The Skellig Coast
Rural, wild, unspoilt, rich in history and ready for adventure: just a few of the reasons why the Skellig Coast on the Ring of Kerry was my favourite part of Ireland!
After a very comfortable and rejuvenating sleep in our little apartment at the Westcove Farmhouse and Bakery, we set out to explore the untamed beauty of the historic Skellig Coast, where everyone from monastic hermits to Vikings and Jedi knights have all left their mark throughout the ages.
Caherdaniel and Derrynane Beach
Derrynane beach, with its white sand shores and crystal clear gemstone-coloured water was something out of a travel magazine! And the rain stayed away long enough for us to enjoy the prestine beauty of it all. Better yet, we had the whole place to ourselves!
Just around the corner from this gorgeous beach was the historic family home of Daniel O’Connell, known as the Great Liberator for his tireless work to achieve Catholic Emancipation during the 1800s.
As a lover of justice and freedom myself, I found it quite moving to walk the hallways of someone who fought a similar fight long before. I am grateful that history is marked by heroes such as these who used their power, influence, privilege and personal resources to better the lives of others.
The Skellig Islands
With a doubt the Skellig Islands, Skellig Michael and the smaller Little Skellig island, are the most infamous feature of the Skellig Coast and the namesake of this stunning region. It was because of this beauty that we travelled this particular path through Ireland, even though most of our friends recommended travelling up North.
Truth be told, I first learned of Skellig Michael by watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where the abandoned monastery on top of the island is prominently featured in the films final scene. But as I read deeper into the history of these haunting islands I became captivated by a history much richer than popular culture.
While the exact date that Skellig Michael was founded is unknown, the earliest written references to the isolated monastic community date all the way back to the 6th century.
Built on the edge of the world, 600 feet above sea level, sits the abandoned remains of a hauntingly beautiful hermit monastic site which contains six beehive cells, two oratories and a number of stone crosses. You can see the beauty of the site in the video below:
Its not hard to see why this location was chosen for the most recent Star Wars film, it looks like something from another planet!
I can only imagine the fortitude, tenacity and ingenuity that it took to survive there. But if surviving the unforgiving natural elements wasn’t enough, the monks also survived multiple Viking attacks throughout the years and still remained steadfast in a testament to their faith.
Truly there is no where else quite like Skellig Michael in the entire world!
The best part of the visiting the Skellig Coast two weeks ahead of tourist season is that everywhere we went we had the whole place to ourselves.
The worst part of visiting the Skellig Coast two weeks ahead of tourist season is that boats still weren’t allowed to take visitors to climb the island due to the wild, unpredictable weather still controlling the region.
At least we did get some stunning views of the Skellig Islands from the mainland. And I now have a great reason to return, which I don’t quite mind!
Valentia Island and Portmagee
An old pirate and smugglers port, Portmagee and Valentia Island is also home to some of the most beautiful Skellig Coast views and delicious seafood dinners!
Staigue Fort, Sneem
After taking the ferry back from Valentia Island to the mainland, and finishing our Skellig Coast tour, we stopped by one last local point of interest, very near to our farmhouse apartment in Westcove.
Staigue Fort is a partially ruined stone ring fort that is thought to have been built during the late Iron Age, 300 and 400 AD, as a defense for a local lord. The fort’s walls are up to 18ft high in some places and are 13 ft thick at the bottom. There are even two small rooms within the walls at various points within the fort.
Again, for a place that is usually swarming during tourist season, we had the whole place to ourselves.
Chayton wasn’t too keen on the whole thing, as he was tired from a full day of adventuring but our few minutes at the Staigue Fort were still pretty special. It’s not every day that you get to walk through a piece of ancient history.
Final Thoughts on Ireland
The country was magical; its people are friendly and warm, its rural nature was filled with peaceful charm and ancient history. If you go, you must get off the beaten path and visit the Skellig Coast. I’m truly glad we took the time to add Ireland to our agenda and hope that one day we’ll be back to this beautiful place and its welcoming people!