About 8km off the Kerry coast Skellig Michael was home to monks for hundreds of years. Today their homes and churches are still in excellent condition. The monks who lived in this remote space, interpreted and translated the works of the gospel.
Lying off the Co. Kerry coast, the Skeligs are one of the most notable attractions in the area. The isles are of historic significance and is the site of an early Christian monastic settlement. Skellig Michael is a UNESCO world heritage site. The site is managed by the OPW the office for Public Works.
Monastic Settlement Skellig Michael
On the rocky isle of Skellig Michael off the Kerry Coast, an early Christian settlement dating to the 9th century, remains in excellent condition, with its multitude of bee hive dwellings perched precariously on the top of the rocky outcrop.
The settlement can be visited by ferry from a number of places in Kerry such as Portmagee near Valentia Island.
The ferries berth in a small harbour at the base of the sheer cliffs.
Due to tidal conditions it is often necessary to disembark from the ferry and cross a short stretch of water by dinghy.
Skellig Michael is the largest of the islands. It was inhabited by monks for about 5 centuries, from the 7th to the 12th.
The homes of the monks are still in liveable condition, provided of course that you are a monk, and like to live in perfect isolation. Though both broadband and mobile service are now available.
The island rises to about 200 metres. While trekking up to the monks village you will pass below the highest point and be able see the most remote dwelling on the island, perched almost on top of the conical shaped peak.
The monks monastery sits on a ledge high up the mountain top. Monks first settled here in the 6th century and built a cluster of 6 beehive huts and two little churches.
Paths and Walkways
Follow the paths from the small harbour as they hug the edge of the cliffs and slowly meander up to the highest points on the island.
The island is rugged, just a mass of sheer rock, which has provided protection for the birds over the millennium.
It certainly would be no fun scaling the cliff and being mobbed by the 22,000 Gannets in ones efforts to steal their eggs. Far easier to buy some free range eggs in the local Mace.
You may soon become tired of counting the steps up to the monastery, there are over 500. The stair way is quite open in many places and care needs to be taken, particularly when the weather is wet. Though the stair way is not bad for one built over a thousand years ago.
Paths and Walkways
Skellig Island Birds
The islands are a breeding site for many sea birds, the most amusing to watch are the colourful puffins. During the summer months, guides live on the island, though not in the monks beehive huts. The guides are friendly and delighted to answer any questions and chat. Wouldn't you be fond of a chat if you were stuck out there for several days during Atlantic storms.
Bird Life Skellig Island Birds
Both Skellig Islands are breeding grounds for a wide range of sea birds, such as Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots.
The island is home to thousands of birds. During nesting time in late spring early/summer the air is filled with the raucous calls of the gulls. The puffins can easily be seen plodding their way across the heather to their underground homes.
The Little Skellig lies a little closer to the mainland, and is clearly seen from Skellig Michael. On a clear day in early summer, from Skellig Michael you can see the thousands of sea birds circling and diving.
Little Skellig is home to thousands of Gannets, apparently, exactly 22,000 on the last count. It is the biggest Gannet breeding colony in Northern Europe.
The Little Skelligs is home to over 30,000 Gannets and is a breeding ground of major significance.
Usually the boat returning from Skellig Michael will stop and circle the Little Skellig to give you one more long lasting memory. Clever timing on the part of the local business community, has the boat return you to port at around 2:30, in time for lunch.
Little Skellig Little Skelligs
The Little Skellig, which one passes on the way to Skellig Michael, is closed to the public.
It has a colony of over 30,000 Northern Gannets which is the second most important gannet breeding grown in the world.
Apart from the massive number of Gannets, the island is home to fulmars, shearwaters, kittiwakes, guillemots and storm-petrels.
The islands with their biodiversity are important to scientists and conservationists. It is an privilege to be able to visit these ancient rocks.
Late spring, early summer is an ideal time to pass the island, while the gannets are nesting.