Yes indeed, if the still waters of Portmagee were any indicator, a boat was headed out to the Skellig islands just after 11am and we were quick to find ourselves a seat onboard it. There is plenty of information for you to find about going to the Skellig Islands and touring or even getting the chance to land and climb up the steps to the monastery ruins on Skellig Micahel. What you will be quick to see is that there is only a very short window (about 3 months) every year in which they are able to do tours out to the islands because of the rough seas that can be encountered during the winter months.
This means that you will have to make sure that you are visiting during the season when boats have the proper permits to dock at the Skellig islands, and also that you don’t encounter bad weather. Turns out that even during prime months it is still sometimes hard to get out to the islands and dock. Although I had missed the ability to dock on Skellig Michael by a week, I realized that it would not have been easy to get a spot on one of those boats because of the publicity that has been received from the Star Wars Films. When I looked originally, every spot had been filled weeks in advance, so you better be prepared to book well in advance.
We waited a few extra minutes for 3 people who were about to be no shows, and they eventually did show, sheesh. With everyone present, we strapped into life vests, hunkered down, and headed out. What a gorgeous day it was. These pictures are what it really looked like out there on the day we went. So green and lush, it was AMAZING. We went to little Skellig, the smaller of the 2 Skellig Islands, and where a huge haven for Gannets and other birds is present.
On the eco systems tour you get to tour around both of the islands, but you can’t land at any of them even if you are not hiking. Since we were so late in the season there were no landing permits available so our only option was the eco tour, and what a beautiful day it turned out to be for it.
Both the Little Skellig island and Skellig Michael are just a couple of minutes apart by boat, and we went to the smaller Skellig first to see all of the birds. As I mentioned earlier, the smaller Skellig is home to some 27,000 pairs of Gannets making it the second largest place in the world for Gannet breeding. The largest colony of Gannet’s is in Scotland, at Scotland Rock, which is quite crazy!
One addition, or rather a couple of additions since the filming of Star Wars, is the helo pad which you can see to the right. According to the boat crew, they installed the helo pad because there was only a limited time for filming so they would film all day and then fly the film straight to London to be reviewed in the studio and ensure that all the correct shots were captured. Talk about a turn around service! For the second Star Wars film where they filmed a good majority of the films at the “Skellig Islands” they used some land on the Dingle Peninsula for that so they would have more time to do all of the filming.
From this angle you can really see the rocks spattered amongst the surreally green hillside. I remember thinking there is just not one bad angle, if only we all could take pictures as good as this at all time.
If you’ve read about the Skellig islands, you may know that this used to be a monastery in the beginning as early as the 6th century. A first line of defense if you will, for intruders coming to Ireland as this was the most Western point off the coast of Ireland. The monks are the ones who built all of the steps that go up and down the hills and the ruins, which are located at the top.
You can see the slightly sloping path that loops around form the docks and up the mountains. Because tours are conducted here they have updated the path and redone the docking area to make it safer when the seas get bad. There is really no protection between these islands and the open seas as they are the most Western point. The captain told us how lucky we were to have such calm seas going out on the tour, especially for a day in early October. He told us people get really sea sick during the short crossing because of how bad the seas can get. Fortunately we didn’t have to experience anything like that.
I snapped most of these photos rapidly and then put my camera in the dry bag so I could just take in the beauty of these islands because they were just so wonderful. I really really enjoyed this tour and weather permitting can highly recommend it for anyone who likes the great outdoors and also if you are in the mood for the abstract Star Wars fact.
To be able to go out for the day was a true blessing and remember the moment when we woke up at the hotel in Portmagee and sheepishly peeped through the curtain to see what kind of day it was going to be. When I saw the sun, I just had a great feeling for the boat tour!
After spending plenty of time going around the islands and getting all the snaps we needed to share the adventure, the boat headed in for the docks and we had to decide what we were going to do. By this time it was 3pm and we still had over 60 miles to bike back to Killarney and just a few wee hours of sunlight left and no public transport available on a Sunday. I decided to ask a group of divers if they knew of anyone who was heading back to Killarney that day. On this unicorn of days, the luck just kept pouring on us because one of the divers was from Killarney and had a truck big enough for 2 bikes and 2 extra persons to take us with him.
While he went out on a second dive in the good weather, we had lunch and drank beers and then went to a local bakery to pick out driver up some baked goods to gift to the him for giving us a ride back with him. We were so grateful to him, and he provided plenty of great conversation for us along the way. We got back to Killarney with plenty of time to spare to get to the next town, so after turning in our bikes and changing in the car, we headed out of town and onward towards Cork.
The fae were truly looking out for us and the luck of the Irish was on our side, do you think it will continue? More soon!
This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.