and the sixth most populous city in the island of Ireland. It is both a picturesque and lively city with a wonderful avant-garde culture and a fascinating mixture of locally owned speciality shops, often featuring locally made crafts. Indeed local handcrafts are a feature of the entire region including hand knits, pottery, glass, jewellery and woodwork. The city’s hub is 18th-century Eyre Square, a popular meeting spot surrounded by shops, and traditional pubs that often offer live Irish folk music. Nearby, stone-clad cafes, boutiques and art galleries line the winding lanes of the Latin Quarter, which retains portions of the medieval city walls. The city bears the nickname "The City of the Tribes" because "fourteen tribes" of merchant families led the city in its Hiberno-Norman period. The merchants would have seen themselves as Irish gentry and loyal to the King. They later adopted the term as a badge of honour and pride in defiance of the town's Cromwellian occupier.
Stretching for 8km (5 miles), as the crow flies, the Cliffs of Moher have long enjoyed the status of one of Ireland's most visited tourist attractions – and the visitor centre provides the pivotal point to direct lovers of nature, geology and simple beauty in the right direction. The cliffs also form part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark. They are made up of various types of perpendicular or overhanging rocks including sandstone, siltstone and shale. These cliffs have been broken into the most fantastic forms, and eroded into hundreds of caves by the relentless pounding of the Atlantic waves. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, over to the Twelve Bens (aka The Twelve Pins) in Connemara and south to distant Loop Head and the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Irish politician Cornelius O’Brien realized the outstanding vista to be had from the cliffs, and so built O’Brien’s Tower near to the highest point back in 1835. Today, the viewing platform on the roof still offers one of the best coastal panoramas on the island.
Day 8 Clare Island, Ireland
Clare Island is a mountainous island guarding the entrance to Clew Bay located 3.5 miles off the west coast of County Mayo, Ireland. The ferry crossing from Roonagh Pier near Louisburg takes 25 minutes and it’s not unusual to encounter a school of dolphins and or a herd of seals. Clare Island is the largest (5 miles long and 3 miles wide) of the 365 islands in Clew Bay. Famous as the ancestral home of the legendary Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley, the island has a population of about 160 people; economic activities include farming, fishing and tourism with numerous other small businesses also supporting a vibrant community. The island has its own primary school and a post office. Children go to the mainland for post-primary (secondary school) education. A very prominent landmark of the island is the Clare Island Lighthouse, established by John Denis Browne, the 1st Marquess of Sligo, in 1806. After 159 years of faithful service the lighthouse was taken out of service on 28 September 1965, replaced by the modern Achillbeg Island lighthouse on the south side of Achill Island. It has since been refurbished and is now an upmarket guesthouse.
Day 9 Killybegs, Ireland
Killybegs The days start early in Killybegs, as this quiet fishing town rumbles to life, and ships with red and blue paint peeling from their hulls quietly depart, ready for a morning's hard work at sea. Located in a scenic part of County Donegal, Killybegs is Ireland's fishing capital, and the salty breeze and pretty streets serve as a revitalising medicine for visitors. The town is also your gateway to some of the country's most majestic coastal scenery, which is dotted with flashing white lighthouses, keeping watch over invigorating seascapes. Killybegs enjoys a privileged position on the coast of north west of Ireland, close to the spectacular Slieve League - a titanic mountain, which explodes upwards from frothing ocean. Walk as close as you dare to the coastline’s sheer drops, or admire the folding cliffs from the best vantage point, down on the water.
Day 10 Portrush, Northern Ireland
Portrush is adjacent to the stunning North Antrim coastline. Here lies the medieval Dunluce Castle ruins. Perched picturesquely 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. The castle and surrounding areas have been frequently used for the filming of “Game of Thrones”. Another attraction reached from Portrush is the Giant’s Causeway -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 11 Dublin, Ireland
Ask any Dubliner what's happening and you may hear echoes of one of W. B. Yeats's most-quoted lines: "All changed, changed utterly." No matter that the decade-long "Celtic Tiger" boom era has been quickly followed by the Great Recession—for visitors Dublin remains one of Western Europe's most popular and delightful urban destinations. Whether or not you're out to enjoy the old or new Dublin, you'll find it a colossally entertaining city, all the more astonishing considering its intimate size. It is ironic and telling that James Joyce chose Dublin as the setting for his famous Ulysses, Dubliners, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man because it was a "center of paralysis" where nothing much ever changed. Which only proves that even the greats get it wrong sometimes. Indeed, if Joyce were to return to his once genteel hometown today—disappointed with the city's provincial outlook, he left it in 1902 at the age of 20—and take a quasi-Homeric odyssey through the city (as he so famously does in Ulysses), would he even recognize Dublin as his "Dear Dirty Dumpling, foostherfather of fingalls and dotthergills"? For instance, what would he make of Temple Bar—the city's erstwhile down-at-the-heels neighborhood, now crammed with restaurants and trendy hotels and suffused with a nonstop, international-party atmosphere? Or the simple sophistication of the open-air restaurants of the tiny Italian Quarter (named Ouartie Bloom after his own creation), complete with sultry tango lessons? Or of the hot/cool Irishness, where every aspect of Celtic culture results in sold-out theaters, from Once, the cult Indie movie and Broadway hit, to Riverdance, the old Irish mass-jig recast as a Las Vegas extravaganza? Plus, the resurrected Joyce might be stirred by the songs of U2, fired up by the sultry acting of Michael Fassbender, and moved by the poems of Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney. As for Ireland's capital, even after the Celtic Tiger party has faded, elegant shops and hotels, galleries, coffeehouses, and a stunning variety of new, creative little restaurants can be found on almost every street in Dublin, transforming the provincial city that suffocated Joyce into a place almost as cosmopolitan as the Paris to which he fled. The recent economic downturn has provoked a few Dublin citizens to protest that the boomtown transformation of their heretofore-tranquil city has permanently affected its spirit and character. These skeptics (skepticism long being a favorite pastime in the capital city) await the outcome of "Dublin: The Sequel," and their greatest fear is the possibility that the tattered old lady on the Liffey has become a little less unique, a little more like everywhere else. Oh ye of little faith: the rare ole gem that is Dublin is far from buried. The fundamentals—the Georgian elegance of Merrion Square, the Norman drama of Christ Church Cathedral, the foamy pint at an atmospheric pub—are still on hand to gratify. Most of all, there are the locals themselves: the nod and grin when you catch their eye on the street, the eagerness to hear half your life story before they tell you all of theirs, and their paradoxically dark but warm sense of humor. "In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty"—so went the centuries-old ditty. Today, there are parts of the city that may not be fair or pretty, but although you may not be conscious of it while you're in the center city, Dublin does boast a beautiful setting: it loops around the edge of Dublin Bay and is on a plain at the edge of the gorgeous, green Dublin and Wicklow mountains, which rise softly just to the south. From the glass-wall top of the Guinness Storehouse in the heart of town, the sight of the city, the bay, and the mountains will take your breath away. From the city's noted vantage points, such as the South Wall, which stretches far out into Dublin Bay, you can nearly get a full measure of the city. From north to south, Dublin stretches 16 km (10 miles); in total, it covers 28,000 acres—but Dublin's heart is far more compact than these numbers indicate. Like Paris, London, and Florence, a river runs right through it. The River Liffey divides the capital into the Northside and the Southside, as everyone calls the two principal center-city areas, and virtually all the major sights are well within less than an hour's walk of one another.
All This Included
With London’s gothic landmarks in your wake depart on a 10-day tour of the lesser known British and Irish ports. Outstandingly beautiful, uncrowded and unspoilt, the Scilly Isles are a world apart in every way. From enjoying the music and laughter in Galway to wandering atop the outstandingly beautiful Cliffs of Moher, look into a window of the British Isles and Ireland that is rarely seen.
Cruising: Cabin onboard Silver Cloud
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