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Signature Discovery Point 12 – Skellig Michael
VISIT AN EXTRAORDINARY, FAR-FLUNG PLACE OF PILGRIMAGE
Eight miles off Kerry’s magnificent Iveragh Peninsula – where Ireland’s highest mountain range sweeps down to the wild Atlantic coast – is one of the wonders of the world: Skellig Michael. 1300 years ago, early Christian monks built a remarkable hermitage at the top of this jagged ocean crag – then at the furthest limits of the known world. Steep steps are carved into the rock. Near the 213 metres (700ft) summit is a collection of ‘beehive’ monastic cells: solitary places for contemplation and prayer, as far from the distractions of civilisation as it was possible to be. This extraordinary, far-flung place of pilgrimage – described by George Bernard Shaw as “part of our dream world” – is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It can be reached by the adventurous – for a sometimes life-changing visit – on a small boat from Portmagee or Ballinskelligs … but only when the weather allows, and only for those with good sea legs and a head for heights.
…and if you’re feeling adventurous…
TRY A TASTE OF HEAVEN ON THE SKELLIG COAST
Halfway round the Iveragh Peninsula, narrow byways lead off the main Ring of Kerry towards Ballinskelligs. Signs change to Irish and 9 miles offshore two jagged crags – Oileáin na Scealaga – rise out of the Atlantic: Little Skellig, ghostly white, is home to one of the largest seabird colonies in the world, and Skellig Michael. The coastal route, the Skellig Ring, takes you along narrow lanes on clifftops dotted with sheep, with wild Atlantic waves crashing below. At St Finian’s Bay – down at the shoreline where the monks embarked en route for Skellig Michael – a very earthly pleasure awaits: a cup of hot chocolate at Europe’s most westerly chocolate factory. While surf crashes onto the tiny beach outside, you are enveloped in the warm smells of chocolate-making, inside ebullient Colm Healy’s family-run Skelligs Chocolate factory, at the edge of the world.
Take time to Explore Kerry!
If you’re looking for something that little bit special, take in one of our ‘Signature Experiences’ at some of the breath-taking Discovery Points along the Way. Here, at these points of outstanding scenic beauty, are experiences that every visitor will savour – from celebrating the summer solstice at Féile Grianán Áiligh in Donegal to trekking across the sands on a Connemara Pony in Galway to experiencing the lush vegetation and sub-tropical shrubs of Garnish Island in Cork.
Many treasures hidden along the Wild Atlantic Way lie off the beaten track and are therefore generally more suited to independent travellers. This breathtaking coastal route will intrigue and remain in your heart and mind long after you have returned home to the everyday world.
Have you ever dreamed of embarking on a journey of discovery, to hidden places and secret worlds where all kinds of enchantments lie waiting for you? Well now you can, along the wildest, most captivating, coastal driving route in the world – Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way!
Tucked away in little villages and towns that snuggle into the coastline are delightful cafes and restaurants, where you can indulge in your passion for good food and great wine. Maybe you might take time to reflect on times past with a visit to the ruins of a sixth century monastic settlement on the stunning Skellig Michael in Kerry. Wherever you go along the Wild Atlantic Way, you will encounter moments of magic, moments to treasure and experiences that you will want to return to again and again.