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Great Skellig (Skellig Michael)

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Overview





The Skelligs are two prominent pinnacle rock islets lying approximately seven miles off Bolus Head on Co. Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula on the southwest coast of Ireland. Great Skellig or Skellig Michael, the larger of the two and the outer islet, was previously inhabited and has a landing pier.

Great Skellig is at best a stay-aboard location in completely settled conditions. More realistically it is a location where you hove-to or sit and drift immediately offshore and land a visiting crew by dinghy. Landing area access is clear of off-lying dangers and little more than normal navigation is required to come in.
Please note

Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can expect it to be busy with tourist vessels especially around the landing area.




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Keyfacts for Great Skellig (Skellig Michael)
Facilities
None listed


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
None listed

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
3 metres (9.84 feet).

Approaches
2 stars: Careful navigation; good visibility and conditions with dangers that require careful navigation.
Shelter
1 stars: Stay-aboard; lunch stop or tide-wait exposed or tenacious holding location where a vessel should not be left unattended.



Last modified
May 14th 2018

Summary

A stay-aboard location with careful navigation required for access.

Facilities
None listed


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
None listed



Position and approaches
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Haven position

51° 46.334' N, 010° 32.175' W

The landing area situated in Blind Man’s Cove at the northeast corner of the island.

What is the initial fix?

The following Skellig Michael - Blind Man’s Cove - Initial Fix. will set up a final approach:
51° 46.334' N, 010° 31.852' W
200 metres east of Blind Man’s Cove.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Mizen Head to Loop Head Route location.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Great Skellig (Skellig Michael) for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Portmagee - 5.8 miles NE
  2. Ballinskellig Bay - 6.4 miles ENE
  3. Knightstown - 8.1 miles NE
  4. Darrynane Harbour - 8.9 miles E
  5. Cahersiveen Marina - 9.6 miles NE
  6. Dursey Sound - 10.9 miles SE
  7. West Cove - 11.1 miles E
  8. Garnish Bay - 11.1 miles ESE
  9. Great Blasket Island - 12.5 miles N
  10. Ventry Harbour - 13.4 miles NNE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Portmagee - 5.8 miles NE
  2. Ballinskellig Bay - 6.4 miles ENE
  3. Knightstown - 8.1 miles NE
  4. Darrynane Harbour - 8.9 miles E
  5. Cahersiveen Marina - 9.6 miles NE
  6. Dursey Sound - 10.9 miles SE
  7. West Cove - 11.1 miles E
  8. Garnish Bay - 11.1 miles ESE
  9. Great Blasket Island - 12.5 miles N
  10. Ventry Harbour - 13.4 miles NNE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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How to get in?
The Skellig Islands as seen from the west
Image: Tourism Ireland


The Skellig Islands lie, between 6½ and 7½ miles to the west of Bolus Head, and about 14 miles northwest of The Bull. These islands consist of two conspicuous pinnacle rocky islets, Great Skellig, also known as Skellig Michael, is the outer islet, and Little Skellig the inner. The uninhabited Great Skellig, also known as Skellig Michael, majestically rises out of the sea to a height of 214 metres and is a magical sight.


Tourist boat approaching the island
Image: Tourism Ireland


Convergance Point Vessels approaching from any direction will find both islands are set in deep water and highly conspicuous. Great Skellig has a 12-metre white tower lighthouse on its southwest extremity, plus there are the remains of a disused lighthouse situated about 200 metres to the northwest upon the islands western side.

Skelligs Lighthouse - Fl (3) 15s - position: 51° 46.108’N, 010° 32.519’W


Skelligs Lighthouse
Image: Tourism Ireland


Initial fix location From the initial fix to the landing area on the northeast tip of the island.

You will find a northeast facing cut looking across to the Little Skellig, and see the telltale steps which rise up to the summit above the quay. This is called Blind Man’s Cove where the islands small concrete pier is situated on its southeast side.

Blind Man’s Cove with its concrete pier facing Little Skellig. The telltale
steps rising up to the summit above help position it.

Image: Burke Corbett


Haven location The landing stage is beside a steep cliff and only eight metres across so you need to come straight in and reverse out. In very settled whether it is possible to stay there for a short time but anyone intending to do this should come prepared with large fenders and heavy warps.

Great Skellig's small concrete pier
Image: IrishFireside


However, there is nearly always a swell that surges in and out of caves at the end of the cove complicating a landing. Worse the confined cove makes the likelihood of rolling the spreaders against cliff walls a constant worry. Also, the tourist boats queue to land all day and you would be obstructing their operations except for very early, or very late, in the long summer days.

Consequently, the best way to land is by dingy standing the yacht off hove-too as it is too deep to anchor. As a result, landing requires some planning as those staying behind with the yacht will have a long wait for the shore party to reach the monastic settlement and return. You need to be very sure of the weather.

Another dinghy landing point is in the deep bay, called Blue Cove, on the northwest side of the island. A disused pathway exists here that leads up to the main part of the island. These steps are reportedly only usable at high water and the current state of the path is unknown. It is said that the islands controlling authorities are planning to improve this path to provide some flexibility of access.

It should also be mentioned that a circumnavigation of the island does provide spectacular scenery for those not landing. It is possible to pass between the Washerwoman Rock, 600 metres southwest of the island, and the island.


Why visit here?
Great Skellig, also known as Skellig Michael from Sceilig Mhichíl in the Irish language, meaning Michael's rock, is a unique experience. This floating pyramid has been home to some of the earliest monastic settlements in Ireland as well as providing sanctuary to extensive birdlife.


The Skellig Islands as seen from the mainland
Image: Tourism Ireland


'Magic that takes you out, far out, of this time and this world’ is what George Bernard Shaw, said of the Skelligs when he visited in 1910. But talk of the islands reaches back to ancient Irish folklore and Christian history. The earliest reference found so far dates back to around 1400 BC. A poem tells the tale of how the Tuatha De Danann caused the invader, Milesius, to shipwreck in the area. A later reference, circa 200 AD, tells of Daire Domhain, King of the World, resting there before an epic year-and-a-day battle against Fionn Mac Cool and the Fianna. The Skellig Islands are where St Patrick is credited with exterminating the last of Ireland's venomous snakes.


Aerial view of the monastic settlement on Great Skellig
Image: Tourism Ireland


From this point on, the history of Skellig is very much a Christian one. Skellig Michael has an amazing well-preserved Christian monastic settlement. Perched on a ledge close to the top of the island, it dates back to as early as the 6th-century. The monastery is enclosed by a dry stone wall, solid and unbroken after fourteen centuries of winter gales and early Viking ravages. The extreme remoteness of Skellig Michael has left the site exceptionally well preserved.


Monastic settlement on Great Skellig
Image: Tourism Ireland


For about 600 years this remote island was a place of solitude and refuge for about 12 monks plus an abbot who lived in stone 'beehive' huts, clochans, the remains of which can still be seen today. The very Spartan conditions inside the monastery illustrate the ascetic lifestyle practised by early Irish Christians.


Monastic settlement on Great Skellig
Image: @storytravelers


With such an intact Christian monastery, Great Skellig became designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The smaller of the two islands, Little Skellig or Sceilig Bheag in Irish, is a nature reserve that is closed to the public. It hosts Ireland's largest and the world's second-largest Northern Gannet colony, with almost 30,000 pairs.

Great Skellig 'beehive' huts with Little Michael in the backdrop
Image: Tourism Ireland


The islands outstanding appearance has recently been introduced to the world via the Star Wars series. Skellig Michael featured in the final scene of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' and was the central location for the following film in the series, 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'. In the latter movie, the remains of the Skellig Michael monastery appear in the film, representing an ancient Jedi temple.

Well worth seeing is Needles Eye, the highest peak, which rises from the northwest part of the islet; between it and the east elevated part is a deep depression known as Christ's Valley. Visitors can also explore the island's oratory, cemeteries, churches, holy wells and stone crosses.

The Skelligs are a magical place that is, to the largest part, a reserve for boaters. It would be a shame to come to Kerry and not experience this impressive pair of islands.


What facilities are available?
Apart from the landing pier there are no facilities of any kind such as shops or toilets. Despite what literature may suggest there is definitively no drinking water as the islands many wells are disused and unclean.


Any security concerns?
You should not leave the boat unattended for seagoing reasons.


With thanks to:
Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, Co. Wexford.


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Please zoom out to see the 'initial fix' for this location.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.






























Skellig Island aerial overviews




Star Wars Island Overview



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