The Skellig Islands, Skellig Michael and Small Skellig, stand aloof in the Atlantic Ocean some 13km southwest of Valentia Island, County Kerry. From any angle, or from any vantage point on the nearby Ring of Kerry, they are spectacular pinnacles, which have magnetised viewers for generations.
The Skelligs are world famous, each in its own right. Skellig Michael is known throughout the world of archaeology as the site of a well preserved monastic outpost of the early Christian period, now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Small Skellig is equally renowned in matters of ornithology as the home of some 27,000 pairs of gannets, the second largest colony of such sea birds in the world.
The monastic site on Skellig Micheal is reached by climbing over five hundred steps on up a 1000 year old stone stairway. Stone beehive huts where monks lived and prayed centuries ago cling to cliff edges alongside oratories, a cemetery, stone crosses, holy wells and the Church of St Michael. These isolated archaeological remains show the dramatically spartan conditions in which this early Christian community lived. Enduring several Viking raids, the monks eventually left the island in the thirteenth century and it subsequently became a place of pilgrimage.
A boat trip to The Skelligs allows one to experience these magnificent natural monuments first hand, but if you want to stay on dry land visit the Skellig Experience Centre on the waterfront beside the Valentia Island bridge.