Caledonian Canal – Orkneys – Shetland – Norway

Scotland – Shetland – Norway

Right across the North Sea, west of our Norwegian west coast, we find a sailing paradise waiting to be discovered. Since more than 1000 years ago, our Norse ancestors have had close ties to and at times ruled over the archipelagos in the west. Both Shetland, the Orkney Islands and parts of mainland Scotland have previously been part of the Norwegian kingdom under the Viking Era. So on our way home from Scotland to Norway, on this expedition, we will be looking out for traces of the Norse.

In the wake of the Vikings

This expedition includes a great variety of different experiences. A well-balanced mix of sailing, culture, nature and pub visits. First we explore some of the waters of the west coast of Scotland, before we will sail with the boat into the forest. Through the Caledonian Canal we sail from west to east, right through the Scottish Highlands. At our highest point, we’ll be a full 32 meters above sea level with our expedition boat, Valiente. It may not sound too high, but the tree line here is low and we really get the feeling of sailing through the mountains. Completely unique!

Orkney Islands, Fair Isle and Shetland

From Inverness, we continue our journey towards the Orkney Islands, where we explore these over 70 islands with exciting rocky coasts and chalk-white sandy beaches. Further north, Fair Isle and Shetland are the next stops along our route. The ocean stretches between these islands are mostly one day legs max. So we have plenty of time to explore the small villages, beaches, islands, pubs and bakeries along the way. We get a good insight into the history and the important coastal traditions of these inaccessible islands. In addition, the historical ties between Norway and these archipelagos are strong. So as modern Vikings from Norway, we are used to being nicely welcomed along the way.

From canal cruise through Scotland to ocean sail from Shetland

This expedition also offers a good chance for us to prove our sailing abilities, and feel the vessel’s sturdiness on the high seas. With a longer ocean crossing of the North Sea from Shetland to Norway. Out here at this time of year we get to feel the forces of nature! And we can expect everything from a gentle breeze to a strong gale on this leg. What is certain, is that you’ll get the feeling of mastery it gives when we as a team sail our expedition ship safely across the sea.

An active holiday with a varied program

This Scotland – Shetland – Norway trip suits you who want a sailing expedition with enough time for land visits, culture and nature along the way. This trip offers a mix of inland sailing, coastal sailing and ocean sailing. In addition to restaurant visits, hiking and sightseeing along the way. This trip is for those who want to experience the Caledonian Canal by sailboat, and for you who dream of visiting the Orkney Islands, Fair Isle and Shetland. 

Our expedition boat, Valiente

It’s not just any sailboat we use on this trip, but our 70-foot expedition boat Valiente. She is a very sturdy and comfortable boat built in steel for sailing in arctic waters. The boat is amply equipped and has large outdoor areas, a wheelhouse, and a saloon with a 360-degree view. Here you can see pictures and read more about Valiente.

Be part of the crew on board

From SeilNorge we provide skipper, co-skipper and guide/crew. As a participant with us, you are always involved in all tasks onboard. Everything from standing behind the helm and hoisting sails, to cooking, cleaning and planning the sailing legs. We mostly sail around the clock and divide everyone into watch teams. Where we rotate with 4 hours on and 8 hours off. In addition, we add a few shorter shifts each afternoon, so that the night shifts also rotate between the watch teams throughout the expedition.

A sea crossing expedition with us, is first and foremost a great voyage of discovery. But also an excellent opportunity to learn about sailing and navigation, and not least using a boat as our base for discoveries and experiences on land. We are all adventurers – and we explore together. Are you ready for a real sailing adventure from Scotland via Orkneys and Shetland, to Norway?

Environment & Sustainability

Our northern waters are vulnerable areas under pressure from people and climate change. In SeilNorge we are concerned with taking care of the environment to the greatest extent possible. We believe that small boats with few people and little pollution and waste, are significantly less harmful to the environment, climate and local wildlife than larger vessels and cruise ships. At the places we visit, we try to clean up rubbish and only take home memories and photos. So we avoid leaving any traces behind us. 

The lowest possible carbon footprint is important to us. We sail as long as there is wind, and we work purposefully with food, purchasing and waste management. Even if we have to use our engine for propulsion when there is no wind, our trips are among the most sustainable ways to experience our Arctic and North Atlantic waters. Join us on an exotic, unique, sustainable, environmentally friendly and unforgettable holiday!

 

A fin whale in our wake

There is nothing like surfing down a huge wave with a sturdy ship on the high seas! And perhaps with a fin whale in our wake? As in this film clip from one of our previous trips in the North Atlantic, from Shetland to Norway.

Thanks for a great trip. It had a little bit of everything. Beautiful scenery, historical sights, cozy puns, adventurous sailing, ... But most importantly, there were amazing people and we had so much fun. Amazing!

Sabine, Scotland - Norway 2023

Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome on board in Oban

We meet at 16:00 at the harbor in Oban. We start by getting to know each other a little before going through the plan for the week. We familiarize ourselves with the boat, and stow the boat with provisions and equipment. Life on expedition requires cooperation, and before departing we go through routines and procedures for sailing and emergency situations. Already on the first afternoon, we plan to set off on the adventure!

Day 2: Sail among the Inner Hebrides

The first morning of adventure offers sailing to the Isle of Mull. Or some of the other islands that make up the Inner Hebrides. We spend the opportunity to go through basic sailing theory and practice, tacks and gybes, halyards and sheets. Yes, there are many new words to be learned in the next few weeks. En route in these waters, we have a selection of white beaches, small lagoons and scenic bays to choose from for a stop at anchor along the way. We make dinner onboard underway as we head into the “fjord” Loch Linnhe this evening.

Day 3: Fort Williams - the gateway to the Caledonian Canal

We wake up in Fort Williams for an early breakfast. This small town located at the foot of Scotland’s and the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. And it is the gateway to the Caledonian Canal. From here we start our canal journey at the first possible bridge opening this morning. We are going through a whole set of locks up towards the first large lake; Loch Lochy. We sail as far through the canal as we get this day, before the locks and bridges close in the afternoon. For the evening we moor at one of the cosy villages along the canal and find the best Scottish pub nearby or do an evening hike in the mountains around us.

Day 4: Searching for the sea monster in Loch Ness

During our days in the canal, the beautiful landscape of the Scottish Highlands glide by. As we make our way through locks and wait for bridge openings. We reach our highest point of the canal at the largest of the lakes, the mythical Loch Ness. This lake itself makes up about half the length of the entire canal. And with the right wind, we may have a great sailing day here. Not least, we have to keep a sharp lookout for Nessy the sea monster, which is lurking in the depths below us!

Day 5: Back to the salt water at Inverness

The last day in the canal is the exam. Where we have to pass a solid amount of locks and bridges, with their scheduled openings of both road and train bridges. Before we again have salt water under our keel. There will probably be opportunities for some sightseeing in Inverness for those who want, while we wait for the last locks and bridges. And already this evening we sail further north along Scotland’s east coast towards the Orkney Islands.

Day 6-8: To the Orkney Islands and exploration on land

From Inverness to the southernmost Orkney Islands, we spend just under a day with ok speed. Arriving in the Orkneys, we spend a couple of days exploring the historically interesting places and the beautiful nature this archipelago has to offer. Among the must-see places is Scapa Flow, the large, well-protected and hidden natural harbor that the British used as a base for their invincible navy during both the First and Second World Wars. And of course we must moor in the capital of the archipelago; Kirkwall. Here we find Scotland’s northernmost single malt whiskey distillery. Highland Park. Probably worth a visit, a tour and a proper taste.

Day 9: To Fair Isle

Northwards from Kirkwall we have a long day’s leg via the northernmost Orkney Islands to Fair Isle. A lush gem in the middle between the Orkneys and Shetland. This lonely little island is mainly green rolling meadows and long, white sandy beaches, making a perfect stopover on our way!

Day 10-12: Shetland

Well inside the fjords of Shetland, we consider what we do and how we spend our time. Though we will anyways visit the capitol, Lerwick. We’re not quite home yet, so we have to keep an eye on the weather forecast for our last leg across the North Sea. Here we again see the influence of our Norse ancestors, as the Shetlanders are clearly more Norse than other Scots. If time and weather permit, a stop at the archaeological excavations at Jarlshof, in the very south of the island of Mainland, is something we will try to include. Where they believe the first people to arrive in Shetland went ashore, 5-6000 years ago.

Day 13-14: Across the North Sea towards Norway

The last leg across the North Sea is 180 nautical miles from Shetland to Bergen. Wind and weather determine where we cross from, and where in Western Norway we first have landfall. Our expedition anyways end in Bergen. If we sail across earlier, we might have time to stop at a few more places along the Norwegian coast.

Day 15: Bye for now in Bergen

We plan to arrive in Bergen the evening before this last day, so we can celebrate a successful expedition with a good dinner on land. In any case, we will be in port so we have time to pack up our things, wash ourselves off the boat and say goodbye for now by 10:00 this last morning. Thank you for an amazing trip in the wake of the Vikings!

Changes to the program

The program should be seen as a rough itinerary that we can adapt to the weather and conditions. We also reserve the right to change and improve our itineraries. We will have a dinghy for beach trips and small expeditions, fishing gear for cod, and gear to hike or make bonfires on the beach on all our trips – we are ready for adventure! Are you?

What is included?

  • A trip experience with sailboat – experienced skipper with local knowledge on board
  • Co-skipper and crew/guide on board
  • All food we eat on board during the trip
  • Our Comfort Package, which consists of accommodation on board in a shared double cabin (bunk or double bed) with a ready-made bed (warm and nice duvets and pillows!)
  • An environmentally friendly, local, sustainable, unique, exotic and exclusive Norwegian adventure holiday
  • A shared experience and friendship with like-minded adventurers from around the world
  • A lot of time outdoors – raw and honest nature experiences
  • Use of our shared equipment if available: dinghies, kayaks, fishing equipment, etc.
  • All boat-related costs such as diesel, propane and harbor fees
  • Personal safety equipment; Helly Hansen inflatable lifejacket
  • Survival suit and Search and Rescue (SAR) Insurance for everyone on board
  • Instruction, advice, guidance and practical training in boating and sailing

What is not included?

  • Travel to and from the start/end location
  • Optional meals at a cafes/restaurants during the trip
  • Entrance to galleries, museums, or other alternative activities that you/we may come up with
  • Rental of equipment and/or activities from external operators, ex. kayak, glacier hiking or surfing where possible
  • Drinks such as wine, beer or exclusive apple juice and other luxuries (yes, we drink beer and wine on board, bring your own)
  • Travel insurance and/or cancellation insurance – (up to you, but recommended!)

Important info

Travel

This trip start in Oban, Scotland and ends in Bergen, Norway.
You find more info on travel, equipment and other tips under Practical info.

Deposit and payment

You only pay a deposit (NOK 6000) upon registration, the remainder of the payment is due 60 days prior to departure.

Safety and risk on board

We are all about people, and so we also take safety very seriously. On our trips we practice sail- and boat handling also for safety, and we spend time going through various situations that can arise at sea, how to handle them and how to avoid them.

On board a boat everyone must know what to do in critical situations and in the event of an emergency. Our philosophy is that partaking and participation builds safety. It is important for the safety of the whole boat that you are a participant on board, not just a passenger.

Therefore all our trips are to be considered sailing courses in addition to being great  holidays and adventures: You are trained to make up the crew on board and so we build a capable team on board.

Feel free to contact us for a chat about safety and risk on our adventures.

Level of the trip

No sailing experience? No problem! Our sailing adventures welcome both novices and seasoned sailors for an inclusive and enjoyable experience. Whether you’re new to sailing or a salty sea dog, our trips cater to all levels.

We aim to transform beginners into sailors quickly while offering experienced participants greater responsibilities and challenges. Our mainland sailing journeys involve 44-50 feet boats navigating coastal and protected waters, occasionally crossing open stretches for excitement. Route adjustments based on weather and conditions ensure a safe and adaptable voyage.

Trips are not overly strenuous; with rotating positions, participants can balance sailing and relaxation. Active engagement minimizes seasickness, and if it occurs, it passes swiftly. Weather, however, is unpredictable, with the potential for stronger winds and various conditions in northern Norway and the Arctic, making each trip a true sailing adventure. Be prepared for calm winds and rough weather—embracing the elements for an unforgettable experience.

What we expect from you

Our trips require a little effort from you who are joining – everyone on board must be ready to contribute and to give of themselves also socially; the more you open up, share and interest yourself in the others on board, the more enjoyable it gets. 

When you’re sailing with us you are invited to take part in the running of the ship and all that comes with it. You will be sailing, docking, navigating, looking out for whales and icebergs, but also making food, serving others, doing dishes and helping clean the boat during the trip, and contributing in other ways when needed. On board we are all in the same boat and when all help out, the ship is most happy. 

Our experience is that doing things together with others out in nature, and not least cooperating and doing activities with new people and different personalities than you might have around you normally, is what creates the best, most interesting and memorable moments and stories:)

Equipment and packing

As with all activities, there is plenty of special equipment and clothing for sailing. If you don’t have any of this, you will get very far with normal hiking/outdoor equipment. You do not need to buy a lot of new equipment to join our trips. Use what you have, borrow what you need from a friend, purchase used equipment, and if you have to invest in new equipment – buy quality items that will last! What you need is something waterproof and windproof on the outside, and layered warm clothing underneath.

Some jackets may not be waterproof “enough”, or might not perform too well in salt water, so you can consider a set of oilskin for the wettest days (available for rent or purchase on board). A pair of higher rubber boots for disembarking from the dinghy is very good to have, as well as indoor shoes below deck. Out at sea and in the Arctic it can be cold even in summer, so bring both swimwear and plenty of warm clothes. Well before departure, we will send you a detailed recommended packing list.

Read more and see our packing tips here:

PS: In a sailboat, you pack in a bag or sack, not in a rigid suitcase. 🙂

Food & cooking on board

On our trips, you will be part of the crew on board and get the chance to participate in all tasks for the operation of the boat. This includes cooking and preparing food – everyone take turns in the galley! Skippers and crew assist as much as they can along the way.

We have great menus with tasty, healthy and “boat-friendly” food, and for each trip we order provisions for all meals on board. If you have allergies or preferences, let us know in the registration form and we will take that into account as best as we can. You are also most welcome to bring any special food or drink with you. Why not bring some specialities from your country or region for the boat to enjoy? 

During a weeklong trip we often sail by a good restaurant or two where we can have dinner on land. Some places we need to pre-book and we will then need to choose a menu before we arrive. More about all of this when you come on board!

Life on board & accommodation

Life on a sailboat is super social and fun, but it might feel a bit intimate at first. No worries though, that vibe usually fades after the first hour. Everyone chips in to run the boat, and we’re all part of the crew, which means quick bonding.

We’re keen to get to know you and hope you’ll connect with the rest of the crew. It takes some patience, generosity, and an open mind to thrive, but soon you’ll be focused on making new friends and enjoying raw nature experiences once sea life feels like home.

Sleeping arrangements in shared cabins with double or bunk beds can be a bit of a puzzle, but we’re pretty good at figuring it out. Let us know if you have preferences. You’re on your own for land accommodations before or after the trip.

The boat provides heating and good food, but fresh water isn’t always abundant. Water conservation means not showering every day, but when near freshwater sources, we make the most of it. But nothing beats a morning sea swim for that fresh feeling.

Safety and risk on our expeditions

As mentioned, we take safety very seriously. Even more so on our expeditions, as we then explore really remote waters and terrain, cross open oceans and sail into areas with additional risk factors such as sea ice or poor charts and uncharted waters. We deal with this by having an extra focus on the situations we may encounter among everyone on board, for each expedition. We sail in these remote areas only in the most optimal seasons; and we use larger and very solid boats for our expeditions. Which are both equipped and sized to cope with this type of expedition trips and waters very well.

We are absolutely certain that sailing is the safest and most accessible way to visit these very inaccessible places we go on our expeditions. However, all sailing in general, and particularly sailing in arctic regions and over open seas, involves a certain risk that you must be aware of when joining.

Level of the expedition

Some have their first sailing experience ever, joining us on an ocean crossing! Please note that our expeditions require a certain physical health and mobility level.

The boats we sail on our expeditions are larger, robust and sit well in the sea. On our sailing expeditions we both sail in more coastal, sheltered waters, and cross open stretches of waters. On some of our expeditions even ocean crossings over several days at sea. An incredibly wonderful and special experience!

Weather dictates our journey, and we adapt each expedition’s program accordingly, often allowing extra days for flexibility in assessing and choosing optimal weather windows. Despite planning and preparations, we can’t control the weather, so be prepared for various conditions. The proximity to nature’s forces on such expeditions is a rare and rewarding experience.

On expeditions, we sail with many participants, forming watch teams for a solid on board team spirit. Rotating watches around the clock ensures active involvement without overwhelming fatigue.

As everyone participates actively during the week or more on board, seasickness is rare. If you anticipate seasickness, consider bringing remedies, such as seasickness plasters, often effective for longer expeditions. Consult your doctor for advice on seasickness and any necessary medications. Feel free to ask us about seasickness as well.

Til og fra Bergen er Bergensbanen over fjellet til Oslo et selvsagt valg om du reiser den veien, med et utvalg avganger daglig inklusive nattog. Det går en rekke busser og hurtigbåter nord og sørover kysten, om du skal den veien. Og Flesland har flygninger både innenlands og utlenlands.

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