Know Before You Go: Getting to Skellig Michael is very expensive, but after this amazing hike my family agreed that it was worth every penny. You need to book this well in advance as a limited number of people are allowed on the island each day. The hike is up almost 600 feet of stairs with no guardrails, so it might not be an option for small children or those who are afraid of heights. Also, Skellig Michael has been known to be closed due to rock falls, so please be sure to check whether it's open when you are planning your trip. Length: 2 miles. Time: 2 hours. Terrain: Narrow, steep stone steps without guardrails. Difficulty: Very hard. Dog-friendly: No, because it's a puffin sanctuary. Kid-friendly: Only older kids should attempt this hike. It's hard and dangerous.
Skellig Michael was, without question, one of the most amazing hikes my family has taken. A boat ride across the Atlantic to a remote island that can only be accessed by water. Carved stone steps straight up the side of a mountain. An ancient monastery at the top with views for miles. Rare birds that are adorable and very curious. The fact that it was used in scenes from two Star Wars movies was actually the least of the reasons Skellig Michael is fantastic - and my family LOVES Star Wars.
The boat ride alone to Skellig Michael was spectacular. We went by an endangered bird sanctuary on the way that was home to 27,000 pairs of Gannett Sea Gulls. We were escorted by leaping dolphins, and got very close to a sunning seal. On the way, the guides give you stark warnings about how dangerous the climb is up the 618 narrow, uneven stairs to the top, rattling off statistics about how many people have been maimed and killed on the climb. But, if you take it slow and are very careful, this hike felt safe to me and was not as hard as we thought it would be. On your way up, you certainly gain an appreciation for how hard ancient monks had to work to build their monastery and to simply go about their daily lives. You also fall in love with endangered small, round, black-and-white birds called puffins. There are more than 10,000 puffins on the island! They’re very friendly and they’re irresistible. My son and I figure we took around 200 photos between the two of us - just of the puffins.
Skellig Michael is one of two UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Republic of Ireland. At the top is St. Fionan’s monastery, a very well-preserved monastery from the 600s. A historian gives an interpretive talk about the history of the monastery, explaining how the monks worked with what they had to begin and sustain a life serving God. Their structures are amazing, considering how they risked life and limb to haul enough stones up the mountain to build them. They withstood Viking attacks, terrible weather and difficult conditions for hundreds of years until finally relocating on the main island of Ireland in the 1100s.
And what a view. You can see for miles from the top, and appreciate what drew the monks to the spot in the first place. It was an experience my family will never forget.
Skellig Michael is one of the world's largest puffin sanctuaries