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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
- 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.