How To Visit Skellig Michael In 2021 (A Guide To The Skellig Islands)

History, tours, the Star Wars link, and lots of photos and videos

the skellig islands
Photos via Shutterstock

If you want to visit Skellig Michael on a landing tour (or if you fancy taking a boat around the Skellig Islands), you’ve landed in the right place.

The Skellig Islands (Skellig Michael and Little Skellig) are arguably the most unique of the many places to visit in Kerry.

A stone’s throw from Portmagee and Valentia Island, the Skelligs shot to fam back in 2014 when a Star Wars movie was shot on Skellig Michael.

Since then, everyone and their mother has been itching to visit. Below, you’ll discover everything from the different Skellig Michael boat tours on offer to the history of the Islands.

Some quick need-to-knows if you want to visit Skellig Michael

the skellig islands county kerry
Photo by the Irish Air Corps

So, if you want to visit Skellig Michael, there are several need-to-knows before you start planning your trip.

Arguably the most important points to note are that you 1, have to book tickets for the tour well in advance and 2, that tours may be cancelled on the day due to bad weather.

1. Location

The ancient Skellig Islands jut from the Atlantic Ocean around 13km from Ballinskelligs Bay off the tip of the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry.

2. There are 2 islands

There are two Skellig Islands. The smaller of the two, known as Little Skellig, is closed to the public and cannot be accessed.

Skellig Michael is over 750 feet tall and is home to a number of historic sites and can be visited on a ‘Landing Tour’.

3. Star Wars fame

The Skelligs featured in Star Wars Episode VII “The Force Awakens” in 2014. If you’ve watched the movie, you’ll see Skellig Michael at the end of the movie when Luke Skywalker gets reintroduced to viewers.

4. How to get to Skellig Michael

If you want to visit Skellig Michael, you’ll need to take one of the Skellig Island boat tours. The majority of Skellig Michael tours leave from Portmagee pier, although one leaves from Derrynane Harbour (more on the tours below).

5. Is Skellig Michael open in 2021

Yes, tours are running to the Skellig Islands in 2021 (see below). The ‘season’ runs from from April until the beginning of October.

6. Where to stay

The best place to base yourself when visiting Skellig Michael, in my opinion, is Portmagee, however, Valentia Island and Waterville are two other great options.

About the mighty Skellig Islands

You’ll find Skellig Michael and Little Skellig jutting from the Atlantic around 1.5km from Ballinskelligs Bay off the tip of the Iveragh Peninsula.

And it’s from here that the Skellig Islands have been delighting those that have dared to visit long before George Lucas and Hollywood came knocking.

How they were formed

It was during the Armorican/Hercynian Earth Movements that Skellig Michael first peeked above the Atlantic Ocean.

These movements led to the formation of the mountains of County Kerry, which Skellig Michael is connected to.

The mass of rock from which the island was formed dates back over 400 million years and consists of compressed sheets of sandstone mixed with silt and gravel.

Mentioned as far back as 1400 BC

Of the two islands, Skellig Michael boasts the most Religious and historical significance.

The island was first referenced in history in 1400 BC and was called ‘home’ by a group of monks for the first time during the 8th century.

In pursuit of a greater union with God, a group of ascetic monks withdrew from civilisation to the remote island to begin a life of solitude.

A UNESCO World Heritage site

The remote and isolated islands have an almost prehistoric feel about them and the Skelligs are widely regarded as one of Europe’s most perplexing and remote sacred sites.

In 1996, UNESCO gave recognition to Skellig Michael and its “outstanding universal value”, placing it upon the World Heritage List, where it sits proudly next to the likes of the Giants Causeway and Yellowstone National Park.

An incredible, impossible, mad place

Once upon a time, over 20 years before Star Wars creator George Lucas was born, a Nobel Prize and Oscar-winning Irish playwright discovered the wonders of the Skellig Islands.

On September 17th, 1910, George Bernard Shaw left the Kerry coast in an open boat and sailed across the choppy waters that lay between the islands and the mainland.

In a letter penned to a friend, Shaw described the island as “An incredible, impossible, mad place” that is “part of our dream world”. If that doesn’t make you want to visit, nothing will.

How to get to Skellig Michael (there’s an Eco Tour and a Landing Tour)

skellig michael boat tours
Photo by Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH (shutterstock)

We get emails asking how to get to Skellig Michael constantly. They tend to start mid-summer. But by that time many tours are booked up.

So, there are several different Skellig Michael boat tours on offer. Now, as mentioned above, just 180 people can access the island each day.

So, getting a ticket on one of the boat trips that land on the island can be tricky. Here’s an overview of each of the tours:

1. The Eco Tour

The first of the two Skellig Michael tours is the Eco Tour. This is the tour that takes you around the islands, but that doesn’t ‘land’ on Skellig Michael.

The Skellig Islands Eco Tours tend to involve visiting Little Skellig first and seeing some of the wildlife (ganets and seals to name a fiew) before sailing around Skellig Michael.

2. The Landing Tour 

The Skellig Michael Landing Tour involves taking a ferry to the larger of the islands and heading for a wander around it.

The landing tours is more expensive (info below) but it’ll treat you to one of the most unique experiences in Ireland.

Picking a Skellig Island tour (there are several tour operators)

the skellig islands county kerry
Photo by the Irish Air Corps

Good God. It’s taken me over an hour to collect the info below about the various Skellig Michael tours. Why?!

Well, because some of the websites are an absolute mess and a half! Please don’t take any of the times/costs below as gospel – check in advance!

1. Skellig Michael Cruises

  • Run by: Paul Devane & Skellig Michael Cruises
  • Location: Portmagee
  • Eco tour: Runs at 9:30, 10:00, 12:30, 3:00 and 5:00pm. It lasts 2.5 hours and it costs: Adult: €40, Student: €35, Kids: €30.
  • Landing tour: Leaves between 8:30 and 9:30 and you get 2.5 hours when you visit Skellig Michael. All tickets are €125.
  • Learn more here

2. Skellig Boat

  • Run by: Dan and Donal McCrohan
  • Location: Portmagee
  • Eco tour: Runs at 2:30pm. It lasts 2.5 hours and it costs €45 per person
  • Landing tour: Leaves between 09:00 and costs €100 per person + booking fee (€4 per person)
  • Learn more here

3. Sea Quest Skellig Tours

  • Location: Portmagee
  • Eco tour: Runs ‘multiple times during the day’, according to website. It lasts just under 2.5 hours and it costs Adults: €40 Students: €32 Family: €120 (2 adults + 2 children) Each additional child: €25
  • Landing tour: Leaves around 09:00 and there’s a standard ticket (€100) and a premium one (€125). The difference is that you can cancel the premium ticket up to 12 hours in advance of leaving and no cancellation fee applies.
  • Learn more here

4. Skellig Tours

  • Run by: John O Shea
  • Location: Derrynane
  • Eco tour: I can’t get info on their website about prices or times
  • Landing tour: Leaves at 09:00 and tickets cost €100 
  • Learn more here

5. Casey’s Skellig Island Tours

  • Location: Portmagee
  • Eco tour: Tours run at 09:30am, 12:15am and 3pm and cost €40 for an adult, €35 for students and €30 for kids
  • Landing tour: Tours run between 08:30 and 09:00 and cost €103.50 per person 
  • Learn more here

6. Skellig Walker

  • Location: Portmagee
  • Eco tour: Tours leave at 2:30pm and cost €40 per person.
  • Landing tour: It’s not clear when the tour runs from their website. Tickets cost €100 per person 
  • Learn more here

Things to see and do on Skellig Michael

the skellig islands
Photos via Shutterstock

Skellig Michael was first referenced in history in 1400BC and was called ‘home’ by a group of monks for the first time during the 8th century.

In pursuit of a greater union with God, a group of ascetic monks withdrew from civilisation to the remote island to begin a life of solitude.

It’s thanks to these monks that the island is home to a number of historical sites (the views are also out of this world).

1. Enjoy the journey over

Portmagee in Kerry
Photo by Tom Archer via Tourism Ireland

If you do get a chance to visit Skellig Michael, your adventure begins from the moment you step on the ferry.

The journey across takes an hour from Portmagee (above) and you’ll be able to start soaking up views soon after your departure.

Now, if you’ve ever taken a ferry anywhere in Ireland, you’ll know that the water can be very choppy at times, so keep that in mind.

I’d recommend decent footwear, also. Aside from the fact that you’ll be doing a lot of walking on the island, the area where you step off the ferry can be slippy.

This isn’t helped by the fact that the boat will be rocking. So, decent footwear and a sturdy belly (keep away from the pints the night before!) are both needed. 

2. The Stairway to Heaven

a visit to skellig michael
Photo by shutterupeire (shutterstock)

Cast your mind back to a time when monks lived on Skellig Michael. They needed to eat, and the water was their main source of food.

The monks needed to conquer a grueling 600+ steps each day as they made their way from the summit, where they lived, to the icy waters below, where they caught fish.

Those that visit the island will need to climb these 600+ steps to reach the top of the island. This will be a challenge for those with poor mobility.

3. Views galore

skellig island boat trips
Photo by Bastian Bodyl (shutterstock)

If you visit Skellig Michael on a clear day, you’ll be treated to outstanding views of Little Skellig and the Kerry coastline. 

And after climbing the 600+ steps to the top, you’ll have earned a bit of kick-back-and-take-it-all-in-time.

When you arrive here, try and switch off, put the phone/camera away and bask in the brilliance that surrounds you. 

4. The beehive huts

beehive huts on skellig michael
Photo by MNStudio (shutterstock)

Life in the middle of the Atlantic was by no means easy, so the monks got to work and built several structures to make the island suitable to live on.

Over time, they managed to construct a Christian monastery, six beehive huts, two oratories and some terraces.

The cluster of six beehive huts that housed the island’s inhabitants were constructed with slate and stand proud to this day – an immense feat considering the intense storms they’ve been subjected to over many years.

5. The Skellig Michael monastery

skellig michael monastry
Photo by wavebreakmedia (shutterstock)

Although the Skellig Michael monastery is a ruin, much of the inner and outer enclosure is still visible. The monastery is situated on the east side of the island, as this location gets some good shelter.

The monks built three different staircases that would allow them to access the area, depending on the weather. Only the steps I mentioned earlier are accessible to the public today, for safety reasons.

You’ll be able to see one of the staircases from the monastery. This was one of the paths that was shown in Star Wars: Force Awakes.

FAQs about visiting Skellig Michael

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from whether or not the Skellig boat trips are worth the price they charge and where to stay nearby.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is Skellig Michael worth it?

Yes. It’s worth the hassle of planning your trip and dealing with the potential cancellation if the weather is bad. This is one of those experiences you’ll remember forever.

Are there many Skellig Islands boat trips to choose from?

There are a lot of different tour operators, each of which tends to offer both an Eco Tour (where you sail around the islands) and a landing tour (where you visit Skellig Michael).

Was Star Wars filmed on Skellig Michael?

Yes. The Skelligs featured in Star Wars film Episode VII “The Force Awakens” in 2014. If you’ve watched the movie, you’ll see Skellig Michael at the end of the movie when Luke Skywalker gets reintroduced to viewers.

Is Skellig Michael open in 2021?

Yes, tours are running to the Skellig Islands in 2021. The ‘season’ runs from from April until the beginning of October.

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

2 COMMENTS

  1. My husband and I took a boat tour around the Skellig Michael in June 2017 it was an incredible experience . Ireland is such a beautiful country I wish someday we get the opportunity to go back

  2. There is also a boat called Skellig Falcon which departs from St. Finians Bay , which is about a 10 min drive from Ballinskelligs, just past the Skellig Chocolate Factory. It doesn’t land on the islands but is good value and a beautiful boat. €40 for adults and €30 for kids, well wort it.

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