Skellig Islands (Skellig Rocks)
The Skellig Islands or Skellig Rocks, a group of small rocky islets, lie off the southwest coast of Ireland some 9mi/14km west of the Iveragh Peninsula.In order to protect the exceptional bird life, landing on the islands has been prohibited since 1987. It is, however, possible to view the islands with their curious landscape from a distance. From Valentia Island in the Ring of Kerry comfortable excursion vessels sail to and around the Skellig Islands. Background information about the secluded rocky islands can be obtained from the Visitor Center near the landing stage on Valentia Island.
Useful tips: Landing on the islands has been prohibited since 1987.
The boat tour around the Skellig Islands first passes Little Skellig, an island inhabited by tens of thousands of seabirds of many species, particularly gannets. The dense swarms of birds taking off from their nesting places, soaring up, swooping down again and all the time uttering their harsh cries form a sight - and a sound - not to be forgotten.
On Skellig Michael, the largest of the Skellig Islands, can be seen the remains of a monastic settlement, which St Finian is said to have founded in the sixth century. Hewn in the stone are 670 steps leading up to the saddle between the island's two rocky peaks (highest summit 713ft/217m).On artificially laid out terraces below the rocky pyramid are the well-preserved remains (National Monument) of the monastic settlement founded by St Finan in the ninth century - six beehive huts with a circular exterior and a rectangular interior; two boat-shaped stone oratories; lower down, remains of a church, probably of the 12th C.; small gardens, a well, gravestones and remains of a sundial; and finally enclosure walls on the edge of a dizzy precipice.Until the 13th C. there were always 13 monks on the island. Since there is no spring on Skellig Michael they collected water with great difficulty in two small reservoirs. Later many pilgrimages came to the island, climbing to the highest point to kiss the ancient stone standing upright in the rock. From 1820 until 1987 a lighthouse keeper was always on duty on the island.