Being a country that is especially proud of its cultural and natural heritage, visitors to Ireland are often baffled to discover that there are a mere three UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the island. Two of these are in the Republic. The first is Newgrange. The second is Skellig Michael.
Skellig Michael, several kilometres off the wild coast of County Kerry, is home to the ghostly remains of a Gaelic Christian monastery that 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.
For many years Skellig Michael played a relatively low-key role in Irish tourism. Monks chose the island as a base for its brutal isolation, and so over the years it has played second fiddle to perhaps less impressive but more easily accessible sights.
That off-the-beaten-track appeal may soon be coming to an end, however.
Ever since Star Wars (1977) featured the Tunisia’s baking hinterland as Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine, the country has seen a steady stream of fans arriving to pay homage.
Due to the enormity of the Star Wars global fanbase this looks likely to happen at Skellig Michael to an even greater degree.
As one writer for the New York Times put it, one can easily imagine “Luke Skywalker in one of the dank beehive cells, crouching as the monks had centuries before, marooned on the island with his demons”.
Make plans to go before the rest of the galaxy discovers it!
Boats to the Skelligs cost from €60 for landing trips.