In recent times Skellig Michael has been in the limelight as it has been the location for the last 2 Star Wars movies. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released in 2015.While the other installment is set to be released at the end of this year. As a result The Skelligs has got huge exposure and this has generated a lot of interest, hence numbers coming to Portmagee and South Kerry have increased significantly.
The rocks itself lies almost 12 km west of the Iveragh peninsula and soars over the Wild Atlantic to 218 meters above sea level. I think George Bernard Shaw the Irish poet captured it best when he noted in 1910, it’s an “incredible, impossible, mad place” that’s “part of our dream world,”
Skellig Michael History
There are references to the great rock that date back as far as 1400bc. Skellig Michael in the 6th or 7th century was a monastic settlement. Another fascinating reference is that the Skellig is believed to be the end destination to an ancient sacred line of various pilgrimage locations that span the breadth of Europe. This line runs from Palestine, through Greece, Italy, France and Ireland. This line is known as the Applo/St Michael axis,as it is believed to be known thousands of years before Christianity.
When the rock was being used as an monastic settlement it was believed that 12 monks resided there. They built the famous stone beehive huts you will find there and these became their home. These huts are round on the outside , however they are rectangular on the outside. Monks stayed there until the 13th century where they left the rock for the mainland of Ballinskelligs.
Skellig Michael UNESCO World Heritage Site
Skellig Michael has been world famous long before Starwars, this point is underpinned by the fact that in 1996 the rock was made an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Skellig Michael is only one of three UNESCO world heritage site in Ireland the others being New Grange and Giant Causeway.
Here is a quote from 1996 from the awarding body.
“The Committee decided to inscribe the nominated property on the basis of cultural criteria (iii) and (iv) considering that the site is of outstanding universal value being an exceptional, and in many respects unique example of an early religious settlement deliberately sited on a pyramidal rock in the ocean, preserved because of a remarkable environment. It illustrates, as no other site can, the extremes of a Christian monasticism characterizing much of North Africa, the Near East and Europe.”World Heritage Committee
Visit Skellig Michael
The village of Portmagee is considered to be the gateway to Skelligs. Boats depart daily to land on the rocks in the morning. You can also go out in the afternoon however you cannot land. Keep in mind all these trips are weather dependent, as the Atlantic can be unpredictable. Due to such high demand especially on the landing trips, we would advise you to book well in advance. The voyage takes over an hour to reach the rock.