Skellig Michael Star Wars location
The Skellig Michael Star Wars location is a site approximately 12km off the coast of Kerry in South West Ireland.
This stunning natural island location was displayed in all its glory in the 2015 Star Wars blockbuster – The Force Awakens. In the final scene of the movie, the young character Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, meets the reclusive Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who had been in hiding on the remote island world of Ahch-To. The movie ends when the two characters meet, suggesting there is much more to come from this stunning location.
The island of Skellig Michael off the coast of Kerry is a Unesco World Heritage site since 1996 and was a tourist destination long before the movie. Numbers of visitors and general interest in the location have soared following its albeit brief appearance in the worlds highest grossing film. Today, boat tours and excursions from the mainland continue to be hugely popular and in big demand. Weather permitting, these excursions run daily from Portmagee in South West Kerry. The location is rugged and remote and hence tours are only available during Summer months as weather permits, usually from May to September.
There are actually two islands, called Skellig Michael or Great Skellig which rises 714ft out of the Atlantic and Little Skellig, both are places of stunning natural beauty. Home to numerous examples of coastal wildlife, these rugged islands have borne the brunt of Atlantic weather for many millenia. Visitors can see diverse wildlife including seals, gannets and puffins who have resided on craggy outcrops since the islands existed.
In recent years and before any filming took place on the islands, conservationists have called for limited access to the islands in order to protect the ancient monastic buildings and other features from erosion, increased visitor traffic, souvenir collectors and general wear. In 2013, the Irish Air Corps airlifted several tonnes of materials to the island to carry out restoration work and general maintenance to make pathways and walls safe for visitors.
Concerns were raised during filming of the movie when equipment and increased numbers visited the island and for when filming was completed, given the expected surge in movie tourism that the film would create. Given the short ‘on location’ period however, it was unlikely that the movie crew were the cause of any major disruption or ‘damage’ to the island. Reports of interruption to wildlife and damage to pathways were recorded but were seen as a general consequence of tourism and not directly associated with filming. As part of the review visitor numbers, the Irish government has taken steps to limit the volume of visitors to the island by capping the number of charter licenses issued each year.
Irish folklore and history sees mentions of the Skellig islands as early as the 5th Century. The name comes from the ancient gaelic word ‘Scellic’, (skell-ic) meaning steep rock. Additional recordings in Irish history see it listed as a place of burial of Ir, son of Milesius and also as a place of hiding, when the King Of Minster fled there following disputes with the King of Cashel on the mainland.
A settlement may have been in place on the island since the 6th Century, however the first written reference to monks inhabiting the island is seen in the 8th Century. Depicted in the movie, the island has numerous man made structures like walls, pathways and beehive type huts that once formed part of a monastic settlement on the island.
Created from slabs of devonian sandstone, a type of sandstone found throughout the mainland of Southwest Ireland, Britain, Norway and along the northeastern seaboard of North America, the stone has weathered with the surrounding rock and appears almost assimilated into the island. One can only imagine the ingenuity, toil, industry and energy it would have taken these ancient monks to create these amazing features.
The stunning visual landscape gives it another world appearance and combined with mist clouds, green grass areas and its overall rugged island appearance, the Star Wars location crew must have been sold on it the minute they set eyes on it!
Visiting Skellig Michael
Today, the islands are under the expert care of the Office of Public Works (0PW), the organisation in Ireland that has responsibility for all historic sites and monuments. OPW guides are on the island too, in place to ensure visitors are briefed about the walking route to the summit. For the most part, the location is exposed and walks are not permitted during high winds and heavy rain. The trek up the stone steps is tough work out and hiking boots and outdoor gear are essential. This is a place of steep walks and exposed and unprotected ledges. Care is advised as there have been fatalities in the past.
There are several charter services running from Portmagee to the island. Some tours just do a sweep around the island and come back to shore but we know you – you’ll want to step foot on this place!
Excursions are weather permitting during Summer months and in most cases booking is essential. The journey on water to the island takes about 45minutes and there is usually about 2½ hours on the island. The return trip is also 45 minutes.