Shipboard mornings have a special quality that are hard to match unless one lives along a shore. This morning, we awoke in Loch Nevis, the heavenly loch. Calm, clear seas reflected verdant hillsides and the pristine white abodes of the residents of isolated Inverie. Although we sat in shadow, the sun poured its light down the U-shaped valley, alighting on the opposite shore. Gulls foraged in the intertidal zone where golden kelp was exposed to the elements, awaiting the return of the salty sea. Above, the sky was an intricate pattern of pastels, blue and grey. As the sun inched toward us, two brave souls from Tennessee and an encouraging expedition leader braved the frigid waters where the pulsating bells of jellyfish drifted, their food-accumulating tentacles spread like the rays of the sun.
The day invited explorations. Intrepid long walkers dashed up the hillsides of the Knoydart Peninsula and waded through bracken patches while a leisurely crew meandered through town and woodland, bouncing from one fascinating patch of vegetation to the next. Robins, the real ones, flitted among the branches while blackbirds, looking like melanistic versions of the North American robin, foraged along the pathways. Rain showers were our alarm clock, signaling that it was time to go.
A gauzy veil muted the shorelines as we sailed from the protected loch, once again dancing amongst flocks of Manx shearwaters and a glowing white gannet or two. The Sgurr of Eigg appeared as a silhouette as we passed, and a Stevenson lighthouse on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula announced the westernmost point of the land of the United Kingdom.
Immediately after lunch, we reviewed how to utilize the amazing features of our smartphone cameras in preparation for our arrival at Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. Colourful buildings line the waterfront and invited photographers to challenge themselves, initially under cloudy skies and then with a backdrop of blue. Avoiding civilization for a moment or two, hikers wound their way along a wooded trail to a picturesque lighthouse, arriving back in town just in time to join the rest at the Tobermory Distillery. The term single malt has taken on more meaning after walking our way through the stages in the production of the local whisky (note the “e” is absent when referring to the beverage produced in Scotland).
Tired though we were, the day was not yet complete. A special guest from the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust enthusiastically shared the organization’s mission and educated us on the marine mammal species that we have encountered.