Out and About is a popular feature in Group Travel Organiser magazine, where we share the places, trips and sights the editorial team have recently experienced, and believe will be of interest to others organising group travel.
We’ve just begun blogging our stories to make them available to a wider audience online.
‘A wonderful way to enjoy some beautiful and remoter parts of the British Isles in comfort and without difficult travel!’ is how editorial director Peter Stonham described his recent trip by cruise ship up the North Sea, around Scotland and down the Atlantic coast.
Peter travelled with Cruise & Maritime Voyages on the Columbus, on one of her regular British Isles Discovery Cruises. His week-long journey, began in Tilbury and called first at Amsterdam, and then the Orkney Islands, Skye and the Isle of Mull in Scotland before a stop in Dublin and visits to the Scilly Islands, Guernsey and Honfleur in Brittany. Sadly, Peter had to leave the vessel in Dublin for other engagements, but found the Scottish segment of the cruise a really enjoyable experience.
Day 1: Keukenhof Bulb Fields
The initial call in Amsterdam provided for Dutch and German guests to join the cruise, and also for Peter and other journalists to visit the world-famous Keukenhof bulb fields during their six-week limited springtime annual opening. There was a remarkable display of all kinds of tulips, daffodils and other bulbs in a delightful setting, which was once the grounds of a stately home.
Day 3: Orkney
After a day at sea, arrival at Orkney brought a sense of special tranquility and privilege in visiting these islands with their unique identity and history. The group explored Scapa Flow, one of the world’s biggest natural harbours with a rich maritime heritage including a delightful Italian chapel built by prisoners of war in 1943.
Sealife, birds and flowers are a particular treat in this part of the world, which exhibits signs of civilisations dating back to pre-history and of Viking occupation. More recently, an eco-friendly and carefully managed approach to sustainable activity has ensured the environment is both clean and green.
Day 4: Isle of Skye
Another part of Scotland that enjoys beautiful landscapes and seascapes is the Isle of Skye, and landing there at Kirkwall required a tender boat journey from the ship. This adds a sense of privilege to the visit and because larger ships cannot access the port, it ensures that tourist numbers brought there by cruises are not excessive. A coach trip took Peter and his colleagues to the MacLeod family seat of Dunvegan Castle – rich in clan conflict and adventuring history, and set in some lovely grounds.
Day 5: Tobermory
Arrival at Tobermory on the Isle of Mull was another uplifting experience. The small port itself is delightful, as was the coach journey with spectacular views along the coast to Duart Castle, home of the Maclean clan, and fought over for generations because of its strategic promontory commanding sea and land access. Peter was amazed at the prolific bluebells and gorse in bloom, and he said, ‘walking through this landscape made it possible to escape into another world. In just moments I saw remarkable birds of prey and a sudden appearance of a group of deer.’
Time at sea on the ship was passed by some relaxing sunset and sunrise views, excellent evening dining, (and drinking!), and opportunities for entertainment in the onboard theatre and different lounges and cafes.
There was also a fascinating visit to the bridge and behind-the-scenes tour to show how the ship was run and all the food prepared and served.
Amongst the other passengers was a big group brought by BBC Gardeners World magazine, who enjoyed visits to gardens and landscapes and their abundant flowers and plants at the various ports of call. As Peter left the ship, they were looking forward to visiting the famous subtropical gardens in Tresco on the Isles of Scilly, the special growing conditions of Guernsey and the chance to visit Monet’s garden at Giverny as an excursion from the stop in the delightful small French port of Honfleur.
Peter would like to thank Mike Hall, Marketing Manager, and all the team at CMV for making the trip so pleasurable. He thoroughly recommends the sea-born approach to exploring the UK and its neighbours as a great group holiday!