These two islands, Skellig Michael and Little Skellig, lie off the coast of County Kerry in the southwest corner of Ireland. Skellig Michael, or Great Skellig, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Up a 1000 year old stone staircase, perched on a narrow ledge, is a 6th century Christian monastery consisting of 6 beehive cells and 2 boat shaped oratories. The still-standing dry stone structures were inhabited by reclusive monks until the 12th century, when they relocated to the Augustinian Priory at Ballinskellig on the mainland. By necessity self-sufficient, the monks traded eggs, seal meat and feathers for cereal, tools and animal skins from passing boats. The skins were used to produce vellum, upon which the monks copied illuminated religious manuscripts.
Today, the Skelligs are home to vast nesting and breeding bird colonies as well as giant basking sharks, dolphins and sea turtles.
Copyright 2013 Mary Jane E Clark
- UNESCO World Heritage Site #257: Sceilg Mhichíl (everything-everywhere.com)
- Personal Journeys: Off Ireland, a Rugged Journey to Remote Ruins (nytimes.com)
- ON THE EDGE: retreat on the west coast of Kerry (3quarksdaily.com)
- The Ring of Kerry (lpetrie35.wordpress.com)
- Irish monks may not have been the first Skellig settlers (irishcentral.com)