Famously used as a filming location in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, the rocky peak of Skellig Michael sits amid the wind-whipped Atlantic off the southwest coast of Ireland, reaching a height of 712 feet (217 meters). A former hideaway for hermit monks between the sixth and 12th centuries, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is now uninhabited, though the remnants of the old monastic settlement, including historic beehive huts, are still scattered across the island.
The Skellig Islands can only be reached by boat, with tours landing at Skellig Michael or circling both Skellig Michael and its smaller sister island, Little Skellig, which is not accessible to the public. Some tours from Killarney also make stops at picturesque spots along the Ring of Kerry and at the Skellig Experience Centre, located on nearby Valentia Island, which charts the history of the Skellig settlement.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Boat tours to the island don’t run in winter, and poor weather conditions can sometimes prevent boat crossings at other times of year.
- Boat trips are best taken on clear days when the views of the islands and the Ring of Kerry coastline aren’t obscured by fog or mist.
- Exploring the island on foot is only advisable for those fit and at ease with heights. Once you land, it’s a challenging hike up 600 steep and sometimes slippery stone steps.
- Bring warm clothes and a waterproof outer layer, as weather conditions can be changeable.
How to Get There
Boat tours depart from the marina at Portmagee, located on the Iveragh Peninsula just off the Ring of Kerry. The journey takes between 45 and 60 minutes. Travelers without access to a car will find it easier to join a guided full-day tour that includes round-trip transportation from Killarney.
When to Get There
Boat tours to Skellig Michael only run between mid-April and early October, while the Skellig Experience Centre closes in December, January, and February. The best and busiest time to visit is in summer; book ahead to secure your place on a tour.
Wildlife-Watching at the Skelligs
Many come to the Skelligs to view the monastic remains and others come to see the Star Wars sites, but the natural scenery and wildlife are worth the trip alone. Late spring is the best time to observe orange-billed puffins, cormorants, and the 70,000-strong gannet colony on Little Skellig—the second-largest gannet colony in the world. Seals, minke whales, and dolphins can also be spotted.