Mom and I have visited Skellig or Sceilig Mhichíl (in the Irish Language) three or four times and each time has been a totally different experience.
These days, the famous former Christian monastery on the remote island is known for its Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi cameo, but aside from that it really is spectacular to see. Located off the coast of the best county in Ireland, Co. Kerry (yes I have my total Kerrywoman bias), Skellig became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
Though it’s not 100% certain when the monastery was founded, it’s said to have been built sometime between the 6th and 8th century, until it was abandoned in the 12th century.
Pro-tip: if you’re planning to head there, regardless of what the weather says, bring a decent pair of walking shoes/boots. The climb is steep and long and if you don’t have good coordination, are afraid of heights or get a bit wobbly, then a good grip is well needed.
Boats depart for the Skellig Islands from Valentia, Derrynane, Ballinskelligs and Cahirciveen, but generally, Portmagee is seen as the hub for boats.
It can take nearly an hour to get there on the boat and you’ll be given about two and half hours to explore the island – so make sure that you get a good sleep and have plenty of energy.
On one occasion when we visited there was fog surrounding us and though hard to see in the distance, there was a wonderful sense of remoteness and peace all around. You could see why the monks would have loved the place.
Another time, the skies were clear and you could see all of the coast. Breathtaking to say the least – but both situations are. Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw.
The remains of the monastery feature six beehive huts (bone dry inside), two oratories, stone crosses and a church with some spectacular views.
Boats to Skellig usually run from late April to late September weather dependent, but the best time of year we think to head there is when the puffins and gannets are floating about in April – May-ish. I really enjoyed puffin-spotting, they tend to dart in and out of their nests with such speed!
Be warned, when we were on the island there were no toilet facilities, so go on the boat or beforehand. Nothing worse than feeling like you need a leak when climbing up the 618 steps to the monastery!
This isn’t a trip for the faint of heart, though, as beautiful as Skellig is, if you’ve any fear of choppy waters, heights or aren’t feeling particularly fit, then the trip may be tough on you.
Where to stay?
Each time we’ve stayed in Portmagee, we’ve stopped over in The Moorings. They were offering “Skelligs Package” from May (€150pps) or June – September (€160pps). They’ll book the boat trip in advance, and provide you with lunch for the trip and a dinner in their restaurant.
Cash payment for the boat trip to be made directly to boat operator on departure. Or if you’re going on the trip alone they can cost anything from €55 pp (€60 in June, July, and August). BUT there are also plenty of options on AirBnb in Portmagee or Valencia Island here.
In terms of who to actually book the boat with, I think this deserves another trip to Skellig before we’d be able to recommend a group! Fingers crossed we’ll be back soon.
Recommended websites to check the weather: