Did you watch the new Star Wars film? (If not, please stop reading. Spoilers ahead.)
You know that last scene, when Rue finally finds what she’s been searching for. We see Luke Skywalker wearing his signature Jedi cloak on an island so beautiful it can only be described as otherworldly. The green pastures between rocky hills that stretch directly into the ocean. The dome-shaped structures that served as homes to the monks who lived there hundreds of years ago. The majestic view of a smaller sister island located only a 2 kilometers away that is populated only by birds. It was a beautiful look into a breathtaking location.
The good news is this place wasn’t brought to you by CGI. It’s a real place and it’s not in a galaxy far, far away. It’s in Ireland.
Skellig Michael, also known as the Great Skellig, is one of those places so majestic and historic that you really don't think you will ever be able to see again. A once in a lifetime sort of thing. So when I saw it for a second time on the big screen, I got really excited. I was probably happier to see it than Luke.
I visited Skellig Michael in the summer of 2013. My cousin, a friend of ours and myself were on an all-girls road trip through the Emerald Isle. We drove to the little town of Portmagee and dared to face the rugged Irish Sea in a tiny vessel with fewer life jackets than I would like. All to see Skellig Michael from just a few feet away.
You're probably wondering, what's the big deal with this little island? For me there are three things that make the Skelligs so especial.
Their History - Skellig Michael served as a monastery during the Middle Ages. A place where monks found themselves getting closer to God. For many monks this was a one way trip. Not only because of how tough it was to get there, but also because of how rough it was to stay there. The monks lived in beehive shaped huts that would have to stand through incredibly challenging weather. Even today to visit the remains of the monastery you’ll have to climb 618 steps (over 180 meters).
Their wilderness - These islands are home to a wide variety of seabirds, including the puffin, a chubby black and white bird with a bright orange beak. There is also a colony of over 30,000 gannets living in Little Skellig (the largest colony in all of Ireland.) It is said that the birds don’t allow people to disembark in Little Skellig, keeping the island all to themselves.
Their location - While Skellig Michael is only 12km off the mainland, the Irish sea is extremely volatile and makes for a gruelling boat ride. There are a limited amount of boats licensed to make the trip and all go out very early in the morning, weather permitting. Many days the sea is just too rough to venture out. So, you’ll definitely need a little luck of the Irish to make it there without sticking your head off the side of the boat once or twice.
Skellig Michael is a Unesco World Heritage site for a reason. If you're ever in Ireland I highly recommend the trip. Make sure you're there early and maybe the forces of nature be with you, so the boats can depart.