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The Skellig Islands – an extraordinary experience!

The Skellig Islands are an extraordinary place to visit.

Most people have never even heard of the Skellig Islands (a UNESCO World Heritage site) found about 16 kilometres (10 miles) off the coast of southwest Ireland. But what a find and what an experience!! Skellig Michael, the larger island, was the home of Christian monks in the sixth century. They lived in beehive stone huts built near the top of the 600 steps that cling in places to the cliffs. Next door on Little Skellig Island is the largest bird mass I have ever witnessed – so be prepared to duck and cover to avoid the bird poop.

"Some of the 600 steps on Skellig Island"

Some of the 600 steps on Skellig Island

You need a dose of Irish luck to even make it to the islands. Trips run at most 100 days of the year. The boat ride out on a calm day is enough to make the average traveller seasick. I can’t even imagine the size of the waves and swells on the 265 days of the year that it isn’t safe to venture out to the islands.

'booat ride to Skellig Islands'

On the boat to the Skellig Islands

Boats generally leave the very pretty seaside town of Portmagee for a 45 to 90 minute crossing depending on what size boat you are in. Choose the faster boat. I was so scared at times looking at the size of the waves that I was having second thoughts about the trip. Swallow your fears and GO. This is one amazing site like no other on the planet.


The pretty town of Portmagee

The boats head for Little Skellig first. It’s home to 28,000 breeding pairs of gannets. That in itself is a memorable sight but consider the fact that the wingspan of a gannet is 6 feet across.

'Gannets galore'

Gannets galore!

Next it is a quick jaunt over to a small landing dock on Great Skellig Island. You are allowed about two hours to visit the site. It is a steep and unprotected hike up to the beehive huts near the top. Many people have a difficult time navigating the steep steps. There are no handrails and anyone handicapped by vertigo will be challenged. Some people can be seen descending on their butts.

'Skellig Island'

Stairs near the top of Skellig Island

Bring a lunch, wander through the beehive huts, watch the puffins take off and land at their nests on the cliff face and marvel at how difficult life would have been here 1,500 years ago. Give thanks you weren’t the poor cow whose home was the 200 square feet of flat grass halfway up. And a little note to let you know that there are no bathrooms on the Skellig Islands.

'Puffins on Skellig Michael'

One of many Puffins on Skellig Michael

'Little Skellig Island'

The view of Little Skellig Island

'Beehive huts on Skellig Island'

Beehive huts on Skellig Island

View of Skellig Michael'

The view of Skellig Michael

Other blog posts from this trip you might enjoy:

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

More posts by Leigh

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