I think I might be one of the luckiest people in Ireland. No, I didn’t win the lotto, but something much better happened. On the day I planned to visit Skellig Michael, we experienced the most incredibly beautiful weather Ireland has seen in years. Just as well, considering Skellig Michael is extremely hard to get to…what with being an island located in the Atlantic Ocean, 11 km off the West Coast of Ireland.
Skellig Michael, while not known to a lot of people (thankfully – that’s what makes it a hidden gem!), is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to one of the oldest Christian Monastic settlements in the world – founded sometime between the 6th and 8th century. It is also home to a vast range of wildlife, including Puffins, Seagulls and over 50,000 gannets can be observed on the nearby Little Skellig (shown in pictures below). Not bad for a tiny island off the coast of Kerry.
Thanks to its status as a world heritage site, and its obscure and exposed location, only 13 boat licenses are granted each year and these tour operators are only allowed to run a single trip to Skellig Michael each day during the summer season. This means that only a lucky few get to see this magical place each year, and if you happen to land while the sun is shining, as we did, you can consider yourself truly blessed!
The boat trip to the island took about an hour, and we had nearly 3 hours to explore the island itself. This was the perfect length of time to climb the 618 slippery steps to the monastery that perches on top, to explore the expertly built beehive huts that the monks would have lived and slept in, which have remained intact and untouched for hundreds of years and to take in the spectacular views, scenery and abundant wildlife that is on offer.
It’s hard to believe such a piece of paradise, a tiny bit of history frozen in time, exists right on our doorstep. If you live in Ireland, I think you should do everything you can to visit this very special place. My only regret is that it took me 27 years to discover it.