Newly trending as the “Star Wars” or “Force Awakens” site that has become a must-visit place in both Domestic and International Irish Tourism itineraries – The Skellig Michael Island, is a UNESCO a World Heritage Site, where you find well preserved remains of an ancient monastic settlement dating back to the 6th Century. Together with the Little Skellig, it forms the Skellig Islands, that is also a Statutory Nature Reserve and a Specially Protected Area under the Irish Government, for being home to diverse seabirds and marine wildlife, native to Ireland, including the world’s second largest Gannet colony.
Landing Tours are allowed on the Skellig Michael Islands, whereas the Little Skellig is closed for public. Moreover, the landing tours are allowed at a specific time of the year. And thanks to its newfound worldwide popularity for being the filming location for a major scene in the Hollywood movie, the already busy bookings have doubled in the last couple of years.
If you are planning to have a landing trip to see the Skellig Michael Island, then this guide will give you all the essential information you are going to need, right from booking and until the completion of your expedition.
The Skellig Islands – A Journey Of A Lifetime
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Skellig Islands are a pair of small islands that consist of steep crags. They are located in the Atlantic Ocean, within the Iveragh Peninsula, off the coast of County Kerry in South West region of Ireland. The site can be spotted with a panoramic view from the circular tourist route, Ring of Kerry, as well as the branched off route, Skellig Ring, over a serene drive, walk or bicycling.
Among the two islands, the Skellig Michael is the bigger crag, where it is allowed to have landing tours by the Irish Government, whereas, the smaller, Little Skellig is closed for the public to land on. However, the boat tours can give you an up and close view of both the islands, especially show you it’s exotic native bird life, notably, the Gannets and Puffins colonies, without disturbing the natural tranquility. The Skellig Islands being home to the second largest colony of Northern Gannets in the world, the site is a magnificent vision of a flourishing biodiversity.
At the Skellig Michaels island, a group of monks had made their own settlement in the 6th Century. They had built a small complex perched on one of the landing areas on the otherwise steep mountain. The most notable structure belonging to the monastic settlement are the beehive huts, 6 in total; along with over 600 stairs, that are strategically carved out of rocks to climb up to the complex, more or less 180 meters above the sea level. Other than the huts and the stairs, there are great many historical structures such as the Oratory, the graveyard, a rock carved Cross, and a medieval Church, altogether illustrating the ancient spartan living of what is now identified as the first generation of Irish Christianity.
The largely inhospitable, and thus extreme remoteness of the Skellig Islands has benefited in preserving both the natural biodiversity and historical sites, excellently.
Skellig Michael Landing Tour – The Journey Starts With Getting A Booking Confirmed
Due to weather conditions, Skellig Michael landing tours take place only in the summers. The touring season start from April and goes on till November. Visitors don’t’ need any particular permits in order to have a landing tour of the Skellig Michael, but there is a restriction on the number of visitors that can visit at a time.
The only way to have this landing tour is by booking a boat that is licensed by the Government. The boat operators are available at the nearby villages:
- Waterville / Coirean
- Valentia Island
Every new season, the Irish Government renews the licence of boat operators, and it is only after getting the respective renewal that a boat operator can open the bookings for the season. These booking lines typically start opening up from the end of January and may take up to the middle of March, for some operators.
Thankfully, you don’t’ have to investigate between a licensed and unlicensed boat operator, because, they can’t operate at all without permission, so all of them are licensed. There is a limited number of operators available though, and thus, limited seats available for the tour. Moreover, recently it has become even more packed up than what it used to be before the release of the movie. So book several weeks or months in advance.
- Best Time To Book A Landing Tour – Plan ahead, and keep track of the boat operators to open up their booking lines. Consult with them to find the perfect date coinciding with your vacation plans. It’s almost impossible or a miracle to get a booking on short notice. Boat operators usually announce the date of their opening the booking lines on their websites at least a week or more ahead. Therefore, it’s easier to keep track. You can book online for best convenience.
Key Points Of The Skellig Tours
- The Starting Point – the boat tour starts from the port of the nearest villages. The journey begins typically in the morning between, which is not later than 9:30 am. It takes typically 45mns to 1 hour from the port, to reach to the Skellig Michael. And the landing tours can last anywhere between 2.5 hours to 6 hours, based on the package you have bought from the boat operator.
- Inclusions Of The Landing Tour – you will get a boat ride to the Island, the boat will wait at the foothill, while you take the landing tour. And will bring you back safely to the port. The boat operators will provide you safety jackets and basic first aid if necessary. Usually, the refreshments are not included, but some operators can arrange for it, on a tariff.
- What If You Are Afraid Of Heights – if you are afraid of heights it is strongly recommended that you don’t land on the island, and take boat tours only. However, there’s been instances with family trips, when some of the family members wish to climb the mountain, while some wish not to. Since, there are no active boat operators that offer both a landing and eco tour in a single trip, people in a family or a group could either go separately, or they can do one thing, is hangout at the foothill. You can find a spot to sit down and enjoy the scenic view over a cuppa from the flask, while your family or friends enjoy the climbing up.
- Safety – there are not many protection railings in the island, for the preservation of the site. There are no arrangements for child safety either, though children are not restricted to visit. The entire landing experience is on foot. So ensure having a stick and safety ropes to stick with children. Watch your step, and wear outdoor shoes.
- Refreshments – There are no refreshment areas at the islands. However, you can carry some snacks and light food with you, and enjoy a pleasant picnic with your loved ones. There is a landing area in the island, that is fit for a snack break.
- Restroom – There are no restrooms in the area. It’s recommended that you freshen up before landing on the island.
Completing The Journey
Stick together with your loved ones as you near the end of your journey. If you are traveling alone, have measure of time when you will have to reach to the bottom for the boat to depart. Usually, the boat operators do go through a roll call of the passengers to ensure that no one is left behind.