Southwest Ireland | County Kerry
The Skellig Islands (Irish: Na Scealaga) are two small, rocky islands : Great Skellig (also known as Skellig Michael) and Little Skellig. Islands are located about 12 km off the coast of Portmagee on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. The Skellig Micheal is renowned for its Early Christian Monastic Settlement (designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), sea birds colonies and long-lived lighthouse service. St Finnan's Abbey, which is located on Skellig Michael's summit was founded in 6th century. The monastery contains a number of beehive huts and oratories. You must overcome more than 600 steps to get to the top, where the guides are waiting to answer any questions you may have (it is a demanding climb and any person with health issues should consider carefully their own physical limitations). The St. Fionan's monks lived a simple life, spending their time on fishing, working in garden, praying and studing. The settlement survived three invasions of the Vikings between 795AD and 839AD. However, despite these attacks, the monastic community continued to live on the Skelligs until the 12th or 13th century, when they moved to Ballinskellig. From that time it became a place of pilgrimage. In early 1820's the Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin (the predecessor to the Commissioners of Irish Lights) bought Skellig Michael from Butler family to built there two lighthouses (The Butler family owned the island after dissolution of Ballinskelligs abbey by Elizabeth I in 1578). The lighthouse builders constructed a landing pier and road. During the construction works the lower end of the path and steps leading up to the eastern end of the beehive settlement were permanently destroyed and lost forever. Both lighthouses were using Argand oil lamps and parabolic reflectors. The upper light was 121m (372 feet) above high water and could be seen at a distance of 40 km (25 miles) in clear weather, the lower light was 53.3m (175 feet) above high water and could be seen for 29 km (18 miles). In 1870 the upper light of Skellig was discontinued due to the construction of a new lighthouse on the Inishtearaght Island (the most westerly island of the Blaskets archipelago). The Lower Lighthouse was modernised a few times and is still in use as an unmanned station (is managed by Commissioners of Irish Lights). Skellig Michael attracts many bird watchers to observe Atlantic Puffins, which arrive here to breed during summer time. You will also find there species of birds such as The Arctic Tern, The Black Guillemot, Herring Gull, The Manx Shearwater, The Fulmar, The Razorbill and The Cormorant. Little Skellig is not accessible to explore but every boat to Great Skellig goes around it and stops for while at the shore . There is the largest population of Northern Gannets in Ireland and one of the largest in the world. When planning a trip to the Skellig Islands you need to book a place on a boat and be prepared the trip may be canceled due to heavy weather conditions. Most of the boats flows out of Portmagee, but also from Valentia Island and Bunavalla Pier (Derrynane). The cost of the trip is about 50 euros and it takes about five hours. Take warm, clothes and good shoes (preferably waterproof). Located on Valentia Island, The Skellig Experience Visitor Centre gives a closer look to history and wildlife of Skellig Islands.
Skellig Michael will appear in Star Wars, The Force Awakens, which is due to release in December 2015.