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? πŸ“

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).

Two tour guests standing at the summit Skellig Michael island in Ireland

More recently, Skellig Michael was used as a location for shooting two Star Wars movies.

Little Skellig is the other main island in the group. Though uninhabited by humans, its seabird colonies draw nature-loving visitors to cruise around it.

Little Skellig is one of the largest gannet colonies in the world.

Sea arch on Little Skellig Island showing seabirds and Skellig Michael in the background

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


What Small Group Tours of Ireland Visit The Skellig Islands?


Only guests on the 12 Day Vagabond Giant Irish Adventure Tour get to land on Skellig Michael.

The following Vagabond & Driftwood tour itineraries can take a boat trip around both Skellig Islands:

Which Small Group Tours of Ireland Visit The Skelligs?


We offer two boat-based Skellig Islands activities.

Choose to land on Skellig Michael (€130 - 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 β€” the size of the waves β€” can be large. Waves often splash over the sides of the boat. You are likely to get wet. Ponchos are provided in the boats β€” 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)
  • Backback/daypack
  • Good quality waterproof jacket
  • Sea sickness medication (optional)

Boat in the sea with tour guests aboard off Skellig Michael Island in Ireland

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 β€” there are no toilet facilities on the island!

View from the summit of Skellig Michael Island down the steep steps to the seaHowever... 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?


If you’re a confirmed 12 Day Vagabond Giant Irish Adventure guest and you want to land on Skellig Michael island, you must pay the €130 fee at least 60 days in advance of your tour departure date. If you haven't received a payment link, let us know:

The fee for the Skellig Michael Landing is non-refundable if you decide against the activity less than 60 days before your tour. If the landing is cancelled due to bad weather, a full refund will be made.

The Skellig Michael Landing is the only optional activity on all Vagabond & Driftwood tours where pre-booking is a requirement.

Prior payment is ONLY required for the Skellig Michael Landing. All other activities β€” including the Skellig Islands boat trip (you stay onboard and don't land on the island) β€” can be booked during your tour.

⚠️ 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:

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. Please check in advance with your VagaGuide.

What Activities Are Seasonal?


Our regular touring season in 2024 runs from March 10th until October 22nd.

Some activities and attractions do not operate year-round. March and October departures are particularly affected. Where possible, we will offer a suitable replacement activity.

Mid-May to Mid-September Only

Late May to Early September Only

April to October Only

  • 🌼 Garnish Island Boat Trip - The gardens on Garnish Island are closed each March. For the tours featuring Garnish Island as an Optional Extra that depart during the month of March, a boat tour of Glengarriff Bay is available instead of the Garnish Island Gardens trip.

Best Time To Visit Skellig Michael? πŸ—“οΈ

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.

Puffins standing near the rough stone steps on Skellig Michael Island in Ireland

Hoping to see puffins? Go to Skellig Michael before mid-August. Puffin nesting season runs from April until early August.

Skellig Michael Checklist βœ…

  • βœ”οΈ You've Booked At Least 60 Days In Advance. If you’re a confirmed 12 Day Vagabond Giant Irish Adventure Tour guest and you want to land on Skellig Michael island, you must pay the €130 fee at least 60 days in advance of your tour departure date. The fee for the Skellig Michael Landing is non-refundable if you decide against taking part in the activity less than 60 days before your tour. If the landing is cancelled due to bad weather, a full refund will be made.
  • βœ”οΈ You've Packed Your Medication. This one is 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.
  • βœ”οΈ You're Wearing Suitable Clothing & Footwear. 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.
  • βœ”οΈ You've Packed Snacks & 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.
  • βœ”οΈ Your Devices Are Fully Charged. Fully charge your phone/camera and take along spare batteries or a portable power pack. You'll kick yourself if your device dies before you snap a selfie at the summit of Skellig Michael!

Guests πŸ’š The Skelligs

Trip Advisor Heading Image
8 Day Wild Atlantic Tour

Tour group on boat in Ireland with Skellig Michael island in backgroundWe 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).


TripAdvisor RatingView on Trip Advisor
8 Day Wild Atlantic Tour

Open ocean with Skellig Michael island in Ireland with boat in foreground

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.


TripAdvisor RatingView on Trip Advisor
7 Day World Tour

Little Skellig Island with red boat in IrelandThe excursions were optional but we did most of them. Surfing lesson, horseback riding on the beach, and cruise around the Skellig islands which was spectacular.


TripAdvisor RatingView on Trip Advisor

Alternative Skellig Islands Cruise πŸ›₯️

Don't feel Skellig Michael is for you? Take our fantastic Skellig Islands Cruise.

Boat approaching Little Skellig Island in Ireland

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?

Three female tour guests wearing hiking gear and jumping in the air on Bray Head, Valentia Island, Ireland

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 β€” deliciousness guaranteed.
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