How to Visit Skellig Michael – A Tour of Ireland’s Beehive Monasteries

Written By: The Planet D

Skelling Michael is a remote island sitting 12 km off the coast of Ireland in the middle of the rugged seas of the Atlantic Ocean. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was one of the most fascinating things we visited in the entire country. (And that is saying a lot!)

How to Visit Skellig Michael

Getting to Skellig Michael is half the fun.

We took a tour of Skellig Michael in April and had the most amazing weather. But that isn’t always the case. It is often very difficult to visit Skellig Michael due to inclement weather and a short boating season. More often than not, trips to Skellig Michael 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. We met three women on our boat who had waited for three days trying to get out to the islands. If they didn’t have the luxury to wait, they would have missed their window.

The ride out to the Skellig Islands is by a small fishing boat facing rough seas. It offers quite the thrill ride as you take in the amazing views of the peninsula. So a visit to Skellig Michael is something special and worth savoring.

How to Book Tickets to Skellig Michael

skellig islands star wars dave and deb

Boat Trips to Skellig Michael are booked at the Visitor’s Centre on Valentia Island.

Each year the Irish government grants only 13 boat licenses to tour operators who run trips to Skellig Michael from the mainland. Space is limited and you must book in advance. Since Star Wars has put The Skelligs on the map, the islands now take 180 people per day.

  • Tours to Skellig Michael run from the end of May to the End of August.
  • They leave daily from the Skellig Michael Experience Centre at 9:30 am and last until about 2pm. You can book tickets to Skellig Michael here.

Since the Skelligs have become so popular, we highly recommend booking several months in advance. They begin to take bookings at the end of March.

Tours to Skellig Michael run weather permitting. If the seas are rough (which they often are) trips will be canceled and you’ll have to wait for another day.

Skellig Experience Visitors Centre

monastery beehive cells of skellig michael

This trip was part of our Wild Atlantic Way road trip itinerary, so once we finished up driving around the famous Ring of Kerry, we made our way to Port Magee to explore these amazingly preserved monastic beehives.

Our trip began at The Skellig Experience Visitors Centre on Valentia Island just off the Peninsula of County Kerry. The visitor’s centre has exhibits about the history of Skellig Michael and it offers an excellent video introduction before visiting the Skellig Islands.

After getting an understanding of what to expect, we set sail to the high seas of Ireland for one of our greatest ancient ruins experiences ever.

The Boat Trip to the Skellig Islands

captain of our boat to skellig michael
Our Captain studies the seas

The boat trip took about an hour to get out to Skellig Michael. You can pick up snacks at the visitor’s centre for the ride which was a nice touch. It was also a blessing having full bellies to ease the sea sickness.

If you are prone to seasickness, I suggest taking medication. The water can be choppy and the swells can cause nausea for the uninitiated.

There are two Skellig Islands to visit

skellig ireland picture
View from Skellig Michael
  • Skellig Michael is the largest of the two islands and houses the 6th-century Monasteries. I is the only island where you have the opportunity to land.
  • Little Skellig is an island that is viewed from the boat. It is home to thousands of birds migrating through the area and it is an impressive view from the top of Skellig Michael.

Landing on Skellig Michael

boat moored at Ireland

There are boat tours that take you out to the Skellig Islands and simply let you see them from the water, but we recommend landing on Skellig Michael and taking some time to explore the bee hive monasteries. They are what makes this destination so special.

We were lucky enough to have blue skies on the day of our tour to Skellig Michael but even with clear skies, the seas can be rough. But we all made it out today but once we reached the dock, it was a hair-raising experience just getting off the boat.

The water was surging with sea swells tossing our boat. It was a rocky landing. For a moment, I thought the captain might not let us go ashore. But with everyone helping each other out, we all managed to get off in one piece.

Climbing the 600 Steps to the Skellig Monasteries

climbing the steps to skellig michael

It was a thrilling experience to step off the boat and look up at the narrow steps leading to the monastery. When landing on the island, there are signs warning people to climb at their own risk and we can understand why. It is daunting when you look up at the steep grade along a narrow path. The trek looks steeper and tougher than we thought.

The climb takes you up an ancient and uneven stone path of 600 steps that reach the beehive monasteries standing 200 meters (600 feet) above sea level.

The stone steps were built by the monks over three centuries and as you make your way up, their skilled craftsmanship shines through. They are in extraordinary condition. Even after more than a thousand years of facing the wind and rains of the Atlantic Ocean, they are standing strong.

The Climb up Skellig Michael is Short but Steep

Ireland's Skellig Islands
Happy Easter from Dave and Deb in Ireland

The climb to the beehive huts of Skellig Michael took us about half an hour. You can go faster if you don’t stop for so many pictures, or you can take your time. The boat gives you about two hours to explore. We recommend going directly up to the monastery and then taking your time on the way down. It is outstanding from above.

The beehive stone cells are fascinating to explore, but the views and setting of the island are even more breathtaking. It is extraordinary to see just how well the ancient monastic huts held up over the centuries facing the wild weather of Ireland’s Atlantic Coast.

Views from Skellig Michael

skellig michael window view of little skellig
A view from inside Skellig Michael Beehive Hut

While walking through the grounds 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

There are seven beehive huts to peruse offering various viewpoints from the island. We went above and below to see them from all angles.

What is there to see at Skellig Michael?

skellig michael ireland
Enjoy our video tour of Skellig Michael, the Boat Trip and Little Skellig Island.

Besides the beehive huts, there is a church, a cemetery complete with stone crosses, terraces and gardens to explore on Skellig Michael.

Getting to the top is where you want to be to have time to see it all. And here you can live out your fantasies of training to be a Jedi Knight.

Star Wars Was Filmed at Skellig Michael

skellig michael ireland

Skellig Michael not only attracts history buffs and travelers, but it has also now become a popular spot for film buffs and fanboys. In recent years, Skellig Michael has become one of the most popular things to do in Ireland thanks to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Rise of Skywalker and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

But the Skellig Islands have drawn explorers for centuries to its mysterious shores. Still, very few people make the journey to see Skellig Michael and even fewer manage to step foot on the island.

Download your copy of Star Wars: Skellig Michael was featured in the Force Awakens and The Last Jedi

About Skellig Michael Ireland

skellig michael Ireland
The Magnificent View of Skellig Michael from shore

Skellig Michael is located in County Kerry just off the coast of Portmagee on the West Coast of Ireland. When you visit here, you will feel as if you have stepped back in time. Skellig Michael is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back 1400 years.

The Skellig Rocks were home to a group of Christian monks who built a monastery atop Skellig Michael between the 6th and 9th centuries. The monks lived in beehive huts that they built by hand while surviving the elements and Viking invasions until the 12th century.

These hearty monks lived on a diet of rainwater, sea birds, and the odd sea lion for food. Life was difficult during this early Christian period, but it gave them the seclusion they were looking for.

Where to Stay Near the Skellig Islands

port magee ring of Kerry

Port Magee is the gateway to Skellig Michael and it is a good spot to make a base for your trip out to the island or even when driving the Ring of Kerry.

A great place to stay when visiting the Skellig Michael is The Moorings in Portmagee. Owner Gerard and his wife Patricia own the hotel and the adjoining pub and restaurant. 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 Skellig Michael Island Tour for you, they’re located just a few minutes from the Skellig Visitors 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 West Coast of Ireland, be sure to add Portmaggee and the Skellig Islands into your itinerary.

Frequently Asked Questions about Skellig Michael

Is Skellig Michael Dangerous?

Skellig Michael reaches 200 metres (600 feet) above sea level. There are steep drops and the climb can be a bit harrowing. Don’t go too close to the edge and take your time when climbing the uneven rocky path up that dates back to the 6th century.

What if Tickets are already booked out for Skellig Michael?

If tickets are booked out for landings on Skellig Michael, you can book sightseeing tours that take you out and around the two Skellig Islands.

Can you see Skellig Michael from land?

Skellig Michael is possible to see from land, but it is located 12 km (7.5 miles) offshore. It is best seen from the Kerry Cliffs at Port Magee just off the Ring of Kerry

Why are the Skellig Islands so difficult to visit?

Skellig Michael is difficult to visit because there are only 13 boats that operate during a short season. Plus weather is always a factor and high winds may stop landings.

And this is everything you need to know to visit Skellig Michael, if you are heading to Ireland, make sure to visit this amazing attraction. It is truly a fascinating place and it was our favorite thing to see in Ireland. (and that’s saying a lot!)

Read More about Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way:

Traveling to Ireland – See our Ireland Travel Guide

You May Also Like These Ireland Travel Tips

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

19 thoughts on “How to Visit Skellig Michael – A Tour of Ireland’s Beehive Monasteries”

  1. Possibly one of my favourite places to travel to in Ireland, I just love the sheer remoteness of it. Even the fact that Skellig is hard to get to makes it all the more appealing. Will definitely be revisiting soon again once travel restrictions are eased here in Ireland

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  2. Thanks for visiting Skellig Michael and share your wonderful experience. Though we never had a chance to visit the place but now after reading your blog I could feel the place and the beauty of it.
    Thank you once again for sharing

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  3. I’ve been collecting information for my journal about Skellig. Thanks for sharing this amazing post. It’ll help me out get a clear view .

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  4. Looks like such an intriguing place.
    Really like the video you guys have done as well. The parts where Deb is just commenting from within the room give it an extra documentary touch I think.

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    • Thanks Sophie, that means a lot to us. We’ve been working on our videos like mad this summer trying to make them more interesting. So we really appreciate that you took the time to watch and comment.

      Reply
  5. I would LOVE to visit this place someday. It was originally on the itinerary of the post-TBEX press trip I did last year, but it was taken off. And the weather was terrible when we were down that way anyway. It looks incredible, though! Definitely on the bucket list.

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    • Hi Amanda, that’s common. Most of the time you can’t get on the island. A Group of women kept trying for three days before our trip and finally got to Skellig the day before they had to head back to the city to fly home. Luckily there is a lot to do around the area and it’s near the ring of Kerry so while you wait for good weather, you can do a lot of sightseeing if you have the tme.

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  6. Sounds like getting to the island is tricky, to say the least! You were fortunate to have a bluebird day :-). We haven’t visited Ireland yet, but we hear the hiking and walking there is great… (and we’d love to do that).

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    • Yes indeed, we were very fortunate. We knew it was difficult conditions, but we didn’t realize that more often than not people either don’t land or don’t even get to go out on the water. WE feel very lucky. Yes indeed, the hiking is great, they have long distance and short trails all over Ireland.

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  7. I can only imagine how vast and peaceful the scenery there must be. Must be a great place to disappear and really introspect…

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    • That’s a great way of putting it Rashad. There’s only so many people allowed on the island and only so many boats that go out, and they stagger their times, so it never felt crowded at all. We had about a half an hour up there when we were completely alone as everyone started down earlier than us to catch the boat.

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  8. That looks truly amazing. I visited Ireland with my family and as the boss 13 year old, I planned most of the itinerary. I did well in England as I knew the history so well, but I didn’t even know what Lonely Planet was then, so we missed quite a bit in Ireland including this. It looks like such a brilliant place. I definitely want to see it when I get back to Ireland.

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    • Now that’s impressive! You planned the itinerary at 13? I have a hard enough time doing that today. It’s true though, without some guidance it’s difficult to see everything. There is so much to see and do on the Wild Atlantic Way that it’s easy to miss a lot. We had a lot of help planning and we still missed a lot ourselves. I think Ireland needs to be seen on two or three separate occasions.

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    • It truly is one of the most unique places we’ve visited. Usually Dave and I aren’t the best audience’s when it comes to seeing ruins. We lose interest quickly and don’t see the point of all the fuss. Skellig Michael is one of the exceptions

      Reply