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The beehive huts built by monks in the 6th century on the island of Skellig Michael. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

Skellig Michael Reopens to Tourists

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The iconic Skellig Michael reopened during the summer of 2021 after being closed for more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The visitor attraction is one of two jagged islands off the coast of County Kerry.

Now that Skellig Michael, the location for two Stars movies, is open to visitors again, here’s some information on this iconic attraction.

How to Get to Skellig Michael

First of all, it’s still essential that you book your trip to Skellig Michael ahead of time.

Skellig boats arrive safely after the 12km journey to Skellig Michael. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan for Tourism Ireland.

The 12-km (7.5 miles) trip can be taken from either Portmagee, Valentia Island, Ballinskelligs, or Derrynane Harbour, which is located in Caherdaniel.

The following companies run tours to the island and surrounding area.

The Lady Clare, Skellig Boat Trips, operates from Portmagee.
Shelluna, Skellig Cruises, operates from Portmagee
The Mary Frances, Skellig Michael Voyage, operates from Portmagee
The Deva & The Ursula Mary, Skellig Coast Adventures, operates from Portmagee
The Skellig Walker, Skellig Walker, operates from Portmagee
The Jerdemar, Skellig Michael Boats, operates from Portmagee
The Force Awakens, Skellig Michael Boat Trips, operates from Ballinskelligs
The Atlantic Endeavour, Skellig Rock Tours, operates from Portmagee

Landings on Skellig Michael must be carefully choreographed due to the sensitivity of the site, which is why only 180 people are allowed on the island at any one time.

What to See on Skellig Michael

The windswept pinnacles of Skellig Michael, a massive rock that is 217 meters high (717 feet) is perhaps Ireland’s most iconic ancient site.

An aerial view of Skellig Michael. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan, Tourism Ireland.

The UNESCO World Heritage site was once home to a group of monks who survived here from the 6th through 12th centuries.

For modern-day visitors, it’s hard to believe that anyone could live in such a remote place.

However, that's just what the monks did here, building two oratories and six beehive huts on this stark piece of land using a system called “drystone architecture.

There is also evidence of a vegetable garden and a cistern that the monks used for collecting water.

The cemetery on Skellig Michael where the monks are reputedly buried. Photo: MN Studio.

St. Michael’s Church and a cemetery, where the monks are reputedly buried, is also part of this ancient site.

The monastery was abandoned in the 12th century, but it continued to be a place of pilgrimage for years after that, even hosting weddings during Lent from the 16th century onwards, a practice that was frowned upon in mainland Ireland at the time.

a lighthouse among the rocks Skellig Michael reopens
One of the lighthouses is located in the rocky landscape of Skellig Michael. Photo:

There are also two lighthouses on the island, one on the southwestern end and the other on the northwest side of the island.

Tour guides provide a full history of the island, as well as the mythology that surrounds it.

Little Skellig, which is about 1.4 km (0.86) from Skellig Michael, contains the second-largest colony of gannets in the world.

Landings are not permitted on Little Skellig.

birds on a cliff Skellig Michael reopens
The extensive birdlife on Skellig Michael. Photo: Caspar Diederik for Tourism Ireland.

Both islands are home to thriving communities of puffins, arctic terns Manx shearwater, fulmar, cormorants, and guillemots.

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Improvements to the UNESCO Heritage Site

Even though the island was closed to tourists throughout the pandemic, staff from Ireland’s Office of Public Works were busy making improvements before Skellig Michael reopened.

view of the ocean and a faraway island Skellig Michael reopens
A view of the spectacular Skellig Michael from the Wild Atlantic Way route. Photo: MNStudio.

The 600 steps that lead to the top of the monastic site were repaired and cleaned and the landing area was also updated.

Work was also conducted on the lighthouse road and to both lighthouses on the island.

Perhaps more importantly, a dry toilet system and tank with hand sanitizer dispensers were also installed this past year, a much-needed addition to the tourist attraction.

Read More: 6 of Ireland's Coolest Lighthouses to Visit in 2023

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