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Skellig Michael, Ireland: one of Lonely Planet’s top regions in the world to visit

Lonely Planet just voted Ireland’s Skellig Michael and the Skellig Ring region one of the top ten regions in the world travelers should visit. This mystical and hard to reach place on the edge of western Europe is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most unique and spectacular places to visit in the world. skelligmichael-monastery_caspardiederikstorytravellers The jagged islands, two in all, are located off the south west coast of Ireland in an extremely exposed and windswept corner of the Atlantic Ocean. Ancient Christian monks of the Coptic Church from the Middle East set up their isolated monastery in the 6th Century. Their relentless pursuit of total isolation was satisfied in this wild and remote part of northern Europe. The monks built beehive shaped huts and oratories to protect them from the unpredictable weather which survived on 217m high on these rocky outcrops for 600 years. The oratories still survive and can be visited by a lucky few. skelligmichael-caspardiederikstorytravellers Their building methods were outstanding when considering the materials and tools they had to work with. The monks cut 600 steps into the rock face leading to the saddle were they located their settlement. Man-made tiny vegetable gardens and rain water cisterns to gather valuable water were all cut or built out of the dry rock on the edge of the cliff. Life was hard for these spiritual people who chose this life of prayer and reflection. Visually, this place is stunning. It is no surprise that Star Wars chose it as Luke Skywalker’s secret retreat in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” . The movie franchise will be filming on the site for the next episodes of the trilogy due to the impact the location had on the closing scenes on the movie. skellig_michael_ireland For the rest of us, being one of the few privileged to land on the rock and climb the steps needs to be well planned in advance as the numbers are restricted. You will have to avail of some local knowledge regarding ferries and weather conditions, but here is a rough guide on how to get there: Flying into Ireland is uncomplicated and since the country is relatively small, Dublin, Cork or Shannon are all suitable destination airports, with Shannon being the closest to Skellig Michael. If you would like to incorporate some touring and other sightseeing, a loop of the country can be enjoyed allowing for 7 – 10 nights to incorporate a few night in Dublin City. littleskellig_caspardiederikstorytravellers Making your way to County Kerry in the south west of the country is a touring pleasure and make sure to take in some of the sights along the way, for example the famous Ring of Kerry or the Dingle Peninsula. Kerry is one of the most visited regions in the country and has a huge selection of hotels catering to every budget and taste. For some pampering before the big Skellig Michael adventure (or indeed afterwards to settle the nerves and rejoice in the achievement), there are some fantastic 5* and 4* luxury hotels, country manor houses and guest houses that will cater to your every ache and pain and relax your nerves after the big trip! The ferries leave from a small fishing village called Portmagee on the edge of the Iveragh Peninsula. The Skellig Ring is the drive on the very edge of the peninsula that is off limits to buses and large vehicles (so no bus tours here!). The views are stunning and you can see out to the Skellig Islands from the road side. There is, surprisingly, a chocolatier business thriving out on this remote part of the country that is definitely worth a stop and a nibble! You must have your place in the ferry booked at least 4 -5 months in advance as places are extremely limited. The ferries only sail the summer months of the year (May to September). The numbers landed on the site are restricted by the local heritage council, and rightly so, damage is  minimized to the site and it is carefully protected and maintained. You meet the ferry at the port at Portmagee, and a weather update is given. We recommend in unpredictable conditions you contact the ferry the night before as cancellations are extremely common. The reason for the uncertainty is the difficulty in landing. The boats have to be small, and the weather can be fierce. If you are unlucky and cannot land, the ferry will take you for a trip around the islands so your experience is still remarkable and still an adventure in itself. If you do get to land, you have a two hours to climb the steps, explore the beehive houses and contemplate life for the courageous monks in the 6th century. While you should take your photos and document the experience, it is important to take the time to really enjoy the experience and remember how privileged you are to visit such a remote and stunning place. the_skelligs_ireland No toilets, no roads, no transportation, no shops or burger restaurants. You are on your own out there! The silence is interrupted however by the vast wildlife of sea birds living peacefully on the edge of the cliffs. This is an experience that will be difficult to rely completely at the next dinner party. The ferry back is relaxing and a sense of euphoria can overtake you as you succeeded in the challenge of your unique adventure. The Skellig Ring drive and the Skellig Michael boat trip are definitely on the top things to do in Ireland. Pick your level of adventure and go for it! Take the local advice to improve the chances of a successful trip and set up a few alternatives for the day in case of full cancellation due to bad weather. If you have a bucket list, this should be number 1! Naomi Sheehy is CEO of Ireland Luxury Travel. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Naomi Sheehy

Naomi was a lawyer for five years before leaving the law business to follow her love of travel. She founded her boutique travel company, Ireland luxury Travel, with her husband and operates her company from the wild Atlantic coast of Ireland. She explores as much of Ireland as she can at every opportunity and has developed a huge knowledge of her country. Planning unique bespoke trips to Ireland is her specialty.

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  1. Sounds like an incredible place to visit! Thanks for tips on planning time frames. It would be very disappointing to get to Ireland and find out you had to change your travel plans.

  2. The Skelligs have been very high on my list for years. We nearly went 10 years ago but the weather was too good and we stayed sun-bathing in west Cork.
    Thanks for the tips on getting there now. Does one need to register in advance to visit or is it just with the ferries you need to book?

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