Visiting the Skellig Islands on the Ring of Kerry, Ireland
Visualize two small, stony islands in the Atlantic, 12 kilometers off the coast of Ireland. Now, imagine that fifteen centuries ago, a group of friars settled there. Don’t tell us you’re not curious about visiting the Skellig Islands! Without a doubt, one of the most remote (and spectacular) places in Europe.
A World Heritage Site since 1996, getting it is not easy, but it is well worth it. Also, on land is the Skellig Ring. Cliffs, beachside ruins, and lots of history await you in the quiet, green West of Ireland.
If you like nature and photography, this getaway is going to drive you crazy! You will also enjoy it if you are a movie buff: Chaplin’s famous town is in the area … and be careful Star Wars fans.
We imagine that if you are a Star Wars fan, the Skellig Islands will not seem so novel to you. The final scene of “The Force Awakens” was filmed here, and it is the place where Rey trains in “The Last Jedi.” We do not know how the team assembled it to work there, but if a group of friars with precarious means could so many years ago, Hollywood had to have it “suck.”
I made this trip (Andrea) alone. As soon as I discovered them, visiting the Skellig Islands became an obsession. A few (very) cheap flights to Kerry from London and a few extra vacation days did the rest.
Tips for visiting the Skellig Islands
- Book early. There is a maximum allowed daily visitors (we think around 180) at Skellig Michael. In high season, it flies.
- Dress in layers. It goes from cold to hot in no time. Do not forget a backpack (essential to keep your hands free), a waterproof jacket, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Suitable footwear is a must.
- In Skellig Michael, there is nothing. Bring water and something to eat. Use the bathroom before you go out because there is none on the boat or the island.
- This is not a “picture and ciao” trip. To do the tour, you have to fly to Ireland, drive to Portmagee, spend the night there, and get up early … What less than staying until the next day, getting to know the surroundings, and linking it with other sites in the area. The West of Ireland has a lot to offer.
- Perhaps it is not a very suitable place if you get seasick on the boat, because it moves a lot. Many people end up dizzy and throwing back.
- It is also not the ideal place if you suffer from vertigo. The climb up to the monastery at Skellig Michael is long (600 stairs), steep, and quite ‘wild.’ If you are in poor physical shape, you are also going to suffer a bit.
- For safety reasons, it is not a place especially recommended for children.
- The guides live on the island during the summer and know it by heart. It is essential to listen to them, both when it comes to safety and the history of the place. They are open to any questions, so don’t be shy.
- Remember that, for some people, it is a somewhat “spiritual” or “mystical” place—respect above all.
What to see in the Skellig Islands
There are two Skellig islands, but only one can be visited. On the other hand, there are a lot of animals in this area, among them puffins
If you are going to visit the Skellig Islands, it will be the first thing you see. It is not open to the public, so it can only be seen from the boat. Little Skellig is “simply” a massive rock in the sea.
As a curiosity, you know that it is one of the places with the most significant number and variety of birds in Ireland. But, indeed, once there, you know why.
The jewel in the crown of the west of Ireland and the reason why, indeed, you want to visit the Skellig Islands.
The island of Skellig Michael has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. It is here that the ruins of the 6th-century monastery are located.
Visiting the Skellig Islands can be dangerous. It is a wild island, with ancient ruins and many rocks, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean… The guides take safety very seriously, they give a talk before going up, and there are brochures and posters.
As if this weren’t enough, the Skellig Islands are fragile and unprepared for mass tourism (and we hope it will!). There is a maximum allowed of 180 daily visitors.
Skellig Michael Monastery
If there is something that will attract your attention when visiting the Skellig Islands, there was a monastery there. But what were they thinking? Because, the truth is, it does not seem practical or safe … especially almost 2000 years ago!
These ascetic monks sought to get away from civilization to be closer to God. The monastery was built in the 6th century and was inhabited until the 13th century when they returned to the mainland.
Since you’ve gotten there, you have to go up! So prepare those legs, which await you, neither more nor less, than 600 steps. Once at the top, you will find ruins of the entrance, the walls, cisterns, and, of course, the churches and the cemetery.
It seems incredible, right? If it is difficult to get there today, imagine so many years ago. That is part of the magic and mysticism of this place.