If you like cruising and walking why not combine the two? I took a specialist cruise on what is becoming an increasingly popular way to explore the world.
Am I mad? The first morning of our cruise and I find myself at five to eight in the morning standing at the stern of Fred. Olsen’s Boudicca huddled in my fleece against the North Sea chills.
In fact this was to be my optional daily start (sometimes I didn’t make it) for the next ten days as passengers who wanted to join us, walked five times around the promenade deck to complete a mile before breakfast.
A keen walker and birder it was with some degree of excitement and curiosity I joined a nine-day ‘Cruise and Walk’ holiday around Scotland and Ireland with Ramblers Cruise & Walk Holidays.
A totally separate company from The Ramblers they have teamed up with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines to offer these cruises across the globe. We even had our own private minibus which took us into the hinterland for our walks and brought us back to the ship later. Not for us the long coach journey with some 70 other people, but a day out in the fresh air and all the comforts of cruising in the evening.
After the walk is completed you don’t have to stay with the group. On our way back to the ship after the walk at Invergordon we discovered the town has a celebrated trail of 11 large murals depicting life in the town past and present and some of us decide to explore these.
To me this epitomises what theses cruises are all about. Small compact groups that really get under the skin of a place and comfortable easy walks that allow you to discover far more than you expect.
Our next two days see us discovering the delights of mainland Shetland and Orkney. Both of these islands produce stunning cliff top walks steeped in history and amazing seabird colonies including Puffins and Great Skuas.
In Shetland we walked across a narrow sand bar with the blue waters of the Atlantic lapping either side whilst on Orkney the six-mile walk finishes at the unique site of Skara Brae.
A drastic change occurred the next day however when arrived in Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis. Suddenly we found ourselves walking on an island with high hills, moorland and extensive peat bogs and whereas in Shetland and Orkney the places names betrayed their Norse origins, here they sang in the lilting tones of Gallic.
Our walk in Tobermory too with its brightly coloured giving it a rainbow-like appearance was also a surprise as we walked amongst the manicured grounds of a demolished stately home discovering waterfalls, bubbling streams, placid lakes and amazing viewpoints giving vistas of the village and ship. When the walk returns us to the village the delights of sea food, local whisky and craft shops beckon.
The next morning sees us in Dublin and a short minibus drive later we are walking around the Howth Peninsula on the north of Dublin Bay. Once more the minibus allows us to do our own thing by dropping us in Dublin to explore. The city is a very walkable, compact place where we join office workers in St Stephen’s Green basking in the early summer sunshine.
Some of us explore Trinity College and the shops whilst others including myself head to the Temple Bar district to sample a Guinness and listen to some live music.
So, would I do this type of cruise again. Undoubtedly, yes. It may not be the best cruise in the world but if you like cruising and walking it comes pretty close.
From Cuba to Greenland and Sri Lanka to Iceland they have a huge range of destinations, but it is important to make sure you have chosen the most suitable walking grade for you before booking.
Your cruise includes traditional afternoon tea served by waitresses with white aprons and gloves, sumptuous cakes, three types of tea and scones with cream and jam!
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Ramblers Cruise & Walk Holidays.