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Ways to Experience Skelligs Rock
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All reviews sea quest star wars boat trip skellig michael places in the world puffin season history attached trip takes catch your breath every step answer questions prone to sea sickness beehive huts monastic site take your time once in a lifetime stone steps
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Reviewed 31 March 2018 via mobile

I'm not a Star Wars fan, but the islands have interested me for some time. Loved the trip out to visit them and even though we couldn't walk the rock because we were out of season, it still was a magical place and loads of picture taking opportunities. The gannets have the largest community on the smaller Skellig in all of Europe. We managed to see dolphins and a seal on the trip as well. Didn't take in the Skellig Experience, but I hear it is worth taking in to really understand the amazing history that these islands have. Worth the effort to get there!!!

Date of experience: March 2018
Thank Sandra H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 January 2018

The visit to Skelligs is an exhilarating journey away from civilisation, the wild-life and scenery is dramatic and raw and the history attached to the monastic site is fascinating. Well worth a trip, and booking/planning well in advance. The Portmagee is a friendly area to visit too.

Date of experience: August 2017
Thank Rónán I
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 January 2018

My friend and I visited Skellig Michael on May 19, 2017 with Seanie Murphy on the Sea Quest. I wrote a separate review under the “Skellig Michael” reviews that gives more general information about this trip and discusses the effects that the new Star Wars movies have had on these tours. I don’t think everyone who reviewed in this category travelled with Seanie.

I made a reservation in January 2017 for the landing tour through the Skelligsrock website. I used the form online and sent a request for a specific date and then Seanie emailed back to confirm. You’ll get a PDF that serves as your ticket you can print out or save the PDF to your photos to bring with you. With Seanie’s company, you are booking for his particular boat, i.e. you are getting one of the 12 seats on his boat. Some of the landing tour companies I think contract with several boats.

Our spots had to be placed on hold while Seanie went through the re-permitting process that the OPW (Office of Public Works) mandated in 2017 due to increased demand. He kept us updated on developments as they unfolded, and he let us know that we were booked once he got his permit approved. He has been taking tourists to Skellig Michael for over 40 years. He is also listed in the credits to “The Force Awakens” as he was the lead boatman for taking cast and crew to the island for both films.

You will need to call (or email) a few days ahead to confirm that you will be taking the tour. Some tour companies have you pay by credit card when you book and then refund you if your tour gets cancelled due to rough sea conditions (which can happen frequently). With Seanie, you pay with cash at the end of the trip (unless he’s changed that this season.)

We stayed at the Portmagee Heights B & B in Portmagee, County Kerry (also highly recommended!!) and someone with Sea Quest called the innkeeper at breakfast on the 19th that our tour was a go and to be at the docks at 9am. Many of the local hotels and B&Bs have close working relationships with the boatmen so letting your boating company know where you are staying is a good idea. I did take Dramamine at breakfast and ate lightly since I had read so much about people being seasick.

We also learned that you need to be flexible about departure times. Most of the boats try to leave around 9:30am for landing tours, but we talked to a couple at our B&B who had gone out the day before us and sea/weather conditions delayed their departure until 1pm. Evidently, that day had been the first day that anyone had landed this season (May 18, 2017) even though the first date open to land was May 14, 2017. Also, on the 18th, all of the Puffins had left to go out to sea to fish. Yet, they were everywhere on our date, the 19th.

We drove a short distance from the B&B to the dock area and parked on the streets in Portmagee. Next, we met with a large group of people in the parking lot (across the street from The Mooring/Bridge Bar that housed the Star Wars cast and crew at least for “The Force Awakens” and possibly “The Last Jedi as well.”) next to the dock.

There is no building or restroom associated with the Skellig Michael Landing Tours so be prepared to depart when you arrive with only what you are taking with you. I would advise that you take a small backpack with a bottle of water, snacks or lunch, camera and/or cell phone, rain jacket, and/or a disposable rain poncho. It is often wet/rainy so Ziploc plastic bags are handy for keeping electronics, food, and extra clothes dry. I also took a fanny pack to hold my camera and phone so I would have it handy as I scaled the stairs and wouldn’t have to turn around to get it out of my backpack. One passenger had walking sticks, but Seanie recommended before she got off the boat that she not take them. Also, there are no public restrooms on the island so “go before you go!”

The sea captains came in from their boats/dock and began calling their passengers (12 per boat). Seanie led us to the Sea Quest, and we boarded the open back portion of the boat. His boat has a central padded seating area (so you are facing outward toward the sea) as well as some seats in the back facing forward. The closer to the boat you are, the less wet you will get from the sea mist but sitting in the back affords you a view of the island as you approach.

It was raining when we boarded, and we were given commercial grade rain jackets and pants. I don’t think this is the case on every boat. Seanie and his first mate took our backpacks and put them in the enclosed cab so that they wouldn’t get wet.

As we rode out of the Portmagee port, Seanie gave us a safety talk and warned that some might get seasick. The Irish seas are very rough even on the calmest days so be prepared. I didn’t get seasick but I don’t know if it was the Dramamine or that I don’t tend to get seasick. If you do, at least in the Sea Quest, you are facing out instead of inside the boat.

The ride out takes about 45 minutes. You will pass Little Skellig first, another rocky island inhabited by thousands of birds. Then you will begin your approach to Skellig Michael.

We arrived around 10 am. There is no dock to speak of, just a set of concrete stairs that you will pull up parallel to. Each passenger will need to step onto the stairs as the boat bobs up and down. Someone will be on the stairs to help you out. Seanie is very patient and urges you to take your time. The boats take turns unloading passengers as there is only the one concrete dock. Afterwards, boats will go a little off-island and anchor and wait until passengers come back down to depart.

Once on the island, Seanie will give you some brief advice: take your time on the stairs, watch your feet as you walk and not the view, and stop when you want to take pictures. He also asked that we be back down at the dock at 1 pm. It wasn’t raining on the island when we were there, but rain can make the stone steps extra slippery.

Initially, you will walk up a wide, winding walkway. At the top of this area, you’ll meet with a park guide who will give you guidelines about taking the stone steps to the top. The ecosystem is very special and fragile. The thousands of birds who nest there don’t seem to have any kind of fear of humans and many nest right off of the path (one species nests under the grass/ground) so even stepping off the path can harm them. She urged us to be safe, know our limits, stop and rest as needed, pass others with care, keep to the inside of the stairs, and there is no shame in coming down the stairs in a sitting position if necessary.

I must say that from reading the reviews before I went to Skellig Michael I had envisioned walking up narrow stone steps with sheer drops on both sides in gale force winds. I was ready to have to crawl on all fours. I also was concerned that I didn’t have the stamina to make it to the top. I will say that I was very relieved with the actual experience.

The first section of the ascent is as I described above: a wide walkway that winds up from the bottom. The next two sections are the more vertical stone staircases that lead up to the beehive huts and walled garden at the top, but there are plenty of places to stop and rest. Also, most of the time the path hugs the steep hillside so you can lean toward it. There is a level area between the second and third set of stairs so you can sit and catch your breath if needed. You will pass the large stone boulder (in “The Last Jedi”) on the way up.

At the top, you will pass through an open stone doorway into a level area that is enclosed by a protective wall along the edge of the cliff. We sat here to eat the lunch we brought.

You can then go up an enclosed stone stairwell to the level where the beehive huts. In these areas, there are two more park guides who can answer questions and may give a brief history of the island and the monks who lived there as well as the families who lived there more recently to tend the now unmanned light houses.

Many of these guides have been spending their summers there for many years and are very knowledgeable. They spend three weeks at a time living on the island in small mobile huts, which speaks to their level of dedication to their work. As I stated in my review on Skellig Michael, most of the guides want to talk about the natural and human history of the island, not Star Wars.

Some people find the walk down more intimidating, but I didn’t find it bad. On the ride back, Seanie talked a little about Star Wars and pointed out the stairs that Rey climbs at the end of “The Force Awakens.” There is also a structure called “The Hermitage” that juts out over the water which the monks used to go to pray. He pointed out the unmanned lighthouse. We then reversed direction and headed back towards the mainland.

We went by Little Skellig and saw the colony of gannets that live there. We also slowed to watch a pod of dolphins as we returned. We arrived back at the Portmagee dock around 2 pm. We paid as we got off the boat.

This is a once in-a-lifetime experience and Seanie Murphy and his crew handle their tours professionally and safely all while making the trip a lot of fun. I would highly recommend taking a tour with Seanie!

P.S. The Bridge Bar across from the docks is fun place to grab some fish and chips and a pint afterwards.

Date of experience: May 2017
3  Thank VirginiaJean2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 December 2017

Great experience.
If your interested in historical places,great nature, a good walk then this is a must-do when you're in Kerry. You have to be prepared if you do this trip. There are no toilets or other facilities on this island. Good walking shoes are advised.The way to the top is with steps the monks made in the rocks,you see the wildlife of Skellig and enjoy natuer. When you're on the top ,you've got an amazing vieuw, and you can experience how the monks lived.

Date of experience: August 2017
Thank putse
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 October 2017

Make it a spiritual experience as you reflect on the harsh lives of retreat lived by the monks all those centuries ago to escape an already corrupting church. Pity it has become more Star Wars than mystical

Date of experience: September 2017
Thank DnBK77
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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