On a remote island 12 km off the coast of Ireland you will find an extraordinary site known as Skellig Michael
About Skellig Michael
This 6th-century Monastery stands high on the rocky outcrop of the largest of two Skellig Islands.
Getting to the Skellig Islands is half the fun. The ride out by small boat faces rough seas giving you an adventure while you take in the amazing views. More often than not, trips are canceled due to weather. Sometimes if you do manage to get to the island, the surging seas put a stop to any chance of making a landing.
Very few make the journey to see Skellig Michael and even fewer manage to step foot on the island.
Skellig Michael on a Good Day
We were lucky enough to have blue skies on the day of our landing at Skellig Michael. Apparently, we were quite lucky as a group of women from the United States told us that they'd been waiting for three days to land on the island. It was a thrilling experience to step off the boat in the choppy waters and climb up the narrow steps. From here, we started along the path clinging to the side of a cliff leading us 200 meters (600 feet) above sea level.
See our Skellig Michael Video
Why are the Skellig Islands so difficult to visit?
Each year the Irish government grants 13 boat licenses to tour operators who run trips to the island from the mainland. We left from the Skellig Experience Visitor's Centre near Portmagee. We learned about the history of the island, watched a video of Skellig Michael and then boarded the fishing boat for our adventure.
The trip took about an hour and if you are prone to sea sickness, I suggest taking medication. It can be choppy. The excitement grew as we approached and with any luck we'd be able to land.
Landing on the Island
When landing on the island, there are signs warning people to climb at their own risk, but if you take your time and watch your step, you will have no problem reaching the top to explore the fascinating ruins. Our captain let us off and drove away to calmer seas to wait for us as we spent a couple of hours exploring.
Bee Hive Huts
After about a half an hour of climbing, we made it to the top to view the beehive stone cells. These beehives are where the monks lived dating back to the 6th century. They survived elements and viking invasions through the centuries. The monks lived off of rain water, sea birds and the odd sea lion for food. Life was difficult on the island but it gave them the seclusion they were looking for.
The man made stone path leading up to the settlement took centuries to build. Stone steps lead the way up and their skilled craftsmanship is showcased as they are in extraordinary condition.
Skellig Michael is a designated World Heritage Site so much of it has been left as it was. It is extraordinary to see just how well the cells held up to the wild weather of the Atlantic Coast. While walking through the grounds and taking in the views, one can understand why the Christian Monks chose this spot as their place of refuge. The isolation from the mainland and sheer beauty of the landscape makes you feel that you are just a little bit closer to heaven
Tips: A great place to stay when visiting the Skellig Michael is The Moorings in Portmagee. Owner Gerard is welcoming and friendly. He stopped to say hello and check in on everyone at dinner. He and his wife Patricia own the hotel, but also the restaurant and adjoining pub, as well as a gift shop. There’s local traditional music in the Bridge Bar and in the summertime across the street, they have storytelling about the history of this fishing village and the Skellig Islands.
The Moorings can set up a Skelligs Tour for you, they're located just a few minutes from the Skellig Centre and they offer plenty of advice on what to see and do in the are.
Portmagee is on the Wild Atlantic Way coastal Route. If you drive up the Wet Coast of Ireland, be sure to add Portmaggee and the Skellig Islands into you itinerary.