Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael: A Guide To The Two Types Of Tours

Skellig Michael, an isolated, rocky island off the west coast of Kerry, is one of the most beautiful spots in Europe. It is home to two distinct types of tours: the Skellig Michael Boat Tour and the Landing Tour.

Skellig Michael
Skellig Michael

The Skellig Michael Boat Tour takes visitors on a ride around both islands, providing an opportunity to explore the wildlife and natural beauty of this unique landscape.

The tour guides provide an insight into the history and culture of the area, as well as pointing out any wildlife sightings or interesting facts about the islands.

The Skellig Michael Landing Tour allows visitors to disembark on Skellig Michael itself for a 2.5-hour stopover.

Boat landing at Skellig Michael
The boat landing at Skellig Michael

Here you can explore more closely some of its unique features such as its 374-360 million-year-old twin-pinnacled crags and take in breathtaking views across to Little Skellig (Sceilig Bheag).

The Landing Tours are highly sought after due to their limited availability, so it is important to book well in advance if you wish to join one.

The Legend Of St. Fionan And The Skellig Michael

It is believed to have been the home of St. Fionan and his community of monks, who established a monastery on the island in the 6th century.

Steps on Skellig Michael

This monastery was built on a plateau at the top of one of its two peaks – a difficult feat given its remote location and harsh weather conditions!

“Skellig” means a splinter of stone. Its twin peak towers soar over 200 metres above sea level and are visible from the land for many miles around.

In 1996 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its unique geo-ecological importance and cultural heritage value – making it extremely popular with pilgrims and tourists alike! To experience this incredible place first-hand you can take boat trips from nearby Portmagee.

Exploring Skellig Michael

Exploring the island is an unforgettable experience. To access the island and its many wonders, visitors must take one of the Skellig Michael boat tours.

Cross on Skellig Michael

Once on board, you will cruise around both Skellig Islands getting right up close to see the historic sites and wildlife.

Steps on Skellig Michael
Skellig Michael

You have two and a half hours to explore the island(visitors are not allowed off the main track). You can climb up 618 steps to reach the monastery which sits atop a steep rocky outcrop and experience otherworldly vistas from its peak.

The boat tour provides an incredible opportunity to explore this beautiful part of nature as it has never been seen before – all while staying within your own physical limitations.

Whether it’s for a day trip or a longer excursion, Exploring the island is sure to be an unforgettable journey that will leave you with lasting memories!

Steps with no handrail looking into the sea on Skellig Michael
No Handrail

The only thing I will say to you is that if you are afraid of heights I would give this a miss or take the Skellig Michael Boat Tour

Climbing the Steps of Skellig Michael

Climbing the flights of steps of Skellig Michael is a memorable experience. Visitors can take a guided landing tour to reach the island, followed by an arduous climb up over 618 steps.

Steps on Skellig Michael
Steps on Skellig Michael

The climb may be challenging, but the reward is worth it. From the top of the steps, visitors will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean and seabirds like puffins and gannets which call Skellig Michael their home.

Along with stunning views, visitors will also get to explore ancient ruins from the sixth-century monastery that once stood at this site.

Safety when climbing should always be taken into consideration when taking on this journey.

One of the paths on Skellig Michael
The back path on the island

Wear appropriate clothing for any weather conditions, including layers for cool temperatures as well as sturdy footwear with a good grip on wet surfaces.

It’s also important to bring plenty of water and snacks to keep your energy levels up during this long hike up!

The beehive huts

Skellig Michael monks who lived there hundreds of years ago led a simple life and built beehive huts from stone.

Beehive huts on Skellig Michael

These huts were designed to provide shelter from the elements and still stand today. Visitors are able to explore 7 different beehive huts when they visit Skellig Michael, each offering a unique viewpoint of the island.

Beehive hut on Skellig Michael
Beehive hut on Skellig Michael

To this day, the monks’ beehive huts remain a testament to their hard work and dedication to living off of the land.

The structures are amazing feats of engineering that could not have been achieved without their ingenuity and knowledge of construction techniques.

Visitors can experience this incredible site firsthand when they visit Skellig Michael by taking part in guided tours around the island, learning about its history, and admiring the breathtaking views from each hut. 

The Monastery

Beehive hut on Skellig Michael

The Skellig Michael Monastery is an archaeological site and monastic settlement. The island is home to the famous Skellig Monks who, according to legend, traveled across Ireland to find a place where none shall disturb them.

The monastery was founded in the 6th century, and its variety of inhabiting species includes gannets, puffins, shearwaters, and storm petrels. The monastery is one of only 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Republic of Ireland. 

There are no bathrooms on Skellig Michael

Visiting Skellig Michael in County Kerry is an amazing experience but there are no bathroom facilities on the island. This means that if you plan to visit the stunning World Heritage Site, you must make sure to take care of business before you leave Portmagee. 

What to bring on your trip to Skellig Michael

Visiting the island requires careful planning and preparation. You should bring items that will help ensure your safety and comfort on the trip. Here is a list of essential items to consider bringing:

  • Warm clothing, including a raincoat or windbreaker, as the weather can be unpredictable in the area.
  • Good hiking boots with non-slip soles for climbing steep steps.
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun’s rays during your stay on the island.
  • Seasickness tablets if you think you might need them due to possible choppy waters during your boat tour out to and around the island.
  • Snacks, water bottles, and other refreshments for your journey as there are no shops or restaurants on the Island itself.
  • A camera to capture some amazing views of birds and wildlife found in this remote part of Ireland!

The OPW has released a Safety Video for Skellig Michael Tours which covers all aspects of visiting the island-from climbing safely up the steep steps and disembarking at the pier.

So if you plan on visiting this incredible place, make sure you follow these guidelines for an enjoyable and safe experience!

YouTube video

Who should not go to Skellig Michael

There are no safety rails or barriers on the steps or paths.

  • People that has fear of heights
  • People that have vertigo
  • No children only adults
  • People that are not good on their feet
  • People that are prone to falls e.g. Epilepsy
  • Your 4-legged friend.
  • Before booking “ask”. There is no such thing as a stupid question
Steps with no handrail looking into the sea on Skellig Michael
Steps with no handrail on Skellig Michael

When is the Site Closed

If you want to visit this beautiful island and see its many wonders, make sure you plan your trip between mid-May and the end of September and book your tickets in advance!

The Office of Public Works (OPW) closes the site because of rockfalls. If the weather is too bad the boats can’t dock. The skipper has the final say.

Crossing the Rough Sea

Visiting the Skelligs is an amazing experience, but it takes a bit of effort to get to this remote island.

The journey begins with a boat trip from Portmagee, which takes about one hour and crosses the 8 miles of the rough Atlantic Ocean between the mainland and the island.

Skellig Michael

The swell can be large, waves may splash over the sides of the boat and you are likely to get wet. It is advisable to wear ponchos or other protective clothing for this open ocean crossing.

Visiting this incredible place is worth all the effort, however; Mark Hamill even described it as a “magical place” in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”!

So if you’re brave enough for a thrilling ride across rough seas, then make sure to add Skellig Michael to your bucket list! 

Star Wars “The Force Awakens”

It has risen to fame due to its starring role as Luke Skywalker’s Island Sanctuary on the planet Ahch-To in  Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Stormtrooper pulling a pint of Guinness in the Moorings Pub in Portmagee, Kerry
Moorings Pub in Portmagee

In September 2014, the production crew for Star Wars: The Force Awakens filmed scenes on Skellig Michael with the help of Sea Quest, a boat charter company that provided access to and from the island.

Given its incredible scenery and unique connection to the blockbuster film, it comes as no surprise that Skellig Michael is becoming increasingly popular among tourists looking for an unforgettable experience along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Puffin Island (Little Skellig)

Puffin Island is an incredible haven for birdlife. Located off the west coast of Ireland, it has become a popular tourist destination for those looking to spot some of the unique species that inhabit the area. Among these are gannets, puffins, and seagulls.

Little Skellig 1
Little Skellig

From mid-April to July, visitors can observe over 50,000 birds on nearby Little Skellig. The main attraction is undoubtedly the puffin, with its scientific name Fratercula arctica, otherwise known as “clowns of the sea” or “sea parrots”.

Little Skellig with birds flying around it
Little Skellig

They arrive on the island in late spring and leave at the end of summer.

With its rugged beauty and a vast array of wildlife, Puffin Island is a must-see destination for nature enthusiasts! Little Skellig is smaller and inaccessible so landing is not permitted.

Visit the Skelligs Experience Visitors Centre

The Skellig Experience Visitors Centre is dedicated to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Skellig Michael. Located on Valentia Island, their visitor centre allows visitors to explore the mysteries and magic of the island through interactive exhibits, films, and landing tours.

Skellig Experience Museum
Skelligs Experience Visitors Centre

At The Skellig Experience Visitors Centre you can also learn about the history and archaeology of Skellig Michael as well as its wildlife and its role in Star Wars! Their centre offers a range of exciting activities for all ages such as boat tours, landing tours, and more.

Where do the Skellig Michael Tours depart from?

You’ll need to go on one of the Skelligs Island boat trips leaving from the marina in Porthmagee. These tours are very popular and only 15 boats are licensed to depart from the marina each day weather permitting.

The tour times vary depending on sea conditions.

Boats at Portmagee Harbour
Portmagee Harbour

(Prior booking is essential. Don’t arrive down to Portmagee looking to get on one of the boats. You will be disappointed).

The tour gives visitors the chance to explore the island and its various attractions up close.

Safety is paramount when visiting this island, so make sure you read all safety precautions before embarking on your journey.

This incredible place is well worth a visit and will give you memories that last a lifetime.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Skellig Michael is a stunningly beautiful and remarkable place that really has to be seen to be believed.

It’s a magical island steeped in history and mythology, with incredible rock formations and an abundance of wildlife.

Its remote location means that it is not easy to reach but the journey there is well worth the effort.

Furthermore, taking a tour of the island provides visitors with an unforgettable experience as they discover the wonders of this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site for themselves.

Check out my web pages on the Ring of Kerry Drive, The Skellig Ring and Slea Head Drive.