Skellig Michael steps
Skellig Michael steps

Skellig Michael Will Not Reopen this Year

Skellig Michael, the well-known UNESCO World Heritage Site off the coast of Co. Kerry that was the location for two Star Wars movies, will not open to visitors this year due to concerns regarding Covid-19.
An aeriel view of Skellig Michael. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan, Tourism Ireland.

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The popular tourist destination, which is one of two Skellig Islands off the coast of Ireland, was supposed to open May 15, but the Office of Public Works, which oversees the site, said it is not safe to resume operation on the island.

Representatives of the OPW said it is not feasible to maintain social distancing on the island as the pathways are narrow and it is equally difficult on the small boat that normally brings passengers across during the summer months.

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All About Skellig Michael

In normal times, less than 200 people a day are allowed to set foot on the island.

Over the past few years, its delicate environment, a breeding ground for wildlife, has been jeopardized.

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

The island, which is located about seven miles from the Iveragh Peninsula, consists of 54 acres of rock, with its highest point known as the Spit (about 714 feet above sea level).

When you look at photographs of Skellig Michael, you’ll notice that it has twin peaks.

In between those peaks is a valley known as “Christ’s Saddle.”

The landscape on Skellig Michael seems inhospitable for sure, but thankfully, there are parts of it where you can safely walk.
Skellig boats arriving safely after the 12km journey to Skellig Michael. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan for Tourism Ireland.

What visitors are really coming to see is the 6th-century monastery, an impressive site that remains unchanged to this day and is believed to be one of the earliest monastic settlements in Ireland.

It is hard to believe that humans survived in such a place. No doubt the winters were harsh on this lonely island in the Atlantic.

Once on Skellig Michael, visitors are required to walk the 600 plus steps to the top.

a rocky island in the distance Skellig Michael
A view of the Skellig Islands from the ancient site. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

When you get there, you’ll not only be rewarded with fabulous views, you will also get to see how the monks lived in their stone beehive huts.

The monastery has an inner stone enclosure with two oratories, a church, seven cells, and the remains of water cisterns, as well as a cemetery, pilgrim stations, crosses, and a number of cross-slabs.

It was abandoned in the 12th century, but it continued to be a place of pilgrimage for years after that.

a lighthouse on a rocky island Skellig Michael
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.

A number of local boat operators are available to transport passengers to the island.

Read more: Planning a Trip to Ireland A to Z

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