A trip to the island
Observed from any vantage-point on the nearby Ring of Kerry,
the Skellig Islands are spectacular pinnacles that
demand attention. A boat trip eight miles into the Atlantic
Ocean to get to the islands is an unusual highlight of a trip
to Ireland. The crossing can be awkward, and there are no
toilets or facilities on the islands, so bring good warm clothing,
something to eat, drink and a camera.
The mind tends to wander on the boat trip from the mainland.
The Atlantic is rough, birds cry and dart, plunging into the
water at speed before the Skellig rocks which soar 700 ft
into the air, on top of which there is a monastery, built
hundreds of years ago and still defying the harsh conditions.
History of Skellig Michael
It is only possible to land on the larger island, Skellig
Michael, where the remarkable ancient monastery resides.
However, excellent views of the other island can be had from
there. When the monks first settled on Skellig Michael is
a mystery, but the style of building suggests the 6th century
onwards. There are many other samples of this style dotted
along Ireland's West Coast, but none in such good condition
as the Skellig Michael monastery, and for this reason the
island has become a World Heritage Site. The monks lived in
beehive rock domes of varying sizes, possibly covered in turf
for warmth. Guides who work on Skellig in the Summer season
are very knowledgeable and do a good job of describing the
lives of the monks who spent their years in solitude.
In A.D. 795, the first Viking attacks from Scandinavia were
launched in an attempt to strip Ireland of its riches, and
the Skellig settlement was eventually one of those sacked.
Little is recorded of the early attacks. However, in A.D.
812, the Skellig monastery was ransacked. Again in 825, as
reported in the Annals of Ulster, the Vikings came
and this time they took Etgal, the Abbot of Skellig,
and starved him to death. Legend tells that in 993 Viking
Olav Trygvasson, who was later to become King of Norway
and whose son Olav II, was to become patron saint of Norway,
was baptised by a Skellig hermit.
Things to see and do:
The Skellig Experience Centre
In The Skellig Experience Centre you can learn all about
the settlements on the island. It is a boost for land lubbers
as they can look at recreations of the monastic settlements
in a custom built, stone clad, grass roofed, prize winning
building located right on the waterfront. In the auditorium,
through a short audio-visual presentation you can follow the
footsteps of the Skellig monks, and wonder at the legacy of
architecture that they left behind. Here too, in the Skellig
Experience's recreated sea cliff you can get to know, by sight
and sound, the full variety of seabirds in Skellig. The centre
also offers, through artefacts and recreations, the Skellig
Lighthouse Experience, with its history, light keepers,
and its service to mariners since the 1820's. It is open daily
from 10am to 6pm.
The Skelligs are great for bird watching. From the boat,
you are likely to see the tiny black storm petrels skimming
the water for insects. You will also see large yellow headed
gannets diving for fish. Between March and August the majority
of these birds will be nesting in the Skelligs so it is a
hive of activity and a good chance to get up close. A few
of the nesting visitors include everyone's favourites, puffins,
as well as fulmars, guillemots, kittiwakes and razorbills.
Just a few miles away by boat there is an opportunity to see
Puffin Island, which makes no secret of its inhabitants.
Outside of the summer months the island is harder to get to.
Local boat owners may take you out for a price, or if you
are cheeky and lucky enough you may even get to know the lighhouse
keeper who makes regular trips to the island, occasionally
No pun intended, but the beaches on the South Coast are corkers.
There are hundreds of miles of sandy coastline, so it's not
difficult to find a good place.
In Cork, there are the following EU Blue flag beaches:
Barleycove, Garretstown, Garrylucas, Garryvoe, Inchydoney,
Owenahincha, Tragumna, Youghal Claycastle, Youghal Front Strand,
The Warren (Rosscarbery),White Strand.
In Kerry, the blue flag beacher are:
Ballinskelligs, Ballybunion North, Ballybunion South, Ballyheigue,
Banna, Derrynane, Fenit, Inch, Kells, Maherbeg, Rossbeigh,
Ventry and White Strand Caherciveen.
While using the beaches in the Cork or Kerry region, do make
sure to follow the advice of lifeguards where this service
is provided. Read warning signs carefully. Failing that, seek
local advice regarding the safety of individual beaches for