Travelers seeking to visit this fantastically picturesque rocky island, Skellig Michael, will need a lot of stamina. Fans of the Star Wars saga are not stopped by the inaccessibility of the filming location for the final episodes. It is difficult to find an earthly landscape that matches the landscape of the imaginary planet where Luke Skywalker hid in his forced exile for several decades. But it was found off the coast of Ireland!
You can visit this cinematic natural wonder with a guided tour (book at this link), or on your own by reading this article.
Myths about the island
There is a mysterious natural monument, Skellig Michael, 12 km from the fishing village of Portmagee. It is actually included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is a steep rock, named after the famous Christian saint, the Archangel Michael, famous for his victory over the devil. In the 6th century, monks settled in this remote impregnable place and built an early Christian monastery on the top. The first ascetics, who defended themselves from enemy raids, lived in stone cells resembling bee hives. One had to climb 620 steps carved into the rock that have survived to this day to get to the skete located at a height of 180 meters.
However, the history of the island goes much deeper, in pagan times. Irish mythology tells about the conquerors of the island, the tribes of the goddess Danu.
A small monastery community, consisting of only 12 ascetics and an abbot, in the 9th century withstood the attacks of the Vikings. Later they even managed to expand the monastery, which became the center of Christian life.
In the 12th century, due to harsh climatic conditions, the monks had to leave their habitable place and move to an Augustinian monastery on the coast of Ireland. However, the island was totally abandoned, the buildings were maintained in excellent condition for several centuries. Skellig Michael attracted the attention of couples in love who traveled here for a marriage forbidden on the mainland. And in the 19th century two lighthouses were built here with light-keepers on duty.
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«Star wars» filming location
Skellig Michael is a natural reserve, a place of pilgrimage for fans of the space epic. The rock gained popularity among tourists from all over the world after the release of the 7th episode of Star Wars. There is a panorama of the island in the closing shots of the film. «The Force Awakens» predicts that key episodes of the next «Star Wars: The Last Jedi» series will also take place here.
The director considered this location wonderful. Hollywood actors were glad that the shooting took place in such unusual conditions for a month and a half. Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, recalled this time as an indescribably beautiful journey.
Trained by the Jedi in the renovated academy, Luke, after his nephew and student’s fall to the Dark Side and the destruction of the entire academy, voluntarily goes into exile on the planet Ak-To. On this steep cliff, as if carved by a giant wave, one of the main characters of the film meets in the series finale with Rey, the main character of the trilogy.
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Natural features of the island
The island with its stunning harsh landscape is densely populated with sea birds: cormorants, loons, guillemots and petrels. One type of bird, the puffin, played an important role in the film. Initially, the director planned to populate the planet Ak-To with other inhabitants like seals or pugs. However, when he saw the number of bird flocks on the rock, he realized that it was simply impossible to remove them from the frame.
Even a whole team of the best special effects professionals could not cope with this task. As a result, it was decided to turn real birds into representatives of the local fauna of a fantastic planet. Fabulous seabirds porgs, designed with the help of animation and computer graphics, turned out to be very cute creatures with deep soulful eyes and stripes around them. Young porgs make an unforgettable impression on the audience. Their funny images on pictures flooded the Internet.
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Tours on Skellig Michael
Trips to the island, lasting about an hour and a half, are allowed only in summer, from May to September. The number of excursions is limited to just 15 boats with 12 passengers per day. The limit was set to preserve the uniqueness of this ancient place as much as possible, so that numerous visitors do not damage the ancient steps and centuries-old monastic cells. Moreover, climbing a steep staircase to a height of 180 meters is quite difficult and dangerous for unprepared tourists. And in bad weather, it is forbidden to land on the island, so excursions are often canceled.Book a hotel in Portmagee
After the release of Star Wars, the stream of tourists to the island is growing every year. Usually there are two types of tours to Skellig from Portmagee.
Eco-tour is a sightseeing boat tour around the island. It lasts 2.5 hours and allows you to see the uniqueness of nature and historical places without landing on the island. The boat is scheduled to depart at 8:30 a.m. and return by 2 p.m., however times may change due to weather and sea conditions. The cost of the trip for adults is €40, for students it’s €35, for children €30. There is a discount for groups.
The tour with landing on the island departs from the port of Portmagee once a day, at 8:30 a.m. in case of good weather conditions. Children under 12 are not allowed for this tour. It may be canceled for any reason or departure time may be postponed. The cost for a family of 2 adults and 2 children is €130, for each additional child you need to pay an extra €25.
A trip to the picturesque rocky island will leave a lasting impression, and not only for Star Wars fans. The stunning landscape of the reserve, impregnable cliffs, bird populations, stone dwellings, reminiscent of the rich history of Ireland and Christian ascetics, will be remembered for a long time. May the Force be with you!
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Have an unforgettable trip!