The Skelligs

The following are photos taken by my wife on a trip to the Skelligs, off the Kerry coast, in August 2008. Since then, two tourists have died in falls there. I posted the text that follows as a MyT blog.

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My wife and I spent last week on the Iveragh peninsula in Co. Kerry, in the south-west of Ireland, with our daughter and two of her friends. The combination of high mountains, jagged coastline and pristine beaches makes this a stunningly beautiful area, and very popular with tourists (Killarney was one of the first ‘resorts’ anywhere, I think). Kerry is washed by the Gulf Stream and there’s a slightly ‘Mediterranean’ feel, notwithstanding the frequent showers of rain.

Last Wednesday we took a boat trip to the Skelligs (Little Skellig and Skellig Michael), two large rocks that rise from the Atlantic twelve kilometres off the coast and comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Little Skellig, which as far as I know has never been inhabited, has the world’s second-largest colony of gannets – 30,000 or so pairs, which allow no other birds to settle. Skellig Michael is an amazing, other-worldly place, which had a colony of monks for five centuries or so, from the sixth century onwards. They constructed stone ‘beehive’ buildings to serve as living quarters, cookhouse and church, and grew vegetables on the island’s sparse but rich soil. Their life must have been extremely Spartan and demanding, especially given that the Vikings raided from time to time (on one occasion taking the abbot away and starving him to death).

After a rough crossing on a small open boat from Portmagee, we disembarked at Skellig Michael and climbed the steep stone steps to the monks’ settlement – luckily, I have a good head for heights. An American man and woman serve as state-employed guides, and gave interesting talks on the islands’ history.

A lighthouse was constructed on Skellig Michael in the nineteenth century, and the keeper and his family lived permanently on the island – there is a poignant grave of two boys, aged two and four, who fell ill one winter and had died before help could be summoned. A teacher used to come to the island to teach the children there, and cattle were also brought over at that time. (The lighthouse is automatic now, of course.)

On our way back down to the harbour, puffins with beaks full of sprats were landing on each side of the path, returning to their burrows. We saw choughs and numerous other species of bird, as well as seals on the rocks. On the return boat trip the boatman offered us some freshly caught fish, which I was slightly too nauseous to accept … although we were happy to pay €100 for a great fish dinner in the Moorings, Portmagee, the following night.



Filed under Ireland, Photography, Wildlife

14 responses to “The Skelligs

  1. Wow. Spectacular. I don’t have a good head for heights, so thanks for the warning. i’ll stick with your photos and commentary.

  2. Glad you like it, Isobel. My wife doesn’t have a good head for heights either, and was a bit freaked out.

    Just back from a barbecue, not quite sober … talk to you soon.

  3. Thanks for that, Cymbeline … your comment didn’t show up right away as I had to approve it, and hadn’t noticed it.

    Let me know if you’d like me to delete any or all of your comments on this blog … I’m a bit slow on the uptake this morning.

  4. helpmaboab

    I still haven’t gotten over that bar of chocolate.

  5. help ma boab, welcome to my humble blog.

    Ah yes … the chocolate factory. Now I remember. 🙂

  6. Hello, Cymbeline. Yes, I see what you mean. I think I’m quite naive, as these things don’t generally occur to me. I can see the potential for somewhat sinister usage. Perhaps that’s outweighed, though, by the enjoyment one can derive from blogging. I don’t know.

  7. One could perhaps write a good novel based on the mad world of blogging. What could be madder than MyT?

    Bearsy’s blog, on the other hand, makes ditchwater look brilliant and coruscating.

  8. helpmaboab

    Dunno, Brendano, there was a scintillating item about snakes in Ireland the other day.

  9. So, the lower-case ‘p’ gets through with a space before it …

  10. Well, it’s always good to see you.

  11. I saw that, hmb. I admit to looking in from time to time, especially when MyT is down.

  12. It’s appreciated, Cymbeline.

    I take it you won’t be setting up a blog of your own.

  13. I once found a smooth snake in a skip in London … I must have put it in a wheelbarrow without noticing, and tipped it into the skip.

    Never saw one in Ireland, though. The only reptiles I’ve seen here were lizards near the Giant’s Causeway.

  14. I’m glad to say that a safety review of Skellig Michael has not recommended that fences be erected there.

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