This section serves as a description of the experience of travelling to Skellig Michael based on our own trips. It is important to note from the outset that a visit to Skellig Michael requires a reasonable level of fitness and no children under the age of 12 are permitted to land.
We have had the privilege of visiting Skellig Michael three times, and we have been extremely lucky as on all three occasions the weather was favourable for the journey allowing us to land. The journey is entirely dependent on the sea conditions, and a good third of trips may be cancelled. The first voyage (this would seem like a very grand word, but given the spectacular destination it seems appropriate), was back in 2013 and it was the last day of the season in late September. In that pre-Star Wars era tickets for the boat cost €45 per person (it was €100 each for our trips in 2019 and 2021). Despite it being the autumn, the ocean was as calm as a millpond and there were few other travellers with us. The puffins had long since left, but we still had a wonderful experience and we vowed to return to this remarkable place. In 2019 we had the opportunity to do just that, and this time we really wished to go to see the island when the puffins were home, and we took an Abarta Team Trip to Skellig Michael in July 2021, a day when the island was shrouded in a thick mist that blocked the views but thankfully kept the puffins at home so we were inundated with them at every turn. Absolute Heaven!
The major difference between the first trip and the second and third is the increased demand that has been largely generated from the island featuring in the recent Star Wars trilogy. In a sense, this is a case of the island taking on a new meaning to a different sort of pilgrim, but it has meant that this fragile place is coming under increasing tourism pressure that may have a long-term detrimental effect on the natural and built heritage. The decision to allow a fragile World Heritage Site to be used in this way caused understandable, and often justifiable, controversy.
However like it or not, the decision was made and the film happened. The Jedi’s legacy may not have the same duration as the legacy as that of their early medieval forebears. From chatting to the crew of the boat and people locally, by 2019 it seemed that the Star Wars buzz had already started to wane slightly, and there were few signs or promotional messages about the film in 2021, and so this craze may not last with the same intensity for long. But Star Wars aside, there is still plenty to motivate a person to want to visit this spectacularly beautiful place for themselves, though this must always be mitigated by what is best for the island. That’s why there is a quota for the number of trips allowed each year and partially the reason for the price increases that reflect this more intense demand. A maximum number of 180 people per day can visit, on one of the 15 licensed landing tour boats each carrying only 12 passengers.