Skellig Michael Island
Day 3 of my Irish road trip, or day 5 if you count our boozey weekend in Dublin! And it was one of the main events of the whole trip, a landing trip to Skellig Michael Island, famous for being one of Ireland’s 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites, and then even more famous for being in Star Wars the Force Awakens. That bit at the end where Luke Skywalker reappears in some isolated, rocky island. That’s Skellig Michael island!
If Star Wars thought it was epic enough for the ending of their movie, then it’s epic enough for me to pay a visit, check out the Star Wars Scenes here (the first one is the final scene so watch out for SPOILERS! The second one is the Trailer so if you don’t wanna see what happens, you can still check out that one):
Irish Road Trip Day 5
We drove here yesterday via the spectacular ring of Kerry and the cliche Blarney Stone Kissing. So today we woke up in Port Magee. Port Magee is a cute little seaside town that serves as the starting point for all Skellig Michael Tours. We planned to have a morning boat trip, landing and climbing on the island, then when we landed we would gun it straight to the Cliffs of Moher, spend a while at another of Ireland’s most famous spots, then make our way to Galway, and sleep there. It was an ambitious plan, forced on us by missing our boat the day before, but it worked out ok in the end.
When I blog my suggested route for an Irish road trip though, it’ll be a touch slower than that!
So an early start in Port Magee for our boat trip. We were so so lucky that there were 4 cancellations on our boat trip (we used Brendan Casey from these guys, highly recommended – his number 087- 2287519) meaning all 4 of us managed to squeeze on last minute. Remember, since Star Wars came, this place is booked up weeks in advance, so book early! If you haven’t booked, then at the very least call all the boat companies as soon as you land in Dublin and try to work out something for the coming week ahead, prices are around €80.00 per person, and due to the UNESCO status only a set amount of people are allowed to land each day.
NOTE: Boats only run May to October, and can be cancelled due to bad weather, AND no drones allowed due to the birds.
If you can’t get on a boat to land though, the companies run ‘Eco tours’ in the afternoon where you can take the boat out and around Skellig Michael (€35 per person), but you can’t land. Initially we thought we would have to do this, and it’s better than nothing, but still, you want to land, right?!
Anyway, we jumped on the boat at 8.45am and headed out on the 5 hour trip. The boat is small, with 12 people on there. The journey lasts around 1 hour depending on the waves. It’s approximately 11km from Port Magee to Skellig Michael island. Irish weather is notorious for the wind and the rain, and the summers are no different. Thankfully our boat wasn’t cancelled but it was a bumpy ride! We were loving it, ecstatic that we managed to even be on the boat, so it was quite the adventure.
After 40 minutes or so you can see the island, and it’s impressive. Sitting lost in the Atlantic, the only thing between Ireland the USA, instantly you’re taken aback. Slowly you approach, it gets bigger and bigger. Puffins flying all over the place. Disembark, your told what time to return (roughly 2.5 hours on the island) and off you go.
I had high expectations but this place is stunning. The island itself is beautiful and worth the effort. Then you have the wildlife, there are puffins EVERYWHERE. On top of that, there is the history. Skellig Michael became a place of pilgrimage due to the monks and monasteries on the island in the 12-14 century. The monasteries still stand today and are an amazing sight once you face the climb ahead of you. And finally, Star Wars. Tourism is booming on Skellig since our boy Luke Skywalker appeared.
Wandering around the island is bliss, and the views of the ocean and the mainland are breathtaking. The thoughts of the monks here almost 1000 years ago, their sacrifice to their beliefs, those cold Irish winters. It’s truly amazing.
Slowly you start to climb. The same stairs are around from centuries ago. It’s quite a steep climb, and it takes a solid 20 minutes or so to reach the top. But it’s a beautiful climb, and the puffins everywhere certainly break up the journey. Once you get to the first plateau, where the Star Wars scene was filmed, you can appreciate the beauty and isolation.
Further up you go to the monasteries, where hourly free talks are given by the researchers, naturalists and scientists who are based on the island. Getting off the boat, I thought 2.5 hours would be too much, the island is tiny, it’s true. But I could have spent the whole day there, it’s something else.
Our friends and I climbed another peak, sat on the rocks, as everyone else ran around taking photos. We had a picnic, chilled and soaked up the atmosphere, the views, the ambience. Skellig Michael Island has become one of my favourite EVER places. It’s that amazing. Honestly.
And soon our descent began, back on the boat, and a bumpy ride back to Port Magee. We had to reschedule a lot of our trip due to mixup with boats, but wow was it ever worth it. When you come to Ireland, book your seat, and DON’T MISS SKELLIG MICHAEL island. It’ll blow your mind, just as it did mine.
A FEW EXTRA NOTES: There’s no shops or toilets on the island! Your boat may have a toilet but plan for it not. Bring a picnic/packed lunch, it’s awesome to sit and eat it on the island too. And lay off the Guinness the night before, it’s a bumpy ride and a steep climb!
With the landing tours, normally you leave around 9am and get back between 2pm to 3pm. The eco tours, with no landing, normally run around 3-5.30pm.
And with that we were off, back in our BunkCampers camper van and heading north to the Cliffs of Moher. They had big boots to fill after the huge success we had here on Skellig Michael Island!