Have we explored everything in Ireland? No. Are we a little too enthusiastic about this post? Quite possibly. But is Skellig Michael the most epic place to visit in Ireland? Yes, why yes it is.
Forewarning: this post was overtaken by puffins.
About a month after we booked our excursion to Greater Skellig with the good folks at SkelligsRock.com, we watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the final scene, we recognized Skellig Michael as the location and we simultaneously looked at each other and said “OH NO.”
Oh no. That kind of publicity would mean crowds.
But as it turns out, the Skellig Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and under preservation. There are only a limited number of boat licenses issued annually therefore tours are limited and only open May through October (depending on weather). We understood this and decided if we had to skip out on other excursions because of weather delay, we would be prepared because this was our Ireland MUST DO. We drove hundreds of miles of narrow, winding roads, survived an angry ferry ticket-taker, survived booping a bull on the nose so come hell or high water, we were getting to Skellig Michael!
The morning of the tour, visitors are asked to call their tour operator to double check that the weather was permitting. Our morning was cloudy but fair enough for the tour to continue! Hurray!
Our SkelligsRock group was comprised of 8.
The waves were really choppy. We came prepared and brought Dramamine for motion sickness but didn’t need it. Our boat companions however did not fare well and we watched a few run to the back of the boat to throw up so we offered out the Dramamine.
After an hour of speeding through rough waves and feeling extremely small in a giant ocean, LAND!
Diving Gannet seabirds. They can achieve speeds of up to 100 km/62 mi per hour from 30 metres/98 ft.
Welcome to the island! I’ll be your host, Paddy the Puffin.
Skellig Michael is home to thousands of Atlantic puffins who use the island for breeding during summer months.
These cute guys are everywhere on the island. Be a little wary of these guys awkwardly flying overhead: they fly low and you may get a puffin in the face.
Puffins make funny ‘moo’-ing sounds instead of chirping or squawking.
Visiting Skellig Michael is not for those with mobility issues or fear of heights. One wrong step can, and has in the past, prove fatal.
Standing right in front of sheer dropping cliffs (basically the whole island is like that).
Entrance to the Christian monastary.
- Founded between the 6th-8th century & continuously occupied until late 12th century.
- 12 monks and an abbot lived here at any one time.
- The monks lived on a garden diet and also feasted on fish & birds (including eggs).
- True to their form, Vikings attacked the monastery in 823.
- Between 950-1044, the site was dedicated to Saint Michael (hence Skellig Michael, skellig being a Gaelic word for ‘rock in the sea’).
- Harsher weather and changes in the Irish Church caused the monastery to abandon the island and move the abbey to Ballinskelligs.
The first lighthouse on Michael Skellig was built in 1826. 2 principle lighthouse keepers and their families occupied the island. These children were born, and died, on the island.
Birds have found their way into the hives and have nested in some of the corners. The keepers of the island created make-shift curtains for them.
Currently there are 3 keepers who occupy Michael Skellig for 2 weeks at a time. One is giving a little history of the island. His wife sitting & sketching in the top left of the photo.
We were on our way down to the dock when Luke Skywalker-husband was accosted by Ray, offering a lightsaber.
Will Luke Skywalker 2 take the proffered lightsaber? Find out December 15, 2017 in Star Wars: Episode VIII.
“Darn it Paddy! I have to wait that long to find out what Luke Skywalker does??!”
Supplies for the island keepers.
After several hours of exploring Greater Skellig Michael, we loaded into our boat and toured around the island:
Helicopter pad to the top right.
This is the first lighthouse on the island. It was destroyed by a wave during a violent storm.
The second lighthouse was built around 1904. It was modernized in the 1960s and is currently unmanned.
After driving around Greater Skellig, our tour boat took us to the nearby Little Skellig island.
“Draw me like one of your French girls.”
So. Much. Poop.
Now you know that white stuff covering Little Skellig isn’t snow.
Little Skellig to the left and Greater Skellig Michael to the right.
See the curving trail cutting through the large green patch? Those are the steps we just traversed.
Exploring Skellig Michael is, without a doubt, the highlight of our trip and probably the most epic place we have ever visited. SkelligsRock did an awesome job and we highly recommend their services.