By Rebecca Dixon, Director of Sales & Marketing for Crafted Ireland.
I'm never anti for the sake of being anti, and in this case most definitely NOT anti-Star Wars. I mean, Luke Skywalker had me at "I care." I'm beyond thrilled at the attention that Ireland and Skellig Michael are receiving from their roles in the new Star Wars movies. My personal voyage to Skellig Michael, however, was perhaps my most life-enriching journey to date, and it was not about Star Wars or Luke Skywalker. It was one of awe and respect for the human spirit, dedication, perseverance and faith. I feel inspired to share a different view on the significance of this very special destination.
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The Skellig Islands lie about 8 miles off the southwest coast of Ireland in County Kerry. It is a journey itself just to get there. Only accessible to a limited number of visitors May through October, Skellig Michael, the largest of the Skelligs, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is carefully cared for and maintained to protect the integrity of its very deep and rich spiritual heritage.
The earliest reference in history to the Skellig Islands dates back to 600AD when the monks of St. Fionan's monastery chose Skellig Michael as their destination to achieve a greater union with God. This very remote location, one can imagine, was as far from civilization as they could find, and as high to God as they could reach. The result of their efforts was one of the most dramatic examples of the extremes of Christian monasticism. They lived a life of solitude and braved severe weather conditions and exhausting miles between the mainland and the island as they ventured to and from in tiny boats to bring food, supplies and materials for their settlement.
The devoted brothers would descend the 670 steps every morning to fish for breakfast and would spend the rest of the day praying, tending to their gardens and studying. Their huts, which are round on the outside and rectangular on the inside, were carefully built so that not even a drop of rain would enter between the stones. The well-preserved monastic remains have retained a strong spiritual after-life which appeals strongly to the human psyche. Today, visitors get a sense of the magnitude of the monks' sacrifice and dedication when they explore the island and get up close to what remains of the strategically constructed beehive shaped huts.
The monastic community may have moved to the mainland by the thirteenth century but the island continued to be regarded highly as a place of pilgrimage in the following centuries, and in the nineteenth century, two lighthouses were built on Skellig Michael, thus establishing its significance in Ireland's maritime history.
It's not only man, however, who contribute to the significance of the islands. Both Skellig Michael and the neighbouring Little Skellig, are internationally renowned as some of the most important sites for breeding seabirds in Ireland. The natural makeup of the islands provides a safe haven for immensely important populations of seabirds, where they can nest and rear their young. The surrounding Atlantic Ocean offers both rich feeding grounds and protection, keeping the islands free from predators.
The introspection that I found from my visit will live with me for years to come. I've awakened a force and I plan to return with a new hope. (Ok, So I'm not completely immune to the hype!)
Whether you are a Star Wars fan or interested in ancient architecture, history or early Christianity, contact us today for your own personal journey to Skellig Michael.
Crafted Ireland - the one to trust for the absolute best in luxury, leisure travel to Ireland | www.craftedireland.com
Sources sited: http://www.worldheritageireland.ie and http://skelligislands.com