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Archive for January, 2009

skellig_tt1

Who: Josh Roberts

Where: Skellig Michael, in County Kerry, Ireland

When: April 2005

What: Eight miles off the west coast of Ireland, this rocky pinnacle of an island was home to early Christian monks dating back to the 12th century. The stone steps you see in the picture here, about 600 of them in all, were carved nearly 1,000 years ago. They corkscrew up the island for 700 feet before reaching an abandoned settlement of 20-foot-tall stone beehive-shaped huts, where the monks lived and worshipped.

Off in the distance you can see a smaller peak called, appropriately, Small Skellig. Its isolation gave birth to the Skelligs’ greatest curiosity: the whirring hive of avian life that is Small Skellig. Like a jagged, gothic-spired half-cousin of King Kong’s Skull Island, Small Skellig rises unsteadily from the Atlantic only to be clobbered by wave after wave of gulls and gannets, fulmars and kittiwakes, storm petrels and puffins and razorbills. With more than 20,000 birds calling it home, it’s best not to think too long about what that white substance is that you see covering all the rocks. 

The closest international airport to Skellig Michael is Shannon, served by most major transatlantic carriers, including Aer Lingus. From there it’s a three-hour, 122-mile drive to the gateway town of Portmagee, located on the Iveragh Peninsula just off the famous Ring of Kerry, followed by an hour-long boat ride to the island.

There are any number of boats willing to take you from the pier at Portmagee to the Skelligs. My wife and I chose Pat Joe Murphy’s Shelluna on a recommendation from Bridie O’Conner, our innkeeper. Boats depart mid-morning from April through September, weather permitting.

We stayed at the Beachcove B&B in St. Finian’s Bay, located at the end of a single-lane road that twists through the coastal hills, stitched together by stone walls and emerald grass. The B&B is right on the beach, and on a clear day you can see the Skelligs from the picture window where you eat breakfast.

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