A visit to the Skellig Islands is undoubtedly the highlight of your holiday in Ireland! Don't miss out on this opportunity to see one of the most special places on this earth. I don't think there are many places like the Skellig Michael in this world. I have been out there three times so far and found the experience really stunning each time I visited. A trip to the Skelligs combines a nature adventure with Irish history.
Skellig Michael also called the Great Skellig is a 44 acres steep rocky island near the Iveragh peninsula. In the 6th century, monks decided to found a monastery on this barren island. They had to row the 12 km to the island in small vessels from the mainland! Life on this little weather-beaten rock must have been incredibly hard. Climbing the 600 steps up to the monastic settlement will give you a good idea! The monks survived on birds and their eggs, fish and some vegetables they were able to grow on the terraces they built. The settlement looks like it has been stuck to the side of the rock. If you are up there on a sunny day you will understand why they built it right there! The microclimate that is created there by the walls and terraces allowed them to survive on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic. Just amazing!
The 6 beehive huts and all the walls show the amazing skills the monks must have had. All the buildings except the rectangular chapel where build without mortar. An ingenious system of 3 cisterns supplied the monastery with the necessary water.
As if life wasn't hard enough in a place like this the monks got raided several times by Vikings.
In the 12th century, the monks were forced to move back to the mainland in Ballinskelligs because the climate got colder and harsher.
You can read more about the fascinating history of Skellig Michael here.
A trip to the Skellig Islands isn't for the faint-hearted and unfit (or small children)! You will be travelling on open, fast boats across the Atlantic and you will have to climb 600 steps up a steep rock without any handrails. If you get seasick pay a visit to the chemist beforehand and get some tablets.
After the 45 min boat ride, you will land on Skellig Michael. A guide will meet you out there and will explain the do's and dont's which are important! Several people got killed out there so be careful!
On the way up to the monastery, you will be able to see lots of seabirds and beautiful wildflowers. If you visit between May and late August you will see loads of Puffins which nest under rocks all over the island. These cute birds are not afraid of people and might land very close to you.
Once you reach the settlement the guides will explain the history and how the monks lived there.
Start your descent in time so you don't have to rush for the boat.
After leaving Skellig Michael, the boat will bring you around the Small Skellig. This island is closed for the public. It is home to second largest Gannet colony in the world. If the sea is calm the boats can go quite close to the rock. You might be lucky and see some seals or even whales.
To zoom in for more detail click on the +.
Going to the Skellig Islands is possibly the trip of a lifetime. So please don't be put off by all this. Just come prepared and enjoy!
Should the weather be too bad or you are not able to go to the Skellig Rocks visit the Skellig Experience Visitor Centre on Valentia Island right opposite Portmagee harbour.
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