Lying off the coast of County Kerry, the Skellig Island’s largest island Skellig Michael is home to an incredible monastic site, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Although the island is uninhabited, it remains one of the most popular attractions along the Wild Atlantic Way and is one of 15 signature discovery points along the popular coastal route.
At one of the highest points of the island lies a well-preserved monastery, thought to have been built in the 6th century. There also exists the remains of towers scaling 218 metres above sea level, while a graveyard and various stone cross spread across the island. The beehive huts on the island are popular with visitors, and these huts were the homes of the monks who lived here from the 6th Century.
Today, tours are available to the islands, making it possible for visitors to explore the monastic ruins up close. The islands are also famous for their appearance in Star Wars, with plenty of additional visitors now visiting Skellig Michael to bring themselves closer to the action. The island is only accessible by boat and booking is required.
Skellig Michael also became an area that the Vikings tried to take over. Like so many Irish monasteries, Skellig Michael was attacked by the Vikings (in 823AD), although the monks of Skellig managed to survive this attack and escape the troubles that awaited so many during the Viking invasions of the 9th and 10th Century. Despite these invasions, Skellig proved to be a symbol of friendship between the Vikings and the Christian monks, as Olaf Tryggvason was baptised on the island by a resident hermit (Olaf later went onto be crowned the King of Norway).
You can find out more about the Skellig Islands and Skellig Michael, including more information on the history of this impressive landscape by visiting the Skellig Islands Experience Visitor Centre, on the waterfront at the Valentia Island bridge.
Images Via © Storytravelers and Tourism Ireland