Skellig Michael

Star Wars filmed scenes on the location of Skellig Michael for the blockbuster movie “The Force Awakens” released in 2015. Filming took place in 2014.

It was a very brief part of the episode VII Star Wars film, but they loved the natural and beautiful scenery so much they came back for the next installment, Star Wars film Episode VIII “The Last Jedi”. I can relate to that because once you see Skellig Michael you are in awe.

Skellig Michael

The breathtaking Atlantic outpost was the perfect setting for Luke Skywalker resembling ‘a galaxy far far away” in Star Wars.

Skellig Michael is a remote rugged, rocky island is 8 miles off the Kerry coast. It was so isolated you wouldn’t have thought there were people living on it many centuries ago.

Can you stay on Skellig Michael?

Unfortunately, you can’t stay on the island. In the port of Portmagee you can stay where the film crew of Star Wars stayed while shooting “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”. They stayed in the Moorings Guest House.

Footpath before the steps on Skellig Michael
Footpath before the steps on Skellig Michael
Looking through a window at Little Skellig
Looking through a window at Little Skellig

Was Skellig Michael used in Star Wars?

Yes, it was in 2 movies. “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”. The next film, episode IX “The Rise of Skywalker” I don’t think it was filmed on Skellig Michael. It was filmed in a studio in England with beehive mockups.

When can I visit Skellig Michael?

A Puffin taking shade from the sun on the Skellig Michael
A Puffin taking shade from the sun on the Skellig Michael

Currently, visitors can visit the site from mid-May to late September. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are keen to keep visitors restricted to these times as they do not want you to disturb the numerous birds and other wildlife.

Star Wars shot scenes on Skellig Michael, or known as Ahch-To to Star Wars fans, during the offseason, therefore they had to get permission from Tourism Ireland. They filmed on Skellig Michael or as it is colloquially known as ‘Big Skellig’.

The main bird that resides on Skellig Michael is the puffin. The Star Wars producers created a character based on the puffins called “Porgs”. The Puffins migrate off the island in the month of August every year.

How much does it cost to visit the Skellig Islands?

Boat landing at Skellig Michael
Boat landing at Skellig Michael

Tour boats can bring you out to Skellig Michael depending on the weather. They leave the port at Portmagee for the 12 kilometers trip out to the island. It is very popular to go out to Skellig Michael so you will have to book it online. It will cost you about €110 per person.

It is not advisable to arrive at Portmagee and see if you can get on one of the boats on the day. There were German tourists who booked the trip when I was going out to the island but they hadn’t confirmed their booking so were not allowed to go.

They were devastated. If the weather proves impossible for docking then the boats will do a trip circling the islands instead at a cheaper rate.

What to bring with you when you are going to Skellig Michael?

Steep steps on Skellig Michael
Steep steps on Skellig Michael

If you are lucky enough to dock and arrive on the island you will have to climb up approx 600 steps to get to the beehive huts.

You should wear appropriate footwear with good treads. It is very easy to fall and the heights you will be traversing are not for the faint-hearted. Once you have climbed the steps have a look around at the stunning scenery.

There is no toilet or shop on the island so you will have to bring a packed lunch. Do not forget to watch out for the gulls as they are known to swoop down and take food directly out of the hand.

They are brazen. Bring waterproof clothing if there is a chance of rain. Likewise, if it is a sunny day bring some sunscreen. The length of time you will have to explore the island is 90 mins.

Tours depart daily. 9:00(landing), 9:30, 10:00, 13:00, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30

Beehive hut on Skellig Michael
Beehive hut on Skellig Michael
Steps on Skellig Michael
Steps on Skellig Michael

What is the other Skellig Rock called?

Little Skellig 2
Little Skellig
Little Skellig
Little Skellig

When you are going to and from Skellig Michael you will pass the stunning and iconic “Little Skellig” commonly known as “Skellig Beag”. The island houses a number of sea birds.

What to do if you arrive early in Portmagee?

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

Now when you go to Portmagee (Porgmagee as Star Wars fans call it) and if you are early for the Skellig Islands tour, you can drop into the Moorings pub and restaurant and pull yourself a pint of Guinness like Luke Skywalker when he was there! Portmagee is nearly 16 km from Cahersiveen and 77 km from Killarney.

It is worth mentioning that the Dingle Peninsula in Kerry was used in the filming of “The Last Jedi”. They had mockup beehive huts.

History of Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael was inhabited by monks. It is unknown when precisely the monks built the monastery, but it was around 600 AD. The monks made the path up to where they made their settlement.

When I was there the settlement was unexpectedly calm and sheltered from the south-westerly wind. I would have expected it to be wild because of its location out in the Atlantic Ocean.

They brought livestock with them to the island. The monks had to do the perilous journey from the mainland in small boats called “curraghs”. It is over 9 km from the coast.

Nowadays, the boats are bigger but can’t dock if there is a swell in the sea so can you imagine what the monks endured with the small boats. It was inhabited until the 12th or 13th century when the Vikings arrived and raided the land.

Conclusion

So, if you are coming to Kerry I highly recommend you go to see the charming Skellig Islands. Star Wars came to Skellig Michael, a magical hideaway off the Irish coast that served up 2 blockbuster films to Hollywood.

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