Visiting Skellig Michael Not an imaginary Star Wars home; a real UNESCO heritage site, is Skellig Michael.
You may be a fan of Star Wars; you may be a fan of bird watching; you may be a fan of islands; you may be a fan of any - and all - UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Whatever your reason, you may have a trip to Skellig Michael on your radar..... if you do, there's a few things you might not know about visiting this spectacular island off the coast of Southwest County Kerry, Ireland.
It's not open to visitors year round! The landings on the island are quite regulated, and landings are only allowed approximately May 15th to October 2nd.
Only specially licensed boats can land, and there is a limited amount of landings per day. Make your reservation for the season, early! I urge you to stay the night before your trip, and the night after your trip, in the local vicinity. When I say "local vicinity" I mean within 20 kilometers of your departure dock!
Heading to Skellig MichaelPerfect weather - note the St. Christopher medal in the Skellig Boat!
When I last went, on a scorching hot day, a man from Cork drove up the morning of the trip, misjudged the timing, didn't eat breakfast, climbed the HUNDREDS of steps to the monastery, felt sick, and ultimately had to be airlifted off the island by the Irish Coast Guard. Though we'd all love to have a helo ride around Skellig - this is NOT the way to do that!
Irish Coast Guard doing a rescue on Skellig MichaelIce crystals on Skellig Michael helocopter rescue!?
I've also met a couple from California who woke up at 5:00 a.m. at their Dingle B&B, rushed to Portmagee, had a wonderful experience on the island; I stumbled upon them in The Moorings at Portmagee falling asleep over their seafood chowder. They were getting ready to drive all the way to Galway then, and they did NOT want to make that drive in their exhausted state! Why not enjoy the experience of a visit to Skellig Michael, and enjoy the DAY as well!! Especially since there is more "Skellig related" things to do nearby. A monk's trail to tour; ruins of abbeys in Ballinskelligs; Church Island in Waterville, and more.
During the open season, it is also WEATHER DEPENDENT. There's a boat trip of approximately an hour to get there, and the swell can be wild in the open ocean. I tried four times last summer to go, and finally got a good day the end of September! So even if you have a reservation, you might not go. Even if you go, you might not LAND.
There are NO BATHROOMS on Skellig Michael. When I last went, I was the second person off my boat. The man in front of me was rushing up the path. I thought to myself "awesome, this guy knows the drill!" and rushed on behind him. A few minutes later onto the path I turned a corner and there he was - PEEING against the wall!! Ewwww!! Most of the boats have "heads" (toilets) so please, know what you're in for! I find it hard to believe he's the only man that's ever done that, so..... just don't drink alot of coffee before you go, for heaven's sake!
The walk up Skellig Michael's steps to the monastery are precarious, and there is no handrail. This is not an easy staircase - they are made by laying slate along the steep path. Some steps are 4 inches high; some are 7 inches high, and are rough. I was there on a gloriously calm day.... and all I could think of was the elderly monk I met in England who told me "the most scared I've ever been in my life was walking up the steps on Skellig Michael!" I wouldn't want to do that on a really windy day - would you?!?
Walking up the flat trail on Skellig Michael (NOT the steps!). Slow and steady wins the race on Skellig Michael!
I tried many times before to do the trip to Skellig Michael, and each time it was cancelled due to bad weather. I live near there, so for me it's not a crisis if I can't go. For you - this may be your only trip to Ireland for quite some time! If that's the case, maybe you should plan a few more days in the area so you have more chances of getting on a boat! If you're lucky and get on the island the first attempt, you can always enjoy the castle ruins, the hill walking, the pubs, the snorkeling, the seaweed walks, the views, the cycling, the history, the abbey ruins, church island..... there is LOTS to see around the Skellig Coast region besides the Skelligs themselves!
Before you go, or if boats on the ocean aren't your thing and you don't go, a VERY good spot with information on the Skelligs is The Skellig Experience on Valentia Island. It's not open in the winter every day, so be sure to check their website. Remember, Skellig isn’t only about the monks! The Skellig Experience exhibition has four themes:
The history and archaeology of Skellig Michael’s early Christian monastery.
The sea birds, their habitat, their world wide travels.
The lighthouses which have given 161 years of service to mariners.
The undersea world of Skellig, which has colour and magic equal to any sea in the world.
Whatever happens, enjoy the scenery, and remember to SLOW DOWN on your visit to the Iveragh Peninsula!
That's me on Skellig Michael! Susan BaughmanSusan Baughman on Skellig Michael; September 17th. Little Skellig is in the distance.
Boats waiting to pick up tourists on Skellig Michael. This is the type of boat you'll be on to get to Skellig Michael!