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Visiting Skellig Michael - Star Wars in Ireland

Did you know that several scenes in Star Wars were filmed in Ireland? When planning our trip to Ireland, we decided early on that we wanted to visit Skellig Michael. Peter was very enthusiastic about visiting the steep rocky island with the old monastery. It turned out that visiting Skellig Michael wasn't easy... but today we can still tell you about this dramatic island!


Skellig Michael

The steep, 230-metre-high island of Skellig Michael, also known as Great Skellig, together with its smaller sister island Little Skellig, is located 12 kilometres off the west coast of Ireland.

One of the nearest harbours is Portmagee, located almost at the tip of the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. It can be reached by taking the classic car journey. Ring of Kerryand then continues a little further, at the far end of the peninsula. The island is a popular destination for tourists for several reasons. However, managing to get out and visit the island is not easy ...

Brant ... och inte helt gästvänligt. Foto: Valerie O’Sullivan, Failte Ireland
Steep ... and not entirely hospitable. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan, Failte Ireland

Medieval monasteries

A medieval monastery, named after the island and built in 588 AD, sits on the thorny cliff. It is believed that up to 12 monks once lived here, and the well-preserved small stone houses that line the steep cliff walls can still be seen today. Can you believe they lived out here, in simple stone houses on a barren cliff in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean...?

Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan, Failte Ireland

The small monastic village is home to six beehive huts. The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996 and is one of Europe's best known, but most inaccessible, monastic villages.

Skellig Michael
This is where the monks lived ... Photo: Failte Ireland

In the 9th century, Skellig Michael survived a Viking attack and in the early 11th century the monastic village was extended with a new chapel. About a hundred years later, the monastery was abandoned and it was only in the 16th century that people started coming here again, but as pilgrims.

Star Wars på Irland
One might wonder what it was like to live here ...? Photo: Failte Ireland

Rich bird life

The two steep rocky islands, Great Skellig and Little Skellig, are nature reserves known for their rich bird life. Little Skellig is home to Ireland's largest colony of gannets, with around 20,000 pairs of birds. One can guess that birds, and bird eggs, were part of the monks' diet from time to time ...

Puffin, photo: Failte Ireland

Star Wars in Ireland

Perhaps you have seen Star Wars? Did you know that some Star Wars sequences were filmed in Ireland, including on Skellig Michael? This mountainous island appears in no less than two of the famous films. In 'Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens', the final scene shows how Rey, a scrap collector, lands on a rocky island in the middle of the ocean and is met by a man who turns out to be Luke Skywalker.

Kerry, Skellig Michael
Many steps ... Photo: Failte Ireland

In 'Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi', you get to go back to the planet Ahch-To, which is mostly made up of oceans and rocky islands. So it was time to see Skellig Michael on screen again.

Star Wars på Irland
Star Wars in Ireland? Well, this could be an alien planet... Photo: Failte Ireland

Visiting Skellig Michael

If you want to visit Skellig Michael, you need to book tickets well in advance. We've heard that sometimes you need to book months in advance, but for us it was enough to book a week before departure.

The night before it was time, we stopped at a camping on the island of Valentia, not far from Portmagee. When we woke up to the wind shaking the motorhome, we suspected that there would be no boat trip ... But of course we set off anyway, and ten minutes later we arrived at Moorings Hotel, where we would pick up our tickets.
The Moorings hotel
The Moorings hotel in Portmagee

No trip to Skellig Michael

No, just as we suspected, there was no trip to Skellig Michael. The wind was blowing just too much. "Probably there will be no tours for the rest of the week," the girl at the ticket office announced. Not much to do, of course!

We asked if it is usually easier in the middle of summer, but the girl shook her head. No, the weather is often bad on the coast, she said. So, if you want to get out to Skellig Michael, you have to be ... lucky! This island is still on our, and not least Peter's, bucket list.

Båtturer till Skellig Michael
If the weather had been better, we would have taken a boat trip ...
Båtar Skellig Michael
Here are the boats ... waiting for better days
Great Skellig, Irland
This is what it can look like, apparently... Photo: Failte Ireland
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