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Visit Skellig Michael

Unesco, Force Awakens, puffins. Where on earth are we? We just love takiing you to places you might not have heard of; today – Skellig Michael

What is a place that is a setting for a very popular science fiction movie, is a UNESCO world heritage site, and has puffins? I know what you are thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “No way, there is no place that is that cool, that awesome!”  Well, dear…you would be wrong!

On our road trip around Ireland itinerary, west to north, through Killarney and up the Wild Atlantic Way, we made a point to visit Skellig Michael off the southwestern coast of Ireland. If you haven’t heard of it before, it will now be on your bucket list, guaranteed. It is all of these three things plus more, stunningly beautiful and just plain amazing!

Skellig Michael – Star Wars And The First Jedi Temple

Okay, let’s break it down. First, check this out, and you will see that the production of “The Force Awakens” did indeed use Skellig Island as a pivotal scene. Star Wars fans everywhere were asking about this new planet. Then, to give the island even more notoriety, “The Last Jedi” comes along showing off even more of this amazing, craggy island.

We did not really know this until we started researching our trip. We were going anyway, but there was one American family that made the trip just because they were fans. Dad had even brought his Luke Skywalker costume for Mom to take photos of him. Humorous, maybe, but you’ve got to give them props for following their dreams.

The Force Awakens boat drops off another handful of visitors to Skellig Michael.
The boat ride to Skellig Michael can be a little rough.

Skellig Michael – UNESCO World Heritage Site

Second, UNESCO. Inscribed due to the remoteness and harshness of life on such an island, Skellig Michael is famous for its 7th century monastery that was built clinging to its side. To reach the site, you must walk up over 600 slippery slate stairs.

The beehive monastic structures at the top of Skellig Michael.

I can’t imagine dragging my groceries up that high. We did make the climb, and it was every bit as scary and exhilarating as I could have expected it to be. The mainland is a good hour and half away by motor boat, monks back in the day would have had to spend half a day on a bobbing, leaking sailboat. Obviously, this wasn’t a daily occurrence for them so they had to make the most out of what they had on the island.

Check out some of our other Ireland posts:
Top 5 Things to do in Donegal
Meeting the Sunrise from the Hexagonal Stones of the Giant’s Causeway
The Titanic Experience in Belfast

Puffins on Skellig Michael

Incredible closeups of puffins are possible on Skellig Michael.
Puffins or porg? Come to Skellig Michael and see them for your self!

Lastly, a surprise for us. We knew that both of the Skellig islands were home to plenty of birds, including puffins. What we didn’t know is how close we would actually get to see the puffins in their natural habitat and how many of these cute little birds there would be on Skellig Michael. According to one of the three guides on the island that day, the puffins on the stairs’ side of the island are used to seeing humans, but they aren’t on the other side.

What that meant for us was the opportunity for some great bird watching and a few fantastic photos. The puffins are so numerous and so bold that hikers often need to stop and wait for them to cross the path in front of them. In fact, these adorable creatures make an appearance in The Last Jedi as the cute and loveable species known as the porg. It was easier for the film makers to turn the numerous puffin into porg through cgi then try to keep them out of the scene.

Getting to Skellig Michael

A trip to Skellig Michael isn’t easy. It is only accessible by boat (unless you are Luke Skywalker or Rey) and only during the summer months. You’re fist stop for planning is with Heritage Ireland whose website provides all of the information visitors must follow to have a successful visit. Skellig Michael boat operator are approved annually and the new list sometimes isn’t available until late March or April. Stay on top of it and send lots of emails to as many boat tour companies as are on the list. You can’t start planning to early but this little hiccup can be a bit of a stumble.

Speaking of stumbling, things to bring along on your trip to Skellig Michael include walking sticks if you are unsteady on stairs (did we mention the 600 stairs to the top?). Also, rain gear and a good windbreaker are a must. Of course, plenty of water and a small snack are also a good idea as you’ll be on the island for about two hours. Finally, you must bring a camera. Keep in mind, the puffins are so close that some great shots can be made using just a smart phone camera but this is a once in a lifetime experience so try and do better than that!

Other Boat Trips You Might Enjoy around the World:
France: The Scandola Nature Reserve
Sweden: Tall Ship Sailing
Croatia: Rowing on Lake Bled
Turkey: Lake Van
Botswana: Chobe National Park
Uganda: The Kazinga Channel
USA: San Juan Island, Washington

Ireland is the best place to take a week or two and explore, if you’re interested check out this Ireland Itinerary.

Have you been to Skelling Michael?  What was the reason you went?

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Pin Skellig Michael for later!

Off the southwestern coast of Ireland lays an island that should be on your bucket list. From shooting a scene from Star Wars to housing an ancient sect of Christians, Skellig Michael is a must see.
A colorful puffin in full plumage splendor on Skellig Michael.
Explorations on Ireland's World Heritage Site Skellig Michael.

Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

Friday 22nd of December 2017

I just saw the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie and had your post in my mind. Since the director couldn't get rid of the puffins during filming, they used visual effects to disguise them as Porg, a fictional native species on Luke Skywalkers island.

Corinne Vail

Friday 22nd of December 2017

Michele, You are kidding. We've been traveling so haven't seen it. I can't wait to check it out! Happy Holidays!

Alexa Meisler

Monday 31st of July 2017

This was one of the places I didn't fit in on my last trip to Ireland. Now, I'm even more sad I didn't go!

Corinne Vail

Monday 31st of July 2017

Alexa, I'm sorry to hear you didn't get here. It is extremely difficult to do so, and it's a bit out of the way. Ireland is fantastic as a whole, though, so I'm confident you had a fantastic time.


Sunday 30th of July 2017

What a unique and fascinating site! I've read about the area before but this was the first time I've seen some of these angles and video. Really beautiful and to me, so mysterious.

Corinne Vail

Monday 31st of July 2017

Rob, That's definitely a good word for it, mysterious. We loved it. I would go back, even though it was not easy to get there.


Friday 28th of July 2017

Ireland is one of our favorite places but we have never been Skellig Michael. Now we have to go! It looks fantastic!

Corinne Vail

Saturday 29th of July 2017

Jen, It's a bit of an adventure and worth every one of those 600 steps!

Edith & Juan

Friday 21st of July 2017

I've never heard of this Island but it seems amazing. I've never watched Star Wars so I probably wouldn't catch the reference, but regardless I'd enjoy it there. So pretty.

Corinne Vail

Friday 21st of July 2017

Edith and Juan, You definitely would enjoy it. The whole day is fantastic from the boat ride to the climb!