Skellig Michael

We took a punt and moved our Skellig boat ticket from Tuesday to Thursday, ever hopeful that maybe someone would have been out to the island, inspected the rockfall, and declared that it was safe for visitors.

Foolhardy of course as no such thing happened but there was always a chance. We returned to Portmaghee for a boat ride out to the islands but we knew in advance that we wouldn’t be landing; it was just to show us what we would have seen.

We left as the sun was rising and in the shelter of the bay the sea felt quite calm. As we continued into the open waters of the Atlantic the swell started to throw our little boat around somewhat. When I asked the guide if it was a bit choppy today he laughed and said firmly “no”. I guess they see some pretty amazing weather around these islands!

As we approached the boat changed course and slowed, a school of dolphins had come beside is to say hello! We’ve been searching for these illusive creatures on every coastal walk so far but this was the first time we spotted any. Next we spotted puffins, their babies are called Pufflings! We never spotted the babies but we did see that puffins fly in an odd fashion, they have little wings so they have to flap a great deal; it looks like hard work being a puffin!

As we got closer to the first of the two islands we spotted thousands of birds flying overhead and even the odd seal sunbathing on the rocks This island is home to a gannet colony and there are around 60,000 of them here each year. The guide told us that we were lucky today as the wind was in our favour, the smell can sometimes be over-powering! They’re really big birds close-up, especially as you see them flying right overhead and diving into the sea for their catch.

Next we approached Skellig. It’s hard to imagine a few hardy men arriving here 1400 years ago and thinking… mmm… yes this is the perfect place to build a monastery. As our guide explained, these islands were on the edge of the known world, those men had no idea what lay ahead of them. And yet, they built homes here and a place to worship and they carved hundreds of steps into the cliffs. They created large wells to catch and store rain water and for almost a thousand years monks lived on the island.

In more recent history (in the last century) 2 lighthouses were built and 30 babies have been born here! But it was decided it was unsafe to keep manned light-houses and today only the care-takers of the islands live here in the summer.

The rockfall apparently was minor. The locals blamed ‘Dublin’ for closing the landings. The crew told us it’s fine but their hands are tied. We never got to land but we did get up close and personal. We could see the steps that we would have climbed, we could see the high walls of the monastery at the very top of the island but we could only imagine what it would have been like, nonetheless we’re glad we made the return visit. It was a good morning.

The men on the boat had told us about a walk we should look out for. They told us to drive on to Caherdaniel and head to the beach. I’m not sure if we found their walk but we found Caherdaniel and it’s ancient ruined abbey on Derrynane Bay and we walked from one side of the enormous sweep to the other and back again. We searched for crabs in the rockpools at the very end of the bay. We’d almost given up hope of finding one until the very last pool, where a lazy crab sauntered across the sandy floor, trying (and failing) to catch a tiny fish that swam across his path.

The tide had turned as we’d been walking and we were surprised to see our route was now underwater. We walked higher up the beach and stopped to watch the jellyfish get lifted back into the ocean, the beaches are really littered with them and I wondered if they sting much!

We stopped in the tiny little pub on our way out of the village. The Blind Piper is no tourist trap. It’s just a tiny bar, with wooden chairs and tables that may have seen better days, but they had great music choices and GF beer! It was a good end to a fabulous day!

Our journey has come to an end and soon we head back to France. We’ve had an amazing time in Ireland. I’ve added at least three new trails to my list of walks that I really wish to walk. We’ve visited some glorious places and whilst The Wild Atlantic Way isn’t a walk, nonetheless we’ve found some amazing trails. Ireland is beautiful. We’ll definitely be back again one day!

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