Adventure Cruises in Edinburgh

About Edinburgh cruises

In Scotland, cruises are the perfect way to visit the dramatic and mysterious coastline, experience its rich history and have close encounters with its diverse wildlife. Cruises around Edinburgh can take you on an epic exploration of Scotland’s far-flung islands and up into the windswept and fascinating Norwegian Fjords. These itineraries provide a glimpse into an isolated and wild part of the world and its unique people, traditions and culture. The Orkney and Shetland Islands are part of Scotland itself, given over by Norway as part of a royal marriage in the 15th Century. There remains a strong Scandinavian influence on the islands although they are English speaking and the people are mostly of Scottish origins. 

Those who visit on a cruise which also takes in the Norwegian Islands will see that there are many similarities between the Orkney and Shetland Islands and Scandinavia, particularly in their traditions and folklore. The plentiful archaeology and historic sites can be found all over the islands as well as a wealth of intriguing wildlife. Cruising in the Norwegian Fjords offers the opportunity to take in their dramatic scenery and enjoy whale and dolphin encounters from the boat. On the more far-reaching islands, it is possible to see glaciers, reindeer and even polar bears. 


Best Scotland cruises and areas to visit

Cruises around Edinburgh travel along the northern Scottish coastline first stopping off at the Orkney Islands where guests can explore the lively town of Kirkwall and hiking in the countryside surrounding the town. Orkney is particularly famous for its seafood with many traditional restaurants serving local dishes with fish ‘just off the boat’.  The town of Kirkwall is also bustling with traditional small pubs, the perfect places to meet local people and soak in the atmosphere. During the day the mysterious standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar are one of the most intriguing features of the region and in different lights provide a fantastic photography subject. Also, keen for a photo are the island’s striking and loveable puffins. These delightful birds can be seen perched on cliffs or even found hiding underground in burrows. 

Further north from Orkney, are the Shetland Islands, which are a top stop-off on a cruise of Scotland. The main islands are home to lively towns, rich culture and some excellent dining opportunities. Lerwick is the largest town on Shetland and hosts the annual festival of Up Helly Aa in which the islanders process through the streets and burn a replica Viking ship. The strong Scandinavian influence can be seen particularly at historic traditional events such as this. Not only at Up Helly Aa but also in the archaeology of the islands. The Jarlshof archaeological site is open to the public, the site was occupied from 2500BC up until the 17th Century giving us a glimpse at the changing dynamics and culture of Shetland through the ages. 

There are also plenty of chances to encounter beautiful wildlife on and around Shetland with puffins, skuas and guillemots found all around the archipelago. On land, you can see the charming sea otters around the shore and in the water orcas, dolphins and sperm whales can be spotted from the boat. The smaller more remote islands of Foua and Fair Isle provide a rare opportunity to encounter the isolated communities that live there. Their unique small farming way of life called ‘crofting’ is a fascinating glimpse into one of the last strongholds of the traditional Scottish way of living from the land.

Cruises further north of the Shetland Islands venture up to the Norwegian Fjords of Lofoten where the impressive landscape and big marine mammal encounters are plentiful. Whales, dolphins, seals and even turtles can be seen passing through this stretch of coast. The views are spectacular and on a small ship cruise you can see the tiny isolated communities that cling to even the most remote outcrops.

 It is also possible to travel to Svalbard on a small ship cruise from Edinburgh. This rugged and beautiful island is found north of the Arctic Circle and is home to all the thrills the Arctic holds. Glaciers, frozen tundra and the chance to see the iconic polar bear all await guests on a small ship cruise. It is also intriguing to meet the local people here, mostly Norwegian but you will also see an interesting mix of Russian and Thai people as well.  On Svalbard and in the Shetland islands it is possible to see the Aurora Borealis, known as the Northern Lights. This beautiful light show is bound to impress even the most well travelled guests. 

Best time to cruise in Scotland

Visiting Scotland is a good idea any time of the year, the country offers hiking, historic tours and whale watching all year round. The best time to visit Scotland for the weather is from late spring to late summer. Outside of these times, the weather can be more variable although for many people on a small ship cruise from Edinburgh the wild weather on these rugged islands is part of the excitement. There are plenty of reasons to visit Scotland in January for the excellent New Year’s parties and the Up Helly Aa celebration on Shetland’s main island, in the town of Lerwick. It is worth noting that the islands are extremely busy at this time with hotels booked out years in advance. Taking a small ship cruise from Edinburgh allows you to travel here and enjoy the festivities before retiring to the comfort of your boat. Those who would like to see the Northern Lights should visit Scotland in October or in the middle of March when you are most likely to see the ‘Merrie dancers’ as the local people call them.

How to get to Edinburgh

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and has its own international airport with connecting flights to Dubai, London, Madrid and other European airports. It is also possible to fly into Glasgow or Prestwick airports on the west coast of Scotland and take a 45-minute transfer to Edinburgh from here by train, bus or car. There is also an international airport in Aberdeen from where you can travel to Edinburgh easily although it is a slightly longer journey of around three hours. To the south Newcastle airport also offers a number of national and international flights and is only an hour’s journey to Edinburgh.  Those flying intercontinental will usually have to take a connecting flight through London or another major European hub to reach Edinburgh.

Scotland Cruise Tips

  • Money can seem like a strange issue to visitors in Scotland. Legally, English and Scottish pound, the local currency, should be accepted in both countries. However, in reality, this is often not the case. It is worthwhile asking for notes from the country you are visiting at the exchange.
  • Take a variety of clothing as Scotland can experience four seasons in one day. Waterproofs and warm clothes are a must on a small ship cruise around Edinburgh.
  • Good news! There are no mosquitoes in Scotland although it is worth picking up ‘midge cream’ to keep these tiny bugs away. 
  • Watch out for the local lingo, especially in Orkney and Shetland where there are several words that are not English but commonly used. Not to worry though everyone speaks English so if you ask they will often repeat what they said in English.