Skellig Michael Star Wars Island View to Little Skellig

Skellig Michael and Little Skellig are two uninhabited rocky islands off the coast of Kerry in the southwest of Ireland. Skellig Michael is an early Christian Monastic settlement and the featured Star Wars island on Planet Ahch to.

Famously, Irish Writer George Bernard Shaw succinctly described Skellig Michael as the most fantastic and impossible rock in the world.  Elaborating, he suggested both islands were 'pinnacled, crocketed, spired, arched, caverned and minaretted', rising from the Atlantic ocean.

Skellig Michael Island Monastic Settlement and Star Wars Location

Skellig Michael is a UNESCO protected island famous for its early Christian monastic settlement and the Star Wars Planet Ahch-to. In case you have yet to see Episode 7 and Episode 8 of the Star War Movies, Planet Ahch to is Luke Skywalker’s retreat. It is also the origin from whence the Jedi Order came.  Star Wars fans, who are familiar with the early Christian monks' spiritual and solitary life on Skellig Michael, will appreciate how apt this movie location is.

Since I was a child I have marvelled at the Skellig Islands’ rugged angular shapes in the Atlantic off the Ring of Kerry Coast.  For as I Looked out across the bay, I had many questions about the Skelligs.

Questions such as did the Christian monks really live on this island?  When did the monks live there? Why were they on Skellig Michael in the first place? How did they survive? We’re they cold?.... and many more.

Booking A Boat Trip to Skellig Michael Island on the Ring of Kerry

Skellig Michael and Little Skelligs are a top Kerry attraction and visiting them is an incredible adventure.  Particularly, if you’re looking for ideas for things to do near Sneem, I highly recommend booking a Skellig Boat Trip. You'll discover, Skellig Michael (The Great Skellig), Little Skellig and Washer Woman Rock islands standing some 12 km off The Ring of Kerry Coast. 

The Skelligs lie to the west of Bolus Head in Ballinskelligs on the Skellig Ring Driving Route and to the southwest of Valentia Island.  Although you catch views of the Skelligs island from many parts The Ring of Kerry, they can appear distant and faint.

Travelling by boat is the only way to get to the islands and Skellig Michael is the only island on which it’s possible to set foot.  However, daily visitor numbers are limited to preserve the island’s architecture and the fragile ecosystem.

Booking A Skelligs Landing Tour

The Landing Tour Season, typically operates from mid-May to end of September. The Office of Public Works (OPW), however, determines the exact dates. The OPW also manages conservation of the islands by allocating a small number of boat licenses. In this way, they limit daily visitors to 150 persons. As you might expect, visitors book the small number of available daily landing tour tickets very quickly. 

Advance booking directly with the individual Skellig Boat Trip operators is essential and the boat trips depart from Portmagee, Ballinskelligs, Caherdaniel.

Booking A Skelligs Eco Boat Trip

However, the good news is that there are a greater number of Eco Boat Tours you can book to take you out and around both Skellig Michael and The Little Skelligs.  The Skellig Eco Trips get you up close to the islands and run from the beginning of April until early October.

The History of Life on Skellig Michael

Designated an UNESCO World Heritage site, Skellig Michael is renowned among archaeologists as the site of a well-preserved monastic outpost of the early Christian period.  Notwithstanding the inhospitable and remote location of the island, it’s believed the monks travelled to Skelligs and began constructing a monastery as early as the 6th century. 

The monastic site on Skellig Michael is reached by climbing more than 600 steps on a 1,000-year-old stairway. At the top, stone beehive huts or cells, where the monks lived and prayed, cling to cliff edges. These are alongside oratories, a cemetery, stone crosses, holy wells and the Church of St Michael. These buildings demonstrate the challenging conditions in which the monks lived until they left the island in the 13th century.

Starring Role for Skellig Michael in Star Wars

The Skelligs fame has spread worldwide in recent years as its wild rugged features are the scene of Luke Skywalker's solitary retreat in the Star Wars movies 'The Force Awakens' and 'The Last Jedi'.  So the next time anyone asks if you know on which Irish island they filmed Star Wars, you’ll know the answer is Skelligs Michael. 

The Skellig Michael Puffin and The Porg

Interestingly, the cute colourful Puffin Birds that inhabit the Skellig Michael from April to August are the inspiration for the Star Wars Porgs.  StarWars.com, describes the porg as “small, flat-muzzled avians that flock about the rocks and roost in the cliffs of Luke Skywalker's secluded island. The puffins breed on the island before flying back to the east coast of Canada.

Supposedly the puffins were so numerous and ever present while filming on Skellig Michael that digitally removing them from recorded footage would have been an onerous task. Instead some bright individual decided instead to introduce the Porg as a native animal of the Star Wars planet Ahch to, so that the puffins could be retained in the footage. Of course this also had the added benefit of adding the cute new character to the Start Wars merchandising collection.

Skellig Michael Star Wars Island Puffin

The Skelligs Unique Protected Ecosystem

Small Skellig, meanwhile, is famous in the world of ornithology and is home to some 27,000 pairs of gannets, making it the world’s second largest colony of the impressive seabirds.  The boat trip will take you up close to see the huge number of gannets.  Their diving ability to catch fish is a fantastic sight as they accelerate to speeds of 100km when entering the water to catch food.

Skellig Michael Star Wars Island View from Ring of Kerry

Catching A View of Skellig Michael and Little Skellig is A Top Thing to do

The nearest Skellig boat trips to Sneem operate from nearby Derrynane (30min drive from Álaind Lodges).  Although the Derrynane Boat Trip is closer to Sneem than Portmagee or Ballinskelligs, it involves a longer sea journey to reach Skellig Michael.  It can, indeed, be great fun if you like boating and have good sea legs but others opt instead for the shorter boat trip option.

If however, you prefer to stay on dry land, you can view Skellig Michael from many parts of the Kerry Way walking trail.  On a clear day, you can even see it from the summits of Sneem’s Dunkerron Mountains which lie behind Alaind Lodges in Sneem. 

Alternatively, I recommend visiting the Skellig Experience Centre on Valentia Island.  This is a source of great information on noth Skellig Michael and Little Skellig and can be included in a drive around the beautifully scenic Skelligs Ring driving (cycling) route. 

Skellig Michael Star Wars Island Backdrop Surfing

The Skellig Ring Driving (Cycle) Route

The Skellig Ring Route is an 18km branch off the main Ring of Kerry driving route.  This 18km stretch links Portmagee, Valentia Island and Waterville via the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) Ballinskelligs (Baile an Sceilg).  Here you will notice that the location names on maps and street signs are shown in our native Irish language.

Great views of Skellig Michael can be had from your car or bike while travelling this stretch.  Take your time on these quiet roads and definitely make sure to visit the Kerry Cliffs, St. Finán’s Bay and the  scrumdiddlyumptious Skelligs Chocolate Factory.  The great thing about the chocolate factory is their café, free samples and great tasting gifts for the folks back home.

At Álaind Lodges, we are happy to assist you in planning a visit to Skellig Michael and making the most of your visit to holiday stay.  If you’re searching for a hotel in Sneem for bed and breakfast, you’ll find the best rates by booking with us directly. We look forward to welcoming you to Alaind Lodges, Sneem for your next Ring of Kerry Holiday and adventure. Please contact us if you want assistance booking your b&b room.