Suddenly becoming one Ireland's most sought after attractions, here is everything you need to know about visiting Skellig Michael
One of Ireland's oldest sites has become our newest tourist attraction. It's UNESCO world heritage status had already ensured a steady stream of Summer visitors, but in truth it has been respected for what it is, for over 1400 years. It should be no surprise that it was included as a location shoot for the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi and also briefly in Star Wars The Force Awakens.
Skellig Michael is situated at one of the remotest corners of Europe, a near impregnable island fortress that housed a small isolated monastic community. Even today there is barely room to land a helicopter, much less a spaceship! The lucky day visitors now get to spend a few privileged hours there, after travelling the hour long trip from Portmagee, near Valentia island. Portmagee is located at the far end of the Ring Of Kerry and is about ninety minutes from Killarney.
However, with less than 20,000 visitors per annum and demand much greater, and continuing to rise, it is only the few who will get to visit this iconic location. This has contributed to alternate experiences, which are more readily available, such as eco tours around Skellig Michael, where you can circle Skellig Michael by boat. However any Jedi worth his or her salt will value the uniqueness of actually stepping onto this iconic island fortress. You will relive the imagined hardships, solitude, beauty and simplicity of this way of life, for the handful of monks whose home this had become for several hundred years, over 1000 years ago.
The scene is set by the elements, the beauty of the location and lack of human interference. Once on the island, it is the dry stone buildings nestled together near the top of the island, that is the main destination for visitors. It is not an easy achievement and requires level of fitness to complete the 600 steps and footpath to the top. Walkers can expect to only walk single file and meeting someone going the opposite direction requires a stop. The is a policy of minimal human interference so it is definitely not wheel chair friendly, toddler friendly or Jedi's with a fear of heights friendly. There are no facilities of any kind and whilst it is reasonably safe, there have been fatalities. You will be given a briefing by an island guide once you land. For many just landing will be fantastic, it is not necessary to climb to the top.
Expect it to be about a five hour round trip, from the mainland, so bring some snacks and a drink, although don’t drink not too much, as there are no toilets! You will probably need wet weather clothing, and sea sickness tablets will be appreciated by many. Good walking boots are also advisable. Availability will be difficult due to practical issues of limitation of numbers and if you do manage to get a booking, there is no guarantee you will actually get there. Weather can be very unpredictable and if the seas are considered too rough, the boats will not leave Portmagee. Prebooking is essential. Prices can vary but expect to pay approximately €75-€80 for this once in a lifetime experience. You need to contact the boatmen directly to secure a booking. Click here for more details.
The boat trip also provides bird watching opportunities as one of the biggest gannet colonies is on the adjacent island, little Skellig. Puffins should be visible from early to mid summer and provide great photo poses, another unmissable experience.
For those who are unable to secure a booking it is worth making the trip to Portmagee or Valentia Island where you can see Skellig Michael from the shore, and can still get some great photos, on a clear day. There is also an interpretive centre and you may even be able to secure an eco tour without a forward booking.