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Visiting Skellig Michael

The Skellig Islands duo is located offshore of the County Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula and also along the Wild Alantic Way. In antiquity, they were known as the Skellocks or Sceilg Mhichíl in Irish, and today they are on the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The islands lie about 8 miles off the coast of Portmagee in South West Kerry, and they rise to an abrupt 218 metres above sea level. Rough atlantic ocean and craggy terrains make this a less-than-inviting place to call home. But that very inhospitableness is what attracted the aesthetic monks of old. They came here to seek a bloodless sort of martyrdom that involved utter self denial without actual death.     

Skellig Michael - The Great Skellig

Skellig Michael is the main star of the two islands, only accessable by a boat trip, visitors have to cross over rough waters to get to this island.

At the top of the rock are the remains of the early Christian monastic community. They huddle in a saddle between two peaks and can be reached by a steep climb up 600 stairs cleaved from the stone and the beehive huts are also carved from stone. These monks didn’t leave us much in the way of written history. However, the Irish annals suggest that many of those who sought ‘white martyrdom’ here actually met the blood-red variety during a series of 9th-century Viking raids.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens chosen the island of Skellig Michael for their filming location in 2015, portraying the stunning views that can been seen from here.

Skellig Island Terrain
Rough & craggy terrain on Skellig Island. Photo credit: TechnoHippyBiker

Little Skellig

The adjacent Small Skellig is much closer to sea level than its neighbour. Visitors aren’t permitted to land on it, largely because it’s already flat-out with residents. A group of 40,000 gannets constitutes the second-largest gannet breeding colony in the world. You’ll also spot a few seals basking on the rocks.

How to visit the Skellig Islands

Portmagee is a villiage located in County Kerry, an hour or so drive away from Killarney National Park. As Skellig islands are only accessible by boat from Portmagee marina, it is advisable to to book in advance and check with the boat providers for weather updates. The boat journey takes approximately 45mins each way. Skellig Island experience tour boats also circle the Little Skellig island to view the bird colony and seals.           

Visit The Skellig Experience visitors centre for more information, history and some wonderful photography captures.

Ring of Kerry Drive

Portmagee is just off the Ring of Kerry, an 179km driving route passing through spectacular landscape and exquisite views. As the road narrows in places, traditionally tour buses take the southward route out of Killarney and head around the circuit in an anti-clockwise direction.

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Skellig Islands Puffin birds
Puffins on Skellig Islands by Maureen

Skellig Islands
High view of Skellig Islands by Don Richards

Skellig island view
Unique view of Skellig Islands by Maureen