Imagine a place that’s equal parts beauty, lore and history. A place that’s desolate but familiar, out of this world, but closer than you think. One step on Skellig Michael and you will know this is the island you’ve been searching for your whole life whether you realized it or not.
In case you’re not familiar with Skellig Michael, here’s a quick snippet from wikipedia:
Skellig Michael (Irish: Sceilig Mhichíl), also called Great Skellig (Irish: Sceilig Mhór), is the larger of the two Skellig Islands, 11.6 kilometres (7.2 mi) west of the Iveragh peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. A Christian monastery was founded on the island at some point between the 6th and 8th century and remained continuously occupied until it was abandoned in the late 12th century. The remains of the monastery, and most of the island, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
If you kept up with my live-blog you know the long road, both literally and figuratively, that it took for me to finally get to Skellig Michael. Being able to land and see Skellig Micahel up close was a magnificent pinnacle to this journey of incomparable proportions.
This was truly an incredible adventure and I would love you tell you more about why it meant so much to me and what I was actually thinking as I walked the Jedi Steps. So sit back, make yourself comfortable and read on to hear about my amazing Skellig adventure!
When I woke up that morning I could already tell it would be a perfect day. The weather was ideal and the tour was on! Already infinitely better than the day before! After a much calmer and uneventful boat ride the mysterious outline of Skellig Michael loomed closer. We’ve all probably seen pictures of Skellig Michael before but to see the impossible rock terrain somehow thriving with all of the lush greenery is perplexing and awe-inspiring.
As the boat approached the rocky landing I was hoping to periscope it for everyone but the boatman quickly told me to put away me phone and “pay attention”. Good advice. The landing at Skellig Michael is dangerous on a good day so caution is needed! Before the ascent to the monastery you are given a safety talk. Since the steps are hand carved each one is potentially a different size so extreme caution is needed traversing these steps. Some of the steps are just a few inches and others are so big I was practically climbing them! Amazingly I made it up and down without falling to my death! (Not even joking, there have been fatalities here and I have a tendency to be, how shall we say, “less than coordinated”.)
These incredible hand carved steps zig zag all the way up to the monastery. It probably goes without saying but this is a strenuous journey. You still sweat. A lot. And you’ll probably be in pain at some point. I was really wishing I’d stretched my calved before I started! But every drop of sweat and ache and pain is totally worth it. To be totally encapsulated by such raw beauty is an experience I’ll never forget!
As I climbed those steps I was in awe for several reasons. First of all, the raw beauty is insurmountable! The vibrant greens against the cool greys of the rocks and the rich blues of the sky and sea make you feel like you’re living inside a photograph. The vibrant hues look photoshopped but they are as real as it gets an incredible sight to behold! Also puffins. The puffins were everywhere and about the most adorable thing in the world!
Then theres the man-made aspect of those steps and the monastery. I am totally blown away when I think about the time and effort it took those monks to carve those steps without the aid of modern-day power tools. And the same goes for the beehive huts and monastery walls. The fact that these structures still stand is a testament to the careful craftsmanship and persistence of the human nature. When I consider all of this work and the isolated location of the Skelligs it also makes me think about the lengths people go to find answers to life’s big questions.
Then of course there’s the Star Wars aspect of it. Obviously this place previously had tremendous religious and historical significance but when Lucasfilm decided to make Skellig Michael the birthplace of the Jedi it added a whole new layer to the myth and lore of the island. There are some fascinating parallels to the actual history of the island and fictional world of Ahch-To. The ancient monks journeyed there to find answers as did Luke Skywalker. Both in real life and the fictional Star Wars universe we see the astounding beauty of this place and know there’s something special about it.
Watch this cool video from Discover Ireland about JJ’s decision to film at Skellig Michael!
In order to capture that beauty great care was taken by JJ and company. It was hard enough doing the journey with just a backpack so as I walked the steps I thought about all the equipment that had to be brought up and down those steps in the not too distant past. And why? JJ had a vision and he wanted to share the beauty of the Skelligs with the world. A vision that paid off big time. We were honored with the presence of the magnificent Skelligs and they have become an important part of Star Wars lore.
Another thing I was thinking about was my own personal journey to get there. Ever since I’d first heard about Star Wars filming here I was intrigued and wanted to go. It wasn’t until about 6 months ago when I started making arrangements for Star Wars Celebration that coming to the Skelligs became a possibility. An emotional roller coaster followed the next few months when it seemed like every other day I was getting a different answer about whether going was even a possibility. Even right up to the morning I left for Skellig Michael I wasn’t 100% if I’d be able to go. So thankfully, after months of planning, thousands of miles flying, hundreds of miles driving on the wrong side of the road and a tumultuous journey to the sea I had made it! That felt like quite the accomplishment.
With all those thoughts in my head I made my way to the monastery. This is the area with the beehive huts and walled structures where the monks lived. In my head I had imagined this area larger for some reason, but apparently only a maximum of 12 monks and the abbot lived there at any given time. I wandered this area for a bit and even went inside a few of the huts. Again, it was fascinating to try to imagine what life was like for the monks who lived here.
I carefully made my descent and headed down to the area called “Christ’s Saddle”, (where we see Luke standing at the end of The Force Awakens.) Here I met a few other Star Wars fans who were on journeys of their own and we all enjoyed the moment together and took a few pictures. Then I made my way back to the boat enjoying the puffins, gorgeous scenery and perfect day.
After we reached Portmagee I headed back to Dublin, thankful to have experienced the Skelligs, but with a feeling this wouldn’t be the last time…