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Off the beaten track

Uncovering hidden gems on Saga’s UK cruises

By Neil Cron, Shore Excursion Manager

There are so many remarkably beautiful parts of the UK, and although people may know where they are, there’s nothing like actually experiencing it all first-hand, where you can immerse yourself in centuries of culture and history, iconic landmarks and picturesque towns, cities and countryside on a cruise around the British Isles. From castles, cathedrals, heritage steam trains, wild coastlines, pretty villages and timeless legends and traditions, there is so much to delight on a cruise around the UK.

We’ve got some incredible sights that could be in a whole different country, from the almost mythical landscape of the Scottish Highlands to the Orkney and Shetland Islands which boasts some of the most stunning coastal scenery in the world, remarkable wildlife, ancient archaeological sites and pristine beaches. And let’s not forget the rugged coastline of Northern Ireland and the bustling cities like Bristol and Newcastle.

Loch Broom in Ullapool

Pretty Loch Broom

Our UK cruise itineraries offer the opportunity to circumnavigate the entire British Isles, stopping off at not only our most iconic ports steeped in maritime history like Newcastle and Bristol but also the chance to visit ports less frequented, like the old herring port of Ullapool situated on Loch Broom in the Highlands on Scotland’s North West coast from where you can explore nearby beautiful Gruinard Bay or the Falls of Measach. 

Likewise, elsewhere around Britain there are a treasure trove of stunning landscapes and places to discover and some almost certainly in places already visited.

Cave Hill in Belfast on a misting morning

Stunning Cave Hill in Belfast

For generations, Cave Hill has been synonymous with Belfast, with its imposing outline visible throughout the city. The landmark, named for the five caves located on the side of the cliffs, contains a wealth of natural, archaeological and historical features, including Belfast Castle. Its most famous feature, known locally as Napoleon's Nose, is believed to have been the inspiration for Jonathan Swift's novel, Gulliver's Travels, and offers superb views of the city from a variety of vantage points.

The Brough of Birsay

The Brough of Birsay

For an Orkney adventure to remember, I highly recommend a visit to the Brough of Birsay. This is a tidal island on the north-west tip of the Orkney mainland which can be reached by a causeway when the tide is low between June and September. On the island itself there are the remains of a Viking settlement and the earlier Pictish community. The Brough of Birsay is also one of the best places on the Orkney Mainland to see puffins and you may well be lucky to see some these colourful birds at the end of their nesting season on the islands.

The concrete causeway from the beach joins the Brough to the Orkney Mainland and is approximately 150m long - appropriate footwear is essential as it can be slippery and uneven.

The Millennium Bridge and Baltic Centre in Newcastle

Landmarks in Newcastle

Arguably the most picturesque location in Newcastle, The Quayside is one of the city’s most bustling areas. Packed with restaurants, bars and cultural hotspots, you’ll definitely want to head here, especially if it’s sunny. 

Aside from its most obvious landmark, the Tyne Bridge, Newcastle is packed with interesting landmarks and buildings to discover. For example, Newcastle’s 12th century castle offers splendid views over the city, while Anthony Gormley’s iconic Angel of the North statue is located in Gateshead, just outside the city centre. Newcastle is home to an abundance of galleries and museums, with some like the Great North Museum: Hancock showcasing the history and heritage of the city. One of the top picks is the Baltic Centre, a truly innovative exhibition centre housed within a famous industrial building on the south bank of the River Tyne.

Interested in a UK cruise?

Join us aboard Spirit of Adventure and Spirit of Discovery and explore closer to home on our cruises to the British Isles and Ireland.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.