Skellig Michael

Discover Skellig Michael

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Skellig Michael : activities and sites to visit

  • Location

  • Type of site

What to expect?

Skellig Michael is a wild island in Ireland, belonging to the Skellig Islands archipelago. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this island with its dark rocky peak is a wonder of nature, impossible to miss along the Kerry coastline! A little extra that should delight fans: this island was used as a filming location for the new episodes of the Star Wars saga!

Skellig Michael’s story

A wild island with ancient traces of habitation

Skellig Islands - © Bastian

Skellig Islands – © Bastian

From its 218 meters of altitude, the island has incredible remains dating back to the 7th century. It must be said that the place was deeply marked by the passage of Catholic monks, who at the time had decided to live secluded on Skellig Michael. They led a Hermit’s life there, devoting their time to prayer, meditation, animal husbandry, fishing and working the land.

Life was particularly hard there: the monks lived in bories (a kind of stone hut), and modelled their daily life on the rhythm of the island and the ocean. Very hard-working, they are still recognized today for their titanic work: it is thus to them that we owe the impressive stone staircase of 618 steps that connects the base of the island to its summit. A pharaonic work, which required strength, patience and meticulousness! A true marvel that will nevertheless require a little breath and endurance to climb it!

The monks lived on the island for 5 centuries, until 1200, when the island became a place of pilgrimage in its own right. The monks, cold at the idea of giving up their remote life, decided to desert the island in favour of Ballinskelligs Abbey.

Around 1800, the island acquired two lanterns to serve as lighthouses. Only one remains finally, and will be automated in 1987, when nobody sets foot on the island anymore.

Nevertheless, the site is open to visitors. In addition, Skellig Michael is now an emblematic film location for the new Star Wars trilogy. An honour that has made it one of the most touristy places in Ireland today!

Visit Skellig Michael

How do I get there?

The steps of Skellig Michael are rather steep! shutterupeire

The steps of Skellig Michael are rather steep! shutterupeire

Skellig Michael is a wild island, whose geographical and climatic situation does not always allow visitors to visit it . Deprived of a port to disembark, the island is only equipped with an access ramp, which can be difficult to reach in bad weather…

However, if the conditions are right, you will be able to discover all the beauties of the island !

Here is the list of the different places where you can take the boat to reach Skellig Michael :

  • Portmagee
  • on the island of Valentia
  • in Ballinskelligs

The trip varies from 45 minutes to 1h30 depending on where you took the shuttle, and the weather conditions. Please note: the trip is usually expensive (around 50€ per person), but once there, the visit of the island is free. (Please note that few boats are equipped with toilets).

Note that Skellig Michael is accessible from mid-May to the end of September. As for the schedules, it varies according to the chosen companies. (Usually departure around 10:00 am with return around 3:00 pm: plan your picnic on the spot, but be careful not to leave anything there, it’s a protected site).

Besides, the island is 100% wild: here, no toilets, no restaurant. Nothing is oriented for the tourist, and it is better to be warned from the start.

Nevertheless, the spectacle offered by the island is simply grandiose :
starting with the village of the monks who lived on Skellig Michael. On the program, stone huts, remains of a church and a place of prayer… Enough to plunge into the heart of an enchanting past!

For those who love walking, don’t hesitate to explore the island, and enjoy its exceptional views of County Kerry and its neighbouring island, Little Skellig. Panoramas which are really worth stopping there, the time of some photographs, and a total change of scenery! Finally, you will have the chance to observe an incredible number of seabirds, from the pretty shearwater to the gannets!

A perilous island to explore

Be careful though: exploring the island requires excellent physical condition: the significant difference in altitude, and the 618 steps that are as slippery as can be, could put off the less enduring ones!

Its ascent is rather dangerous, and without safety infrastructures: it must be said that the island is not only protected by UNESCO, but it is also a natural reserve for sea birds! In other words, the island will remain as it is, without any special facilities for tourism!

So, leave well equipped, and try to preserve as much as possible of its ecosystem by keeping a low profile. Nature remains beautiful when it is respected.