The Independence of the Seas had left Cobh, Ireland the evening before, and had been sailing North through the Irish Sea ever since. It was before dinner, around 7:15, when we stepped out on deck to observe the scenery. The ship was cutting through the still ocean water, surrounded by a landscape out of 10,000 B.C. Stark islands rose from the sea on all sides, reflected on the glassy sea. The sun was a long way from setting (that’s summer in Northern Europe for you) but had cast a mellow evening glow on the surrounding seascape.
It was hard to figure out exactly where we were- the ship’s plotted route on the stateroom map channel was only helpful to a certain degree. But as I stood at the bow (no, it wasn’t like “Titanic,” though the lighting would’ve been perfect) I heard one of the British passengers (there were a majority of them) say, “I’m pretty sure these are the Hebrides.” So I went with that. Two years later, I’ve determined that that statement was probably correct- the Hebrides are a group of islands just off the Northwest coast of Scotland. The Inner Hebrides are closer to the mainland, and the Outer Hebrides are on the western side of The Minch, a small strait. They’re believed to contain some of the oldest layers of rock in Europe, dating back to the Precambrian period.
The islands are not so much imposing as they are mysterious; gently sloping hills of naked rock drop abruptly into sea cliffs, and some island peaks even look like volcanoes. For some reason, the rugged landscape reminded me of Middle Earth and Hogwarts combined. So yeah, it wasn’t bad to look at.