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Skellig Michael Tours

Summer is almost here! We think of blooming flowers, unusual sightings of rare birds, blossoming gardens and pleasant weather, Ireland has much more than just this. Yes, we are speaking of the magnificent Skellig Michael, an island which has earned its reputation as a UNESCO site and made its way into the list of top World Heritage sites in 1996. Since then, it hasn’t stopped wowing tourists and the locals with its natural beauty, rich history, and biodiversity. We highly suggest an eco-tour. Where you boat around the island to view its many wonders. Landing tours are fantastic but we need to be more conscious of our ecological footprint and protect the Skellig Islands for years to come.

Accessible under the guidance of tour agents, adventure-seeking souls or enthusiastic tourists can explore the entire Skellig Michael Island within 2.5 hours. A filming location for many blockbuster hits like the Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, it has inevitably attracted visitors in recent years. If you haven’t planned a trip to far off locations by now, take some time out of your busy schedule to explore this mesmerizing location offering panoramic views of the scintillating waterbody and vistas of South Peak from the ever-popular intervening valley of Christ’s Saddle.

kellig Michael Tour

Past Glories

Home to monks till the 13th century, this island is a marvelous site adorned with beehive huts, once populated by 12 monks and an abbot. Today, it might be an isolated location but is immensely rich in culture. As a matter of fact, it continues to remain a pilgrimage site for decades, all through to this modern era.

Winged residents

A habitat to uncommon seabirds, most of which hold national significance, the entire landscape of Skellig Michael Tours serves as a nesting ground for them. From Razorbills, Puffins, Storm Petrels, Guillemots, Manx shearwaters to Gulls and Fulmers, tourists shall sight them all during their visit. A major reason for their breeding ground is the isolation of the island from the mainland.

Wailing Woman

Located just below the Christ’s Saddle Ridge is the magnificent stone outcrop, resembling a lonely figurine. Named the Wailing Woman, it’s a gigantic monolith, standing upright to impress visitors with its mysterious appearance.

Rocky Pathways

If you are fascinated by the lifestyle of monks then take a walk up the ancient steps, which were mostly traversed by the monks in the past, to fend for themselves. A total of 600 steps lead visitors to this island to reach the huts. Though people with mobility issues often avoid them, the ones who actually undertake this pathway, manage to gain a unique slice of the glorious past and an unrivaled experience.

skelligmichaeltour

Christ’s Saddle

A proper platform for a tourist to enjoy the breathtaking view of Southern Peak, this intervening valley is located 422 feet above the ground level. It also connects the southern steps to the monastery, making way for the enthusiastic visitors to savor every moment.

Postscript:

It’s quite evident from the facts that Skellig Michael is perfectly accessible but for the sake of safety, it’s always recommended to involve an agent like the Skellig Michael Tours to guide you all along.

Skellig Michael Tours

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.

Skellig Michael Landing Tour

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:

  • Portmagee
  • Ballinskelligs
  • Waterville / Coirean
  • Valentia Island
  • Caherdaniel

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.

Skellig Michael Landing Tour

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.

Skellig Island Tour

If you are planning a trip to the Skellig Islands in County Kerry, then you should know well in advance that this is one of those tours that are best enjoyed with pre-booked reservation, otherwise, you will be left at the mercy of chance to get a boat trip. And since boat trips are the only way to get to the islands, you better not to take any chances.

So unless you are okay with limiting your Skellig Island Tour by staying back at Kerry and enjoying the town attractions here is detailed know how of everything related to the Skellig Island Tour bookings.

The Booking Season

Since the tours take place during the summer months, primarily from April to October, the booking game starts from the end of January or February. While in the booking season for boat tours are pretty timed, the opening of bookings for landing tours are dependent on the decisions of the Office of Public Works. Until the officials determine and announce the dates granting access to Skellig Michael landing tours, it is considered restricted. Usually, the land tours are allowed from mid-May to September, give or take.

skellig michael landing tour

Getting a booking on a Boat or Eco Tour on short notice can be a problem, so it’s better to start your booking process from at least a month ahead. You can opt for a landing tour, a boat tour or “eco-tour” that circles around both the Skellig Islands showing you breathtaking views from a comfortable seat. While boat tours are still easier to get, it’s the much-anticipated landing tours that come with limited passes.

Booking In Advance

Ever since Skellig Michael appeared as a filming location in the Star Wars movies, The Force Awakens and the Last Jedi, the already busy booking season crowded by the locals, is added with high demand from international tourists as well.

The best way to book your reservations is to go online. The reservations are usually taken on a prepaid basis. The boat tours are wheelchair accessible, so if you are touring with someone that would be requiring wheelchair accessibility, do inform your boat operator in advance.

The boats usually leave early morning, and unless you have an afternoon reservation, you might need a night stay at Kerry to make it on time to the port.

Good To Know

Booking for a large group can increase your savings, as most boat operators give you a discounted rate for group bookings.

The tours are weather dependent. Even reserved tours can sometimes get canceled or postponed due to weather conditions. If you wish to take a refund of your booking and don’t want to go any other day, you can do that.

Skellig Island

Tour Inclusions

Seats on the boat that will take you to the Skellig Islands. The boat will circle close to the Skellig Michael and Little Skellig crags, showing you· exquisite historical and natural sites and an up-close view. You can take pictures from your boat window or deck and enjoy the scenery with the other passengers.

Rain Gear will be available if you wish to stay outdoors at the deck during a drizzle.

Refreshments on-board can be arranged for specially booked tours that will be priced separately Wheelchair facility.

Tour Costs

Tour costs start from a standard, €40, that can have discounted rates for children and students.

Skellig Michael Island

The remote islands of The Great Skellig Michael and neighboring Little Skellig together form the Skellig Islands, located off the coast of County Kerry, South West Ireland. The Islands consist of steep crags with very little vegetation which were naturally formed in the prehistoric era.

The Great Skellig Michael island, which is greater in size than Little Skellig, is the location of a 6th-century monastic settlement, that is one of the earliest forms of a Gaelic Church. It has been cited as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since, 1996. The islands are also the natural habitat of the 2nd largest colony of Northern Gannets along with a rich diversity of other seabird species, who primarily inhabit the Little Skellig, which is closed for the public; and is cited as a Special Protection Area of Ireland since 1986.

Being an extremely remote island, and following a long period of restriction to visitors, the historical sites and the natural reserves both have remained in excellent condition till to this day. Recently landing tours are allowed to the Skellig Michael, while the Little Skellig is closed for the public, only boat tours around the island are allowed.

The Skellig Islands are one of the most important sites in Ireland, for it’s historical as well as environmental reserves. However, the islands gained avid popularity as an Irish Tourist Destination on an international scale, due to it’s appearance in the 7th installment of the Star Wars Movie Franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The final scene of the movie was shot on Skellig Michael island.

If you are planning to visit the site for the first time, this complete guide will be the best resource to have the most pleasurable journey.

Skellig Michael Tour Guide

Skellig Islands The Site & The Trip

Often referred to as The Great Skellig Island, it can be instantly discerned by its twin peaks and greater size, from that of the smaller island, neighboring crag at approx. 2.5 kilometers distance, which is called the Little Skellig.

Identifying Skellig Michael Island often causes confusion among first-time visitors and/or foreigners. So it’s good to know that the big mountain with twin peaks are the actual Skellig Michael, while the Little Skellig, about 2.5 km away from the Skellig Michael does not share the same name and is closed to the public prohibiting any sort of land tours.

Skellig Michael is located on the Iveragh Peninsula, approximately 12 kilometers west of Bolus Head. Panoramic views of the islands can be enjoyed from a scenic drive through the Ring of Kerry, a coastal road across the shoreline of County Kerry, that is a popular tourist trail but to get the real view it is best to take our intimate boat tour/landing tour. The Little Skellig is even more uninhabitable and cragged than the other. There are other small islands within the proximity, including the Lemon Rock and The Puffin Island, being home to a flourishing population of Irish Puffins. The Skelligs, together with the Blasket Islands form the most westerly part of County Kerry, as well as the Republic of Ireland and Europe. There are two peaks of the Skellig Michael and a depression valley formed between them is called the Christ’s Saddle.

Things To See & Do

The Touring season is primarily during the summer, it starts from May and goes on until October. If you are planning to visit the island it is adviced that you plan your trip ahead and book your place on our boat as early as possible.

Skellig Michael is located

  1. The Monastery

The Skellig Michael is home to the ancient Monastery, that is built on a terraced shelf on the north-east summit, some 185 meters above sea level, while the hermitage is built on the north-east summit, some 218 meters above sea level. There are two oratories, and the six Cochan style domed beehive cells which are in brilliant condition to this day, with only one cell being damaged. The oratories and cells are splendid examples of the genius dry-built corbel construction that was orchestrated by the Monks. A small pathway from the landing way leads you to the 600 steep stairs, that go all the way up to the summit, where the monastery is. The stairs are in good condition, however, they are extremely steep without any handrails or safety ropes, one has to literally climb them up, and it’s not that easy to follow up unless physically prepared to do so. There is an easier walk from Christ’s Saddle to access the Monastery, on the North Eastern Peak. Other than the beehive huts and oratory, there is also a cemetery, a Church, which is one of the earliest Gaelic Churches and can be cited as one of the earliest locations of Irish Christianity.

  1. Nature Tour

If you are a nature lover, this island is a paradise. A boat trip around the islands is the best ways to spot tranquil wildlife and bird life. You can spot a wide diversity of seabird species, and sea animals and the beautiful natural sights right from the comforts of your boat.

  1. The Skellig Experience Visitor Center, Valentia 

The distinct building of the Skellig Experience Visitor Center is located at the bridge, at the end of the island. You can readily identify the center from it’s turf covered barrel roofs. It exhibits, artifacts belonging to the times and lifestyle of the monks residing in the Skellig Michael. This is a great addition to your experience on the island. You even get a 15min film on the island showed at a project inside the center. There is also a cafe that looks over the scenic view of the ocean.

How To Go There

Take our boat trip from the nearby villages, Portmagee. The largest number of boats sail from Portmagee.

Food And Refreshments

There are no refreshment areas on the island. It’s highly recommended to have a heavy breakfast before you set sail. You can eat at the many pubs and restaurants crowded in the village fringe.  You can carry some food and water in your backpack as well. However, it’s better to eat away from the site of the monastery as you will attract the attention of the seabirds. There is a shaded area at the base of the steps, close to the Heliport, which is an excellent spot to have a peaceful picnic. Make sure you don’t litter.

Food And Refreshments

How Long Does The Trip Take

It takes around 40-60 mins to get to the island from the seaport. The tours come for a minimum of 2 hours, but you can pre-book tours that last for more as per your interest.

Things To Take With You

  •  Mountaineering appropriate shoes
  •  A jacket
  •  Water
  •  Lip Balm

Good To Know

  • The Skellig Michael Island And The Uncharted Little Skellig Are Two Different Islands. Landing tours are only permitted on the Skellig Michael island, while the Little Skellig is closed for public.
  • It’s Hard To Get A Boat Trip Without Reservation. Pre-Booking of boat trips is highly recommended. Otherwise, getting a boat to the island on the spot is just well chance of luck.
  • Landing Tours May Not Be Safe For Children And Pets. Due to the preservation of the site, there are no safety rails and other measures. Though landing tours are not prohibited for children, it’s recommended you should opt for a boat trip instead.
  • There Are No Restrooms In The Island. You can use the restroom of your boat before you go on to the landing tour.
  • Pre-Booked Boat Trips May Be Canceled Due To Weather Condition. The weather conditions cannot be predated, so it’s standard practice for the boat trips to be canceled or postponed. In which case, you get a full refund of your money.
  • Boat Trips Can Be Wheelchair Accessible. While landing tours may be ideal for a particular set of people, the boat trips offer a more flexible and comfortable experience for everyone, with varied physical ability.

Enjoy Your Trip

Have a pleasantly memorable journey to the short but action-packed tour of the Skellig Michael Islands. We look forward to you sailing with us.