Skellig Michael (Sceilig Mhichíl in Irish)
View on western side of Skellig Michael looking at old Skellig Lighthouse and the new lighthouse which is still in operation
Skellig Michael and Small Skellig are South West Kerry’s most iconic natural structures
The magnificent Skellig Islands lie 8 miles (12 km) off the coast of Portmagee in South West Kerry. Rising majestically from the sea, Skellig Michael towers 714ft (218 metres) above sea level.
There are 618 steps leading up to the monastery ascending over 600 ft. (180 metres) and more linking three landing places on the west, south and east of the island. Considerable effort and preparation went into the construction of these steps. At first the stone was quarried, by hand, at a location known as ‘Christ’s Saddle’, at the pinnacle of the island. The stone was then transported to its building point, where each step was constructed measuring a rise of 7 inches high, and is a monument in its own right. The settlement, consists of six beehive huts, two boat shaped oratories, a monks’graveyard, a garden, with retaining walls. A technique known as corbelling was used to construct the buildings in which rising layers of stone were laid, each projecting slightly inwards, forming the beehive shape on completion of the structure.
The Skellig Islands are beautiful and unique islands that many have compared them to nowhere.
As a result of this prestigious honour, thousands of visitors descend on the Skelligs every year.
George Bernard Shaw, following a visit in 1910, described Skellig Michael this way:
“I hardly feel real again … I tell you, the thing does not belong to any world that you and I have lived and worked in: It is part of our dream world.”
Little Skellig (Sceilig Bheag in Irish)
The smaller of the two islands is Little Skellig . It is closed to the public, and as well as being Ireland’s largest northern gannet ) colony with almost 30,000 pairs. It is also one of the world’s largest, and is of international importance. The island is 134 m tall and is approximately 1.5 km east-north-east of Skellig Michael.
Skellig Michael as a film location
Several films have used the island as a filming location. Most famously is when the island was used as a filming location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). This is not the first time however that Skellig Michael has been used as a film location. It was used to shoot the final scene in Heart of Glass by Werner Herzog.
More in depth information about The Skellig Islands, its history, birdlife and use as a film location can be found at www.skelligmichaeltours.ie/contact-us/