How to Get to Skellig Islands - "Irish Machu Picchu"

Although Skellig Islands may be the most impressive attraction in Ireland, only a few know about their existence. While places like the Cliffs of Moher or the Ring of Kerry are known world-wide, Skellig islands remain in the shadow of the most popular sites in Ireland. For me, Skellig is probably the best of all I've seen in Ireland. This tiny speck of land combines all you need for a perfect tourist destination into one: spectacular scenery, amazing wildlife with multiple sea birds and historical, unique, beehive-like monastery. So why is this magnificent site virtually unknown and less popular than, say, the Cliffs of Moher?

 

How to get to the Skellig Islands

 

Despite being probably the most spectacular site in Ireland, Skellig Islands are pretty difficult to reach, and getting there, unfortunately, can get quite expensive. But when you finally set foot on the rocks of Skellig, you'll know that the cost and effort were really worth it!

There are no tours from Dublin or any other larger cities in Ireland to Skellig (unlike to the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, Giant's Causeway, etc.) I went and asked in all of them and they said no one does tours to the Skellig Islands. The only way to get there is to drive to the tiny fisherman village of Portmagee and from there - to take a boat.

Unfortunately, public transport to Portmagee is very limited and getting there from Dublin would take a few days - you have to change buses in the town of Cahersiveen (which is 16 km/10 miles from Portmagee). There are only two buses per week from Cahersiveen to Portmagee - on Monday and Thursday.

It's way better to rent a car and drive - especially that you can visit the Kerry Ring and Skellig Ring - spectacular coastal routes with beautiful cliffs, beaches and ancient megalithic tombs on the way (I've posted about the Kerry Ring - check here, soon I'll write about Skellig Ring).

Note that you HAVE TO book your boat trip from Portmagee to Skellig in advance and that you can actually land on the island only between May and October. The best time to visit is in June-August, when there are thousands of puffins all around Skellig Michael - they seem to love posing for photos. Make sure you don't miss the time when you can see them as it's an unbelievable experience!

You can find many services that can take you to Skellig, but make sure you do it way before - the spaces are very limited. Also, MAKE SURE that your tour will actually allow you to walk on Skellig Micheal - the larger island with the monastery - some tours just sail around and you won't be able to see anything. Expect to pay around 50 EUR per person. I know it's quite a lot but it is really worth it and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again!

 

Why is Skellig so difficult to get to?

 

There are probably two reasons for that - first is the weather. The Atlantic Ocean near the south-western tip of Ireland can be really rough - even in the summer your trip can be canceled due to high waves, wind and bad weather conditions.

Second, as a nature reserve, the islands are the natural habitat of many seabirds, the government don't want to disturb them with too many tours and visitors. Do keep it in mind when you visit Skellig - don't leave any rubbish or cause discomfort to those amazing birds.
 

 Approaching Skellig Michael Island

Approaching Skellig Michael Island

 Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael

 Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael

 Puffins on Skellig Michael

Puffins on Skellig Michael

 Puffin posing for a photo

Puffin posing for a photo

 Puffins in Skellig

Puffins in Skellig

 Rocks on Skellig Michael

Rocks on Skellig Michael

 Another cute puffin

Another cute puffin

 There are hundreds of puffins everywhere

There are hundreds of puffins everywhere

 Steps to the monastery

Steps to the monastery

 Skellig Monastery

Skellig Monastery

 Little Skellig island seen from the monastery

Little Skellig island seen from the monastery

 Skellig Monastery

Skellig Monastery

 Skellig Monastery

Skellig Monastery

 Skellig Islands

Skellig Islands

 Steps to the Monastery

Steps to the Monastery

 

Visiting Skellig Islands

 

Children below 12 years old are not allowed to enter Skellig. The boat ride takes around 1 hour and the seas are almost always rough, if you have sea sickness, this might not be suitable for you as the boat is pretty small and it rocks a lot. It can get windy and rainy, too.

First, the boat passes by the smaller of the islands - Little Skellig which is uninhabited but you can admire thousand of sea birds on its rocks during the nesting season. The island has impressive, pointy rock formations and is incredibly spectacular.

Then, you reach the second, bigger island - Skellig Michael. Its name derives from the monastic site which was dedicated to St. Michael. Here, you have a chance to disembark the boat and spend some time on the land.

Skellig Michael is very rugged and you can spot many unusual, beautiful rock formations sticking out of the green grass. Before you get to the main part - the monastery, you have to climb up dozens of steep, rocky steps. The hike is short and not too difficult, if you're reasonably fit.

On the way up you can admire not only the amazing views over the Atlantic Ocean and Little Skellig but also what was best for me in Skellig - thousands of sea birds (especially puffins) that seem not to be bothered by the presence of "human invaders" at all!

The birds are extremely cute and colorful - just like tiny penguins - and they don't run away - it's an experience one of a kind, it cannot be compared to any visit to a bird park or zoo. To observe wildlife in such abundance in the natural environment was one of the best experiences I've had in Ireland.

As an interesting fact, I can add that Skellig was one of the location for the Star Wars - The Force Awakens film.

 

Skellig Michael Monastery

 

When you finally climb to the top of the steps, there's the amazing, unique in the world ancient site in front of your eyes - Skellig Monastery (dating back to 6th - 8th) century which was inhabited until the 13th century. It's hard to imagine how the monks lived there - but for sure they had a world class excellent view you won't get anywhere else! Their diet was also quite boring, it consisted mainly of seabirds, their eggs and fish. I might be a hypocrite but it would be quite difficult for me to eat a puffin...

The shape of the monastic site is unique - what makes it so extraordinary is the homes of the monks - they are built in the form of a beehive which resemble rocky igloos! Among them, there are many stone crosses strewn here and there.

The Skellig Micheal monastic site is sometimes called the "Irish Machu Picchu" and if you see it from above, it does look like the most famous city of the Incas. Moreover, the pointy peaks on Skellig remind of the miniature of the Andes range (if you're interested, you can read about our adventure and a hike to Machu Picchu Mountain in Peru here)!

 

 The other side of Skellig Michael

The other side of Skellig Michael

 The Monastery is behind this hill

The Monastery is behind this hill

 Baby seagull

Baby seagull

 Little Skellig island

Little Skellig island

 Little Skellig - the arch

Little Skellig - the arch

 Thousands of birds on Little Skellig

Thousands of birds on Little Skellig

 Birds on Little Skellig

Birds on Little Skellig

 There's so many birds that the white marks dripping down the rocks are actually... poo

There's so many birds that the white marks dripping down the rocks are actually... poo

 If you're lucky, you can also spot dolphins!

If you're lucky, you can also spot dolphins!

 

Author: Tom @ adventurous-travels.com

 

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