The Skellig Islands must be Ireland's most spectacular destination, bar none.
Like two enormous pyramids, they emerge from the Atlantic Ocean off the southwest coast of Ireland.
They are monumental! Skellig Michael stands 218 metres / 715 feet above sea level.
George Bernard Shaw described it as "an incredible, impossible, mad place ... part of our dream world."
I love introducing our guests to these jaw-dropping places while leading adventure tours of Ireland.
Read on to find out more...
Where Are The Skellig Islands? 📍
There are two main Skellig Islands.
They are located roughly 12km / 8 miles off the county Kerry coast of southwest Ireland.
Boats depart from various ports on the mainland to reach them.
Skellig Michael is the larger of the two. It has a long and ancient history of habitation by monks. Its beautifully preserved early Christian settlement is one of only three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ireland (The Giant's Causeway and Newgrange are the others).
More recently, Skellig Michael was used as a location for shooting two Star Wars movies.
Little Skellig is one of the largest gannet colonies in the world.
There are also large numbers of puffins resident on the Skellig Islands from April to early August.
Skellig Michael Island ⛰️
Skellig Michael island is where early Christian monks chose to build their monastery over 1400 years ago.
Back in the 5th and 6th centuries, the western fringes of Ireland were the limit of the known world to Europeans. The Skellig Islands were literally the ends of the earth to early Christians.
Why did they opt for such an isolated place?
These monks were ascetics. Like hermits, they sought extreme isolation because it was believed that it brought them closer to God. They shunned civilisation as a result, carving out a meagre existence between roaring sea and barren rock.
Skellig Islands FAQs
Which Vagabond Tours Visit The Skellig Islands?
We offer two boat-based Skellig Islands activities.
Choose to land on Skellig Michael (€120 - 5 hour duration) or take a cruise around both Skellig Islands (€50 - 2 hour duration).
The Skellig Michael Landing is only available on one tour itinerary:
The shorter cruise circles both islands and is possible as part of the following tours:
What Is A Boat Trip To The Skellig Islands Like?
Whether you're planning to land on Skellig Michael or simply cruise around both Skellig Islands, the boats you travel on will be similar in size and structure.
The boats are roughly 9 metres / 30 feet long. Though powerful, they are open-decked vessels with little or no protection for our guests from rain, waves and spray.
The trip is an open water crossing in the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean swell — the size of the waves — can be large. Waves often splash over the sides of the boat. You are likely to get wet. Ponchos are provided in the boats — but you'll still get wet!
If you are particularly prone to sea sickness, we recommend either skipping this activity or bringing sea sickness medication along with you.
⚠️ IMPORTANT: Both types of boat trip to the Skelligs are weather dependent and are frequently cancelled at late notice due to inclement sea conditions. Boat tours cancelled due to bad weather will not be charged for.
Where Do Skelligs Boats Depart From?
The small harbour at Portmagee is the departure point for all Vagabond & Driftwood boat trips to the Skellig islands.
For both the Skellig Michael Landing and Skellig Islands Cruise, on the day of departure, your boat will leave the pier in Portmagee early. This normally happens around 9am but can be earlier or later to account for changing weather.
How Long Is The Boat Trip?
The total length of the Skellig Michael Landing can be up 5 hours. The boat journey to and from Skellig Michael can last up to 60 minutes each way. You'll have about 2.5 hours to explore the sland.
The total length of the Skellig Islands Cruise can be up 2.5 hours.
What Is Landing On Skellig Michael Island Like?
Landing on Skellig Michael with Vagabond Tours is DEFINITELY an adventure! Fitness is required.
The first challenge is the boat trip, followed by disembarkation and a steep hike to the summit of the island.
Disembarkation on Skellig Michael
There is no marina or dock on Skellig Michael Island.
To disembark your boat, you step off directly onto the island.
Your boat is likely to be moving up and down on the waves, but the pier will not be.
Depending on the ocean swell, the gap that you need to step over to the island can vary. You'll need to be agile. It can be a leap of faith!
Hiking To The Summit of Skellig Michael
Hiking on Skellig Michael is a must.
That's because the summit is where you'll the 6th century monastery remains.
To reach the summit, you will have to hike up 600 rough stone steps
This not a conventional staircase. The steps on Skellig Michael are cut directly from the rock face. They are steep and of varying height and width. There is no handrail and a steep, vertical cliff face lies below.
A very limited number of visitors have died after falling on Skellig Michael.
You will need to be...
- In good physical condition;
- Used to steep and prolonged hikes;
- Not scared of heights;
- Sure on your feet.
We recommend wearing a good pair of comfortable hiking boots or shoes.
Remember, after your visit to the monastic ruins on Skellig Michael, you have hike back down the 600 steps.
Skellig Islands Packing List
- Good hiking shoes or boots (for Skellig Michael Landing only)
- Packed lunch and drink (for Skellig Michael Landing only)
- Good quality waterproof jacket
- Sea sickness medication (optional)
Is The Skellig Michael Landing Worth It?
Good question. The answer depends on you!
To enjoy Skellig Michael, you need to be fit and have a head for heights.
Not only that, but you need to have the right gear and be ready for a rough sea journey. You'll need to able for a tough climb up and back down again. Not to mention a strong bladder — there are no toilet facilities on the island!
However... If you are an adventurous soul and you fit the above criteria, visiting Skellig Michael is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We heartily recommend it!
More Skelligs FAQs
Do I Book Skellig Michael Tour In Advance?
The Skellig Michael Island landing and boat trip experience MUST be booked at least 45 days before your tour departure date.
If you intend to land on Skellig Michael, please let us know as soon as possible. This can be done during your pre-tour survey or by emailing us: email@example.com
This is the only optional activity where pre-booking is a requirement.
If you do not pre-book the Skellig Michael landing, you can be added to a waitlist but are not guaranteed a ticket.
Payment is not required in advance for the Skellig Michael Landing. The current cost is €120. This is payable in cash to the boat driver/guide on the day of your Skellig Michael Landing. Your VagaGuide will ensure you have ample time to obtain cash before you arrive for your experience.
⚠️ IMPORTANT: This excursion is only available when you book the 12 Day Vagabond Giant Irish Adventure Tour
A shorter, Skellig Islands boat trip (without landing on Skellig Michael) is possible on the following tours:
- 12 Day Vagabond Giant Irish Adventure
- 8 Day Vagabond Wild Irish Rover Tour
- 8 Day Driftwood Wild Atlantic Way Tour
- 7 Day Vagabond World Tour of Ireland
- 7 Day Driftwood Castles & Kingdoms Tour
Read our Skellig Michael Survival Guide
Are There Toilets On Skellig Michael Island?
There are no toilet facilities on Skellig Michael Island.
If you are planning to land on Skellig Michael or taking our Skellig Islands cruise, you may not have access to a toilet for up to 6 hours.
The Lady Clare boat that many guests are aboard when landing on Skellig Michael DOES have toilet facilities. However, not all boats that provide this activity do have toilets.
What Activities Are Seasonal?
Our regular touring season runs from March 10th until October 22nd 2024.
However, the following activities and attractions do not operate year-round:
Mid-May to Mid-September
- Skellig Michael Landing (Only Available on the 12 Day Giant Irish Adventure)
- Skellig Islands Cruise (Available on the Following Tours)
Late May to Early September
- Scattery Island Boat Trip (Late May to Early September - Available on the 7 Day Driftwood Castles & Kingdoms Tour)
April to October
- Garnish Island Boat Trip - Garnish Island is closed in March. For these tours departing in the month of March, a boat tour of Glengarriff Bay is available instead of the Garnish Island Trip.
Best Time To Visit Skellig Michael? 🗓️
It's important to remember that boat trips to Skellig Michael operate seasonally.
Boats run to Skellig Michael from Portmagee only from mid-May to late September. This means that guests booked on our 12 Day Vagabond Giant Irish Adventure Tours departing in April and October 2024 will not unfortunately be able to avail of this Tour Option.
In addition, your trip to Skellig Michael or around both Skellig Islands is weather dependent. Irish coastal weather is extremely changeable, even in midsummer. Departure cannot be guaranteed. Boat tours cancelled due to bad weather will not be charged for.
Hoping to see puffins? Go to Skellig Michael before mid-August. Puffin nesting season runs from April until early August.
Skellig Michael Checklist ✅
- ✔️ You've booked in advance - Before your tour you must let us know at least 45 days in advance that you intend to go. Trips to Skellig Michael are in high demand and there is limited availability.
- ✔️ You've packed your medication - Very important. If you require medication, make sure you have more than enough for a 5 hour trip. Remember, it could take time for emergency services to reach the island in the unlikely event of an accident. Pack seasickness tablets if you think you might need them.
- ✔️ You've got suitable gear - We recommend wearing a good quality waterproof outer layer, under layers for warmth and a pair of good walking boots. Both Skellig Michael and the ocean crossing will leave you exposed to sun, water and wind.
- ✔️ You've packed snacks and water - Make sure you bring enough food and water to sustain you for 6 hours. Skellig Michael is a wild nature reserve. There is nowhere to buy food or water on this trip.
- ✔️ Your phone/camera is fully charged - You'll kick yourself if your battery dies before you snap a selfie at the summit of Skellig Michael!
Guests 💚 The Skelligs
We got to experience the beauty of remote places as well as lots of small towns and charming byways including an amazing boat ride to Skellig Michael (we were lucky with the weather).
AUSSIE GUEST, JULY 2023
We were able to experience so much of Ireland in such a short time. I really enjoyed the boat ride to see the Skellig Islands (scene from Start Wars) and the sheepdog farm.
TEXAS GUEST, JULY 2023
Alternative Skellig Islands Cruise 🛥️
Don't feel Skellig Michael is for you? Take our fantastic Skellig Islands Cruise.
This 2.5 hour guided boat tour of both Skelligs Islands is an adventure in itself.
You'll depart Portmagee in a 30 feet long, open-decked boat early in the morning.
You will then cruise around Skellig Michael and its smaller neighbour, Little Skellig, enjoying commentary from your boat driver on the history and nature of both islands.
Alternative to the Alternative
Are you a landlubber? Don't like the idea of spending hours cold and wet?
The good news is that you won't miss out.
Alternative activities to a Skellig Islands boat trip include:
- An amazing hike to a panoramic viewing spot on Valentia Island;
- A visit to a handmade Irish chocolate factory — deliciousness guaranteed.