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The Overland Ireland Guide To Visiting The Magical Skellig Islands

The remote Skellig Islands are located off Ireland’s southwest coast in the Atlantic Ocean and consist of two craggy islands. Little Skellig is the smaller of the two and is an important home to seabird colonies. Though home to early Christian monks from the 9th to the 13th centuries, the larger island of Skellig Michael has only been regularly visited by tourists since the 1970s. 

Unpredictable seas and the steep cliffs of the island can make landing treacherous, yet it is the wave-beaten location that stirs the imaginations of so many and makes Skellig Michael such an enchanting, once-in-a-lifetime place to visit. 

The island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 for its significance in the history of Christianity. Skellig Michael, though, boasts not only history but some of the most dramatic scenery you are ever likely to see and is home to a magnificent range of birdlife. The breathtaking scenery of these islands has led to their use as a filming location on many occasions, most recently for the latest Star Wars films.

Join us today as we run through some tips and suggestions for getting the most out of a voyage to the Skellig Islands. And, while you’re here, why not take a look at our Ireland to Island 7-Day Zest Tour, which includes an afternoon on Skellig Michael.   

View of Little Skellig from the top of Michael Skellig (source)

Enjoy a Comfortable Visit to the Skellig Islands

The first thing visitors much appreciate when visiting the Skellig Islands is their remoteness. When you set sail from the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, you will be leaving the modern world behind for several hours. 

Of course, this is one of the magical aspects of visiting the Skellig Islands, but it does present some things worth considering. If you are at all sensitive to sea travel, be mindful that you will quite possibly be traversing rough seas. Eat a sensible breakfast and pack travel sickness medicine should this be something you carry with you for sea voyages. 

The boat trip can last anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes depending on conditions and you will then spend a few hours on the island, pack water and snacks to keep you satiated and comfortable during this time. But also bear in mind that there are no facilities on the island — do use the bathroom directly before setting off for the day. 

Finally, remember that the weather in Ireland is notoriously unpredictable. Bring with you warm and comfortable clothing and ensure you have a waterproof jacket. You don’t want to let a lack of preparedness interfere with your experience of this otherworldly pair of islands. 

South steps of Skellig Michael

Explore Skellig Michael Safely

While the risk of injury at Skellig Michael is small, the island can be dangerous. Visitors must be cautious and stay attentive to their surroundings at all times on the island. The climb to the Skellig Michael’s monastic site is steep, and visitors will be using steps that are over 1,000 years old. 

Given the location of the island, strong winds are common and when there is rain the steps can become very slippy. When you arrive on the island a guide will give you a safety talk and it is imperative that all guidance is adhered to. 

When ascending the path to the monastery, guests must remain aware of their course. The route can take sharp turns and for much of the climb, you will not have access to handrails. At points, the path will skirt sheer drops, visitors must not lean too close to the edge or put themselves in risky situations to capture good photos. With the island being so remote, emergency services can find reaching the island difficult. 

Finally, wear well-fitted clothing that will not encumber your movement. Visitors enjoy their time on the island season after season, sticking to these simple guidelines will remove unnecessary risks. 

Puffins on Skellig Michael (source)

Be Respectful of the Environment

The monastery at Skellig Michael is one of the best-preserved monasteries of the early middle ages and is recognised as an important sacred site globally. One of the chief reasons for the survival of the monastic complex, including five of the monks’ beehive cells, is the lack of foot traffic, the remoteness of Skellig Michael has ensured its survival (in spite of three visits from Viking raiders!). 

When on the island, be mindful of the environment. Do not drop any litter, stick to the pathways before you, and give due respect to the archaeological sites. If all visitors adhere to such elementary rules, we can hope that Skellig Michael’s treasures will still exist in another 1,000 years. 

The Skellig Islands are also home to populations of Puffins, Terns, Gannets, and Cormorants, among other birds, so it is important not to interfere with these splendid creatures. Maintaining the conditions we have on the Skellig Islands means we can all continue to savour their natural beauty.

Monk’s cell, Skellig Michael (source)

Take Time to Appreciate the Skellig Islands

Our final piece of guidance: slow down. When travelling, it is common to become preoccupied with all the things you have to see, the places you want to get to next. 

Well, Skellig Michael is a long way from the rest of civilisation and wherever you are from, you have arrived somewhere exceptionally remote. Bask in the quiet of the islands, enjoying the sounds of nature. Take in the beauty of the Irish mainland in the distance, of rocky Little Skellig rising from the waves, and contemplate the lives of those ancient monks who called the island home. 

Of course, you will want to take lots of Instagrammable pictures to share with your friends, but we recommend keeping technology out of sight as much as possible — it’s not often in life that you will find yourself somewhere quite so serene and magical as the Skellig Islands. 

This brings to an end our short guide to getting the most from the Skellig Islands. We hope we’ve inspired you to begin planning your trip! Perhaps you would also benefit from a private Ireland tour focusing on Skellig Michael? If you have any questions about this blog or our tours, please reach out and contact us anytime.

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