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, 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!
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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.
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. 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.
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Puffins on Skellig Michael
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. Of course, 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!
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?
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