Tag Archives: scotland

The Scottish Isles in 2018


Will this year take you to the Scottish Isles? From the island of Skye, to the turquoise waters of Harris, Scotland’s islands offers many natural and historic wonders for the discerning traveler.

Scotland has over 790 offshore islands, most of which are found in the Shetlands, Orkneys, Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides. For more on Scotland’s most beautiful islands, hop over to the Telegraph.


Top Isles of Scotland

Jura, isle of  mountains and blanket bog

Islay, isle of whisky distilleries

Skye, isle of iconic landscapes

Iona, isle of Iona Abbey, center of Gaelic monasticism for three centuries

Arran, Scotland in Miniature

Orkneys, isles of archaeological sites (click for our blog post on the Orkneys)

Shetlands, remote isles of ponies (click for our blog post on the Shetlands)

Lewis, isle of a picturesque stone circle



Map courtesy of zigzagonearth.com

Where will this year take you?

Ask your agent at Willamette Intl Travel about a unique trip to Scotland from Portland, Oregon. Phone 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Europe

NEW: Celebrated Hotels for Celebrated Travelers

celebrated hotels for celebrated

The British Isles are ever-popular among our clients, so it’s no wonder that we’ve chosen to work with some of the finest tour guides and accommodations to curated memorable trips.

Celebrated Experiences offers tailor-made itineraries to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales — and yes, also Italy.

CE takes pride in hand-picking the most delightful hotels, castles, and country B&Bs through the UK, Ireland and Italy. Their selective staff has over 250 annually inspected hotels. Just earlier this month, CE announced some new properties at their fingertips.

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 9.18.35 PM

EDINBURGH: The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square

The Principal always makes a splash in vibrant New Town, boasting a multimillion-pound restoration and refurbishment. Don’t miss the immensely fashionable Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, BABA. When we book the Principal for our guests, we make sure they enjoy a bottle of house champagne and canapés – because what is style without champagne? You can also try your hand at the free Gin or Whiskey Master Class!

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 9.19.51 PM

COTSWOLDS: The Lygon Arms

With new owners and management, the Lygon Arms is all about timeless service, blending old traditions with new renovations. Originally built as a coaching inn, the hotel is over 500 years, located in that quintessential Cotswolds village, Broadway. Booking with Celebrated Experiences, your agent at WIT can guarantee an upgrade at time of booking – and a spot in the exclusive Cocktail Making Class with the Bar Team!

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 9.22.57 PM.png

ROMA: Palazzo Scanderbeg

This 15th-century palazzo is just steps from the Trevi Fountain. Originally built by an Albanian noble, this old palace boasts 11 rooms and suites, most of which are 1- and 2-bedroom apartments with fully equipped kitchenettes, 24/7 concierge, and all the amenities of a full hotel. We can promise a Welcome bottle of sparkling wine when we book a Celebrated Experience at this exceptional hotel – because why shouldn’t we celebrate all our clients?

For More Celebrated Experiences, call us at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

Leave a comment

Filed under England, Europe, Ireland, Italy, UK

Client Report: The Shetland Islands

Our clients Paul and Sue K. went to Shetland this summer and wrote this lovely report for us to share with our readers. 

There are many reasons for one to include a visit to the Shetland Islands on a trip to Britain. For us, however, there were just three: rocks, brochs, and rookeries. The geological history of the islands is a jigsaw puzzle; the range of prehistoric and more recent settlements is extraordinary; and the opportunities for “twitchers” (British parlance for birdwatchers) are as varied as are the species of birds and animals on the islands. And so, we were off to the Shetlands in mid-June.

By air, one arrives at Sumburgh on the southern tip of the main island (one of more than a hundred that make up the archipelago). The plane is small, the runway is appropriately short, and one is not far from anywhere in this sparsely populated land. The northern end of the island, for example, is only about fifty miles away, though there are inter-island ferries that can take visitors to islands with such picturesque names as Yell and Unst. At the north end of the latter is Muckle Flugga, from which there is only the ocean between one and the north pole. And nowhere in Shetland is more than three or four miles from the sea.

Driving from the airport, be careful: the road crosses the in— and out—bound runway, and you may need to stop to let a flight go by. But even before that there is the opportunity to visit the prehistoric site of Jarlshof, where there was human habitation from about 2500 BCE until the mid-1600s of the modern era. This remarkable Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age, Pictish, Norse and medieval, and finally Scottish settlement contains round stone houses, underground souterrains, double-walled broches built for defense and housing, wheel-shaped houses, Viking long-houses, medieval farms, and a ruined manor house from the seventeenth century. It repays a leisurely visit, and is enhanced by being in the care of Historic Scotland, whose staff will ensure you know what you’re seeing.

Half-an-hour drive north from Sumburgh and Jarlshof brings you to Lerwick, Shetland’s main town. Good hotels, satisfying restaurants, fine museums, and shopping along Commercial Street (great wool sweaters!) encourage a stay here during a visit to Shetland. This port city is picturesque, with old merchant houses, the private wharves (“Lodberries”) that today still serve transport and commerce, and the ruined remains of yet another broch. The Shetland Museum and Archives at the north end of Lerwick is a good place to get a sense of the island. This is particularly true of their complicated geological history. Tectonic plate dynamics in the geologic past have resulted in the islands “floating” from close proximity to what became North America to their current place about 60 miles north of the Orkney Islands. In this process Lewisian gneiss has been combined with granite, limestone, Moine and Dalradian rocks, serpentinite and conglomerate stone, and other lithic varieties. The museum display prepares one for hikes and walks and “rocky” discoveries when outside weather allows. Hay’s Dock Restaurant in the museum has a good view over the harbor as well as good food and drink.

For our visit, two other sites beyond those mentioned so far were important destinations. One was the town of Scalloway, on the west coast of the main island. This is the historic capital of Shetland and is dominated by the ruins of the castle built in the early seventeenth century by Earl Patrick Stewart (his father was first given the title of Earl of Orkney by Mary, Queen of Scots). It’s a good example of a Scottish fortification built in the shape of an “L” and one can wander in its interior quite undisturbed by Earl Patrick’s infamous reputation: he was known as “Black Pattie” for his cruelty to his tenants and retainers and was beheaded in 1615 for treason by his half uncle, King James VI (who was also King James I of England). The nearby small museum in Scalloway is dominated by an excellent display on “The Shetland Bus.” This clandestine maritime activity of Shetland sailors during the Second World War took undercover agents, weapons, munitions, and other supplies to the anti-Nazi Norwegian resistance and brought back refugees from occupied Norway. Several hundred dangerous trips (undertaken usually at night and in stormy weather) are memorialized here. The day we were there, the museum was full of Norwegian tourists who still feel an affinity to the historic ties between Norse and Shetland civilization. The Scalloway Hotel on the harbor has good food—two rosettes from the British AA (Auto Association).

Our other intended destination in Shetland was Mousa Broch. This prehistoric site—probably constructed in the late first millennium BCE—lies on a small island off the east coast at Sandwick—a fifteen minute boat trip in good weather. Although now only about forty-five feet high, it was originally much higher. It is a cone-shaped double-walled structure, with walls tapering from eighteen to seven feet in thickness. It served as a defensible habitation site, entered through only one gateway, and encloses a space some fifty feet in diameter. Inside were originally lean-to structures in the courtyard, areas under cultivation, and work sites for a number of crafts, including smithing. Between the walls were both places of storage and residence. Internal staircases still enable visitors to climb to the top of the broch. Originally there were over 500 such brochs constructed by early peoples in Scotland; few survive today and this one is the largest. No wonder we wanted to visit it. But alas! The fickle Shetland weather prevented boats from making their scheduled trip to the island all of the days we were there: heavy rain, winds of 20-25 knots, and waves that often reached 15 to 20 feet ensured that we were left on the main island to do all the other things Shetland has to offer. The only visitors to Mousa Broch at this point were the thousands of Stormy Petrel birds that nightly nest in the broch. (Those in Portland, Oregon, who are familiar with the swifts that overnight in the chimney at the Chapman School, will know this type of phenomenon.) One of the cruises to Mousa during the summer time is timed at midnight to see the phenomenon of the petrels diving to their night rest.

Mention of the petrels brings up the third reason we wished to visit Shetland. The islands are a veritable paradise of bird nestings which draws watchers from throughout the world. Predator great skuas will dive bomb anything in their vision, phalaropes, gannets, puffins, terns, and auks seem to be everywhere on the -skerries and sea stacks that characterize the shores of the islands, and such little-known types as guillemots, fulmars, and kittiwakes are common. One won’t be disappointed if birds are the draw to the islands. A rich experience indeed. And, in case, lest one think that all we saw were birds—of course, there are animals, in particular a famous horse breed: Shetland ponies were all over the place!

When to go to the Shetlands? We went at the time of the summer solstice—nineteen hours of daylight, with the remainder of time characterized by the “simmer dim”—the twilight that ensures there is no night. And in July the Shetland Nature Festival is held with the height of the seabird nesting season. But things go on all year long. Come in January for the fire festival known as Up-Helly-Aa, a torch-lit procession through Lerwick marking the end of winter nights www.uphellyaa.org). Or in the spring, after winter storms have passed, to get the best of weather for outdoor activities. The fall is also viable: sea paddling in kayaks around the rugged coastlines of the islands. At 60° North Latitude, this is about as easy a venture to sub-arctic regions as there is. In case one is interested, there are some good ways to learn about the Shetlands. One is a British police procedural entitled “Shetland,” based on some noir novels by Ann Cleves (make sure you turn the sub-titles on; the Shetland Scottish version of English can be impenetrable!). Then there are good guidebooks, among them The Scotland Visitor Guide (GPP Press: Guilford, CT) and The Lonely Planet’s Scotland’s Highlands & Islands. Fuller treatments can be found in two books by Anna Ritchie, Viking Scotland (London: B.T. Batsford, 1993) and Shetland (Edinburgh: Stationery Office, 1997); and in the overview by Jill Slee Blackadder, Shetland (Grantown-on-Spey: Colin Baxter Photography, 2003).   We found the most useful website to be:  Visit Shetland

Our agents at WIT have traveled all over the world and for decades assisted and organized trips for clients. Call us for more info 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Europe, News

Reading List: Orkneys & Shetlands

Last week we showcased two lesser known travel destinations — the Shetlands and the Orkneys. Have our articles inspired you yet? 😉

Why not pick up a book to learn more? Here’s our reading list into the fascinating history and heritage of the Scottish isles:


The Boy with the Bronze Axe. Kathleen Fidler. A tale of friendship in Skara Brae set in neolithic times.

Orkneyinga Saga. Anonymous. Historic narrative from the 9th to the 13th centuries.Screen shot 2015-09-16 at 4.24.59 PM

The Mermaid Bride and other Orkney Folk Tales. Tom Muir. Classic tales from the isles.

The Stronghold. Mollie Hunter. A novel about a young boy who defends his town from Roman slave traders.

Visiting the Past, a Guide to finding and understanding Britain’s Archaeology. Gillian Hovell. A great resource from each era of Britain’s history.

Did You Know? The Orkneys have birthed famous explorers such as Dr. John Rae (who surveyed the Northwest passage) and William Balfour Baikie (who navigated the River Niger in Africa), as well as the notorious pirate John Gow.


Screen shot 2015-09-16 at 4.24.50 PMThe Further North You Go. Tom Morton. A hilarious, if somewhat dark, portrayal of one Shetlander’s life.

Bobby Tulloch’s Shetland. Bobby Tulloch. A personal and naturalist phonebook on the Shetlands.

The Ancient Monuments of Shetland. Noel Fojut. Covers the neolithic buildings to the Iron Age brochs and 18th century military defenses.

“Da giean haand is aye gotten.” — Shetland Proverb, meaning that a kindly person is oft treated well.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Islands Series: the Orkneys

Tired of this heat and seeking a cooler harbor?

This week we’re taking a look at islands where you can stay cool in the summer, big and small. Islands where you can still enjoy a cup of piping hot coffee or tea without sweating away in your windbreaker!

So you’ve been to England, you’ve seen Bath and Stonehenge in all their glory–you’ve even did a train up to Edinburgh and checked out the incredible Sterling Castle. What’s next to explore in the UK? How about a week in the slightly stranger, much more tranquil, Orkney archipelago?

Screen shot 2015-09-09 at 2.20.23 PM

The Orkney Islands include about 70 islands just off the coast of Scotland. With its sloping valleys and stark green moors, the islands–much like its Faroe neighbors to the north–give off a wild and somewhat mythical atmosphere that tends to draw the more curious of travelers.

The locals tend to be hospitable and thoughtful, with the pragmatism that comes from centuries of survival in a challenging environment. Officially, the native tongue is English–but the pronunciation tends to differ between districts, and much of the lexicon has close roots to Old Norse.

Screen shot 2015-09-09 at 2.08.40 PM

There’s loads to see and do on the islands, most notably for avid history fans. Visitors interested in Orkney’s vivid Viking heritage will surely find Maeshowe intriguing. This tomb contains the best collection of Viking runes outside of Scandinavia, and is located 14 km west of Kirkwall. Travelers can also investigate the prehistoric ruins of Skara Brae, arguably the best-preserved ancient village in Western Europe and inhabited well before the Pyramids were built–as well as the stone circles at Brodgar and Stenness. Other (and relatively more recent) historical attractions include the ruins of St. Magnus Cathedral, an elegant medieval church on the islet of Streymoy, and the Italian Chapel, built by prisoners of war in WWII.

Try to visit in the summer, when the weather is tolerable, or during one of the spirited town festivals. The Orkney Folk Festival is a lively event in May of folk music, dance, song–the towns erupt with ceilidhs and fiddle concerts. Or stop by during midsummer for the St. Magnus Festival, a distinguished celebration of the arts. But, if you happen to come in the winter or cusp season, you may get a glimpse of the Northern Lights!

Screen shot 2015-09-09 at 2.10.51 PM

Locals love giving guided walks and tours of their famous sites. Join a guide around the WWII Naval Base near the bay of Scapa Flow. Whisky enthusiasts will delight in Highland Park, the world’s most northerly Scotch distillery. Outdoorsy types will find a home in the Orkneys, where there are ample valleys and cliffs to hike or cycle, and the multiple bays make for great sailing, fishing, kayaking and windsurfing. Visitors will also find 9- and 18-hole golf courses–where windy turf can prove quite the challenge.

Travelers can even bring their kids without worry–there are lots of activities for the whole family to enjoy–from secluded beaches, to diverse marine wildlife, to farm museums and swimming pools.

Screen shot 2015-09-09 at 2.08.53 PM

Did You Know? Some great opportunities for scuba divers abound in the Orkneys. You can dive down to the remains of the German WWI Imperial Fleet, scuttled in Scapa Flow.

How to Get There: The best way to access Orkney is by plane, via Flybe from major airports in Scotland, or by ferry.

Our Agents would love to help you beat the heat! Call us up to chat more about next year’s options to the Orkneys, Shetlands, Faroe Islands or other misty, spellbinding destinations.

Screen shot 2015-09-09 at 2.10.38 PM

Leave a comment

Filed under Europe, Family Travel, Luxury Travel, Travel by Ship, UK

Acclaimed Golf Voyages with Azamara Club Cruises


Does your perfect day involve playing a round of golf at the most prestigious courses in the world?

If it does, you’ve come to the right place! Azamara Club Cruises and Perry Golf have teamed up to bring you worldwide golf voyages to some of the most acclaimed courses on the planet.

Call your agent at Wittravel for more details: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com Let us plan your perfect holiday from start to finish, so you can enjoy a vacation without any hassles!

The golf packages on Azamara’s 2016 & 2017 British Open voyages feature venues such as Royal Birkdale, Gleneagles, and Turnberry, and also include attendance at the final round of the British Open Championship to watch the world’s finest players compete for the coveted Claret Jug.

Their voyages to Australia & New Zealand, the Mediterranean, and the Baltic Sea offer golf packages as well, with an outstanding collection of courses including Barnbougle Dunes, Cape Kidnappers, Bro Hof Slott, Continental Europe’s #1 Valderrama, and many others.

AND if you book selected voyages by June 30, 2015, you’ll receive 50% OFF the cruise fare of the second guest!

Hurry! PerryGolf packages sell out quickly.

Sample 11-Night Golf Cruise: Screen shot 2015-06-24 at 2.30.37 PM

Screen shot 2015-06-24 at 2.35.22 PM

Leave a comment

Filed under Australia, Azamara, Cruises, Europe, New Zealand, Oceania, Travel by Ship, Travel by Sport