Skellig Michael


Click for larger image

Skellig Michael is one of the most remarkable places we’ve ever visited. Sometime in the 6th-8th centuries, Christian monks landed on this rugged and remote island off the southwest coast of Ireland. Over the centuries they built a monastery with beehive huts and a chapel high atop the island’s peaks, and extensive steps to reach them from several sides of the island. Besides the well-preserved monastery, Skellig Michael has amazing views from high above the cliffs with the ocean crashing below, and is covered with puffins, one of our favorite birds.

The island is accessible only by boat and has long been a popular tourist destination, and even more so since it was used as a filming site for the final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Only 180 people are allowed to land on the island per day and we were lucky to get a chance to visit this unique and beautiful place.

The video below shows footage from our tour, and additional trip highlights from June 20th, 2017 follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps

Click for larger image
Spoiled

We were planning to run the tender to the Ballinskelligs Pier this morning for our trip to Skellig Michael, but David called and offered to pick us up instead. We’re definitely feeling spoiled.
Click for larger image
Boarding

Boarding Force Awakens at the Ballinskelligs Pier.
Click for larger image
Force Awakens

David took this picture of us riding on the bow of Force Awakens. The boat is a Genesis 37 Interceptor by Safehaven Marine of Cork, Ireland, who specialize in strong and capable fiberglass for applications such as pilot vessels and patrol boats. Besides being one of the nicest boats in the fleet of 15 vessels licensed to land at Skellig Michael, Force Awakens has a feature most don’t have: a head. This is important as Skellig Micheal has no bathroom facilities and the round trip from the mainland can take can take six hours or more.
Click for larger image
Calm

Conditions, as we know, can be rough out in the open Atlantic but the seas were so calm today we were able to ride on the bow the entire way. That’s Skellig Michael and Little Skellig in the distance.
Click for larger image
Landing

Passengers disembark at Skellig Michael on the landing built for the lighthouse. Landing can be rough and difficult in heavy swell, similar to St. Helena, but we had an easy time of it in today’s calm conditions.
Click for larger image
Lighthouse Road

Looking back to Little Skellig from the lighthouse road.
Click for larger image
Puffin!

We love puffins, but haven’t seen one in the wild since Brooks Peninsula off the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.
Click for larger image
Ledge

From the lighthouse road, we ascended up the to the saddle on the monk’s steps. Partway along is a ledge with a sheer drop to one side where chains have been added for a handhold. Despite all the warnings about the difficulty of the ascent, we didn’t have any trouble. The Precipice Climb in Acadia National Park was harder and even that wasn’t a big deal.
Click for larger image
Second Puffin

We were worried we might not see any puffins today, as we’d not seen any yesterday, but they are everywhere on Skellig Micheal.
Click for larger image
Another Puffin

You can never see too many puffins.
Click for larger image
Steps

The steps lead up and up along the steep slopes.
Click for larger image
Puffins on Slope

The puffins seemed used to people and would approach reasonably closely. We sure loved watching them.
Click for larger image
Rockscape

The dramatic rockscape as we near the saddle between the two peaks.
Click for larger image
Saddle

Looking up to the south peak from the saddle.
Click for larger image
Boats

All the tour boats remain just offshore while their passengers visit the island.
Click for larger image
Helicopter Pad

The helicopter pad far below us. If you’re afraid of heights, this isn’t a great place to visit.
Click for larger image
West View

Looking down to the western cliffs from the base of the South Peak.
Click for larger image
North Peak

The view from the South Peak to the leading up to the monastery on the North Peak, with Little Skellig in the background and steps heading down along the north cliffs.
Click for larger image
North Steps

Closer view to the steps leading down the north side of the island from the saddle.
Click for larger image
Puffin on Wall

This little guy popped out of the wall as we walked past.
Click for larger image
Entrance

The entrance to the monastery with Little Skellig in the distance.
Click for larger image
Doorway

Those monks must have been very short, or they banged their heads a lot.
Click for larger image
Lower Garden

The island had no level ground, so the monks excavated terraces for gardens and the monastery. This is the lower garden.
Click for larger image
Upper Garden

The Upper Garden at the main level of the monastery.
Click for larger image
Church

Saint Michael’s Church is the only mortared structure in the monastery. It was probably built in the 11th century and remodelled in the 12th century. On the ground in front is a memorial to a lightkeeper’s sons, who died on the island 1868 and 1869 at ages 2 and 4.
Click for larger image
Beehive Huts

The monks built several beehive huts for shelter. Likely the smaller ones in the foreground were residences and the larger one a communal structure.
Click for larger image
Cell B and C

Jennifer looking into Cells B and C. It’s remarkable that these have stood for centuries in such a storm-swept island. The monks did build the terraces to channel the wind over the monastery, but it’s still amazing.
Click for larger image
Graveyard

The monk’s graveyard at the east end of the monastery.
Click for larger image
Terrace

Looking to Little Skellig across Cell F with the graveyard on the right.
Click for larger image
Last Puffins

A final view of the puffins as we return back to the landing.
Click for larger image
Corner

It’s a long drop down if you miss that sign at the corner.
Click for larger image
Coming Down

Returning back down the steps.
Click for larger image
Great Day

Skellig Michael is among the most remarkable places we’ve ever been—were lucky to have an opportunity to visit.
Click for larger image
North Cliffs

After picking up his passengers, helmsman Brendan Walsh took us in for a close-up to the north cliffs.
Click for larger image
Last View

Our last view to Skellig Michael before we return to Ballinskelligs.
Click for larger image
Tight

Brendan took Force Awakens through this narrow gap between the rocks and Little Skellig. It looks as tight as it was—an impressive job at the helm.
Click for larger image
Spray

The winds had picked up a little on the return trip, so we got a fair bit of spray as we pass the lee of Little Skellig.
Click for larger image
At the Helm

James at the helm of Force Awakens on the return trip.
Click for larger image
Brendan and Derek

Brendan Walsh (left) and Derek Noble of Force Awakens stopped by for a visit on Dirona after we returned to Ballinskelligs. It was truly a memorable day.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


If your comment doesn't show up right away, send us email and we'll dredge it out of the spam filter.


2 comments on “Skellig Michael
  1. Stewart says:

    What a great day you both had James. Thanks for sharing these photos. Glad you had calm seas traveling over. It must have been a very harsh life for those monks; especially in winter. The stone huts remind me of the many neolithic structures you can find in Ireland.

    • We were very lucky to get a booking to visit, especially with such nice weather and calm conditions, and on a good boat. Most of the operators we called were booked for weeks in advance. It definitely was a harsh life for the monks. Besides religious tolerance improving on the mainland, one of the reasons they left the island is the annual temperature went down a couple of degrees and made winters that much more difficult.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *