Julie Ireland 22 Comments

Skellig Michael is a rugged, remote island located just off the western coast of Ireland. Those who travel here rave about it. And now, with the lure of seeing where Star Wars: A Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are filmed, visitors are arriving by the hundreds to this island.

I have to admit, when we watched Star Wars: A Force Awakens, we were intrigued about where the final scene was filmed. A remote, rocky island with an ancient monastery overlooking the ocean. Steep, stone pathways just asking to be explored…does this place really exist? Can we really walk up those steps?

We wanted to visit Skellig Michael not so much because it was a Star Wars filming location, but to visit some place unique, a destination that seemed remote and unheard of. Really, we just wanted to explore those stone pathways and have those awesome views featured in the movie.

We are not the only ones who added Skellig Michael to their traveling wish list after watching Star Wars. Just a few years ago, Skellig Michael was a little known travel destination. Sure, there were tours out to the island, but only handfuls of travelers in the know were making the journey.

How things have changed.

Getting a ticket to land on Skellig Michael is much more difficult nowadays. Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so the number of people able to land on the island everyday is limited. In fact, only 180 people per day are allowed to step foot onto the island.

Also, there are just a handful of boats that make the journey out to Skellig Michael.

If you are interested in visiting Skellig Michael, you must book your tickets well in advance.

How far in advance? Four weeks before you travel, at a minimum. Even then, you may not get a ticket.

Even if you do reserve a seat, there is still no guarantee that you will go to Skellig Michael. Storms and high winds frequently cancel the excursions for the day. On average, boats will sail 5 out of 7 days for Skellig Michael.

How to Visit Skellig Michael

Our Experience

We booked our tickets a month before our trip and kept our fingers crossed for good weather.

But this is Ireland. It rained all but one day we were in this country. The day before our trip out to Skellig Michael, high winds and storm-like conditions cancelled all excursions for the day. We went to bed the night before our trip, very uncertain if we would be able to make landfall on Skellig Michael.

Luck was on our side. We awoke to clear skies in the morning. It was still windy but boats were sailing today. How fortunate we felt!

Crossing the Rough Sea

So, at 9 am, we boarded the Celtic Victor with 8 other passengers. Dan and Donal McCrohan, a father son team, were our boat operators. We donned life vests, took our seats, and set sail for Skellig Michael.

Leaving Portmagee

It takes one hour to cross the seven miles between the mainland and Skellig Michael. The seas can be very rough, even in the best of conditions. One passenger on our boat was seasick, not an uncommon occurrence during this rough ocean passage.

The most dangerous part of the excursion is exiting and re-entering the boat. Swells from the ocean rock the boat, causing a very unsteady landing on shore. If it has been raining, the landing platform will be slick, like stepping out onto an ice rink. Despite the high winds and large swells today, it seemed rather easy for the 12 of us to disembark onto the island.

Skellig Michael Ireland

Boarding Skellig Michael

Exploring Skellig Michael

Once on Skellig Michael, visitors have 2.5 hours to tour the island. There is only one way up to the monastery (that visitors are allowed to use). Guides are stationed along the path, both to keep visitors safe and to teach visitors about the history of the island.

Heed the safety warnings. Two visitors got too close to the edge and fell to their deaths.

In the span of an hour, 180 visitors are unloaded onto the island. 180 people may not sound like much, but this is a small island, and we were always in the company of other visitors. The congestion on the paths took away from some of the magic and the appeal of this place.

How Crowded is Skellig Michael

Visitors climb over 600 steps to reach the summit of the island. The steps are steep, uneven, and some pathways are narrow. The further you climb, the better the view.

Skellig Michael with Kids

How to Visit Skellig Michael

Path up Skellig Michael

Best thing to do in Ireland

The Force Awakens Star Wars

Star Wars Final Scene

The Skellig Michael Monastery

Your reward for reaching the top are amazing views back to the mainland of Ireland and a chance to explore the Christian monastery dating back to the 6th century.

For hundreds of years, Christian monks inhabited this island, living in stone beehive huts and living off of the land. The structures they built remain intact and unchanged today.

Skellig Michael Monastery

Monastery Skellig Michael


From the monastery, views back to the mainland of Ireland are stunning.

Earth Trekkers Skellig Michael


If you look down from the monastery, you will be able to see this stone path, one of the paths featured in The Force Awakens. This path is off limits to visitors, but at least you can view it from here.

Skellig Michael Star Wars

During the visit, there is plenty of time for photographs, exploring the monastery, and walking several of the same paths featured in Star Wars.

Does Skellig Michael live up to the hype?

We had huge expectations for Skellig Michael. HUGE.

With the island featured in Star Wars, plus the limited numbers of boats selling out months in advance, yes, we had huge expectations for this visit.

So, does Skellig Michael live up to the hype?


Skellig IslandsSkellig Michael is amazing. We loved the experience. The climb up the narrow, rocky steps, the hundreds of birds flying overhead, a visit to an ancient monastery, and having one of the best views in Ireland, what’s not to love? The fact that this is a Star Wars filming location is just an added bonus.

But as we walked around, amidst many other curious visitors, I began to wonder if too many people come here. Are we all doing harm to the island, to the nesting sites, to the history here, by walking and climbing over these paths?

This is something I struggle with sometimes, as I write about these places. Yes, I want to let people know that these amazing places exist, but there is a part of me that wants to keep them a secret, so they do not get over visited, losing their magic and allure for the few that visit them.

Honestly, I think Skellig Michael would be a better experience if fewer people per day were allowed to visit the island. I know that means less business for the people of Portmagee and a lot of disappointed travelers who would not be able to set foot on the island. But hundreds of people tramping over the island seems detrimental to the beauty and the tranquility that this place is meant to represent.

Stars Wars Ireland

Is Skellig Michael Worth It?


Even though I believe less people should visit the island, I still think the experience is absolutely worth it.

Visiting Skellig Michael is one of the most unique experiences you can have while visiting Ireland. It feels like a real adventure. Most likely, it will be an experience you will never forget.

Earth Trekkers family

Advice for Visiting Skellig Michael

Best Time to Visit

Landing tours to Skellig Michael run between May 15 and October 2.

If you want to see the puffins, arrive before August 1. We visited Skellig Michael on August 4th, and the majority of the puffins migrated on to their next nesting site. We just missed seeing these cuties!

Book Your Tickets in Advance

For the summer months of June through August, tickets will sell out way in advance. To be safe, I’d contact the boat operators at least two months before your travels.

Boat Operators to Skellig Michael

There are 15 licensed boat operators that are allowed to land on Skellig Michael. We used Dan and Donal McCrahon, based in Portmagee, and highly recommend them.

For a listing of boat operators in Portmagee, visit the Skellig Michael website.

There are also several companies offering tours to Skellig Michael:

Our boat to Skellig Michael: the Celtic Victor

Celtic Victor

What If You Cannot Get Tickets to Land on Skellig Michael?

If tickets to land on Skellig Michael are sold out, you can still sail out to the island and see it from the water. Many boat operators sell tours that circle Skellig Michael and Little Skellig without making landfall. This is a good alternative if tickets are sold out.

Is Skellig Michael Safe for Kids?

Most boat operators state that Skellig Michael is not suitable for children under the age of 12 and will not take kids younger than 12. Kara was 11 (just 2 months shy of turning 12) when we visited and she did great, although she has lots of experience hiking and walking along narrow paths like those on Skellig Michael. If you plan to visit Skellig Michael with kids, they have to know to stay on the path and stay away from the edge. This can be a dangerous place, especially if it has been raining.

Tyler Rivenbark

What to Bring
  • Dramamine or other anti-nausea medication, if you are prone to seasickness.
  • Rain jacket
  • Warm clothes for the boat ride to and from the island
  • Water and a small snack. There are spots on the island for a picnic.
  • Good, sturdy shoes. Hiking shoes or a good pair of walking shoes are ideal. Sandals and flip flops are just asking for trouble.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Your camera, of course!
There are no bathrooms on Skellig Michael

Make sure you take care of business before you leave Portmagee!

More About Star Wars

The monastery on Skellig Michael is one of the major movie sets used in A Force Awakens. Due to concerns about damage to the island while filming The Last Jedi, a replica of the monastery was built at a separate location in Ireland. The movie set for The Last Jedi was located near Dingle, on the coastline overlooking the Blasket Islands.

Where to Stay

We stayed in Killarney at the Gleann Fia Country House. It is a one hour drive between Killarney and Portmagee. For us, staying in Killarney served as a great home base for exploring not only Skellig Michael but also Dingle and the Ring of Kerry. We highly recommend this B&B. We had a huge family room, Tyler and Kara loved playing Monopoly in the conservatory each night, and being located just outside of town, it was very easy to get to by car.

In Portmagee, the most popular place to stay is The Moorings Guesthouse.

The tiny town of Portmagee

Portmagee Ireland

What to do after your trip out to Skellig Michael

Have a late lunch at the Bridge Bar or The Moorings Restaurant.

For the best view on the Ring of Kerry, visit the cliffs of Kerry. It is just a short drive from Portmagee. Drive on the Skellig Ring Road towards the coastline, following signs for “Sensational Cliff Views.” The 4 € per person to visit here is worth it.

Best View in Ireland

So, does Skellig Michael look like a place you would like to visit? Let us know what you think by commenting below!

More Information about Ireland

Planning a trip to Ireland? Read all of our articles in our Ireland Travel Guide.

You Might Also Like:

Skellig Michael Ireland Complete Guide

How to Visit Skellig Michael Ireland Star Wars Filming Location


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Comments 22

  1. What an interesting post. I had just read about Skellig Michael in the book Sacred Travels published 2006, which presented the island as a pilgrimage site, prior to Star Wars tie-in. Apparently in AD 825 Viking Norsemen from Scandanavia landed at Skellig Michael and kidnapped the abbott of the monastery. They were terrible rascals wherever they went!

  2. Thank you for sharing lots of interesting and honest tips on visiting Skellig Michael. Hoping to visit this incredible place real soon!

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      No, the boat does not have a restroom, not that I remember. We used the restroom in Portmagee and were able wait until we got back to the mainland.

  3. Hi there, my daughter and I are from California and visiting Ireland in July and I had been planning to stay in Killarney for three nights as you did too to drive the Dingle Pennisula and the Ring of Kerry Loop and incorporating taking the tour of Skellig Michael while on the Ring of Kerry loop. But I noticed in a few other articles they recommended staying in accommodations in or closer to Portamagee the night before as the tours leave by 8:30 and the drive could be slow depending on tourist traffic. Did you see much trouble in getting there in time from Killarney? I would rather stay in one location as “camp” for a few days than move every night. Thanks for your input and look forward to your other posts as reference for our 4 week trip to England, Scotland and Ireland.

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      When we did this, we had no issues with traffic with getting to Portmagee the morning of our Skellig Michael trip. We also planned our drive to get here early, by 8 am, just to check in and to make sure that we were not late. I agree, it’s worth a little extra driving to not have to reserve (and pack and unpack) at another hotel. I hope you have a great trip to Ireland, Scotland, and England!! Cheers, Julie

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      I think it’s wonderful that they already limit the number of people who get to visit this island, but sometimes I wonder if even a few hundred visitors day after day has a negative impact on the island. It can be hard to find the right balance to support tourism, support the local economy, and also not damage the environment. Cheers, Julie

      1. I have not been there, but 180 people a day is not many people. It appears visits are weather-limited to only 5 days a week on average, and for only a few of the summer months each year. 180 people/day x 5 days/week x 16 week season = 14, 400 people per year.

        The place is remote, so only serious, well off, and presumably responsible travelers will be visiting who will not behaveirresponsibly. On top of all that, the island is mostly rock, which is not going to get worn out the way dirt or sand might.

  4. Didn’t know this gorgeous place existed until this post, but so excited to visit. Our honeymoon trip is in 2 months (July) and all 4 tour groups you listed are FULLY BOOKED so we won’t be able to go 😢 To anyone considering visiting, the authors aren’t kidding when they say they book early! Get your tickets ASAP! I hope to visit one day!

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      It’s crazy how quickly tickets sell out, right? Keep checking back, maybe you will get lucky and someone will cancel. Have a nice honeymoon! Cheers, Julie

  5. Nice article. We have reservations for May 25. Looked at Google Earth and it seems to be about 1400 feet from the helicopter pad to the monastery via the path. Did you happen to measure the distance?

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      No, we don’t have the exact distance. It might be a little bit farther than 1400 feet, but it’s not a long walk. Just lots of steps. Cheers, Julie

  6. I’ve just come across your blog on Skellig Michael. I am making the trip on 4 June (already have a ticket on a boat) and am really looking forward to it. Your post has given me lots of helpful information and advice. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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      I recommend contacting the companies directly for updated pricing. You can click the links in this post to go right to their websites to see pricing for 2018. Cheers, Julie

  7. I was hoping to find a photo book of Skellig Michael as my nephew is so very Intrigued by this beautiful place, Autistic and will never be in a position to visit in person. I know he’d truly enjoy a compilation of photos , not looking for story books or novels , but have not yet found anything like that online.
    If by chance you would be kind enough to suggest any ideas it would be greatly appreciated ! Your post was wonderful and I hope to visit myself one day. I’ve done “the ring” but never this! Thank you in advance for a reply either way.
    Regards ,
    MaryAnn from NY

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      I don’t know of any photo books or photo compilations about Skellig Michael, other than what you can find online (do a Google image search for Skellig Michael). There are a lot of photos and information online about Skellig Michael, however, a lot of it is about how to tour the island. I have a feeling that Skellig Michael is going to become a lot more popular in the next month with the release of the next Star Wars movie. If you want to print photos, go to smugmug.com and search “Skellig Michael.” People may have photos up for sale. We have a smugmug account but I am discontinuing it this week because we have not generated much business from it. Cheers, Julie

    2. Dear Mary Ann
      I visited Skellig Michael in around 2007. The information in this website is excellent. When I went I had had two knee replacements and was celebrating my 70th birthday. I have 50-60 pictures of high quality I would be happy to share with you. I am planning this year to turn them into a photo book.
      I spent my last evening at Echo Lodge , about 40 minutes from Shannon, near Adare in the most amazing small hotel .Google The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge.
      I would be happy to email you pictures of both places as they are truly extraordinary. Kind regards, Judith Tobin

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