Skellig Islands

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Coordinates: 51°46′N 10°32′W / 51.767°N 10.533°W / 51.767; -10.533

Skellig Islands
Little Skellig window.jpg
Little Skellig seen through a window of the hermitage of Skellig Michael
Location Atlantic Ocean
Total islands 2
Major islands
County Kerry
Population 0

The Skellig Islands (Irish: Na Scealaga), once known as the Skellocks, are two small, steep, and rocky islands lying about 13 km west of Bolus Head on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. They are famous for their thriving gannet and puffin populations, and for an early Christian monastery that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Little Skellig[edit]

Main article: Little Skellig

The smaller island is Little Skellig (Sceilg Bheag in Irish[1]). It is closed to the public, and holds Ireland's largest and the world's second-largest northern gannet colony, with almost 30,000 pairs. It is about 1.5 km eastnortheast of Great Skellig.

Great Skellig[edit]

Main article: Great Skellig

Also known as Skellig Michael (Sceilg Mhichíl in Irish[2]), this is the larger of the two islands, with two peaks rising to over 230 m above sea level. With a sixth-century Christian monastery perched at 160 m above sea level on a ledge close to the top of the lower peak, Great Skellig is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Both of the Skellig islands are well known for their seabird colonies, and together comprise one of the most important seabird sites in Ireland, both for the population size and for the species diversity.

Among the breeding birds are European storm-petrels, northern gannets, fulmars, Manx shearwaters, black-legged kittiwakes, common guillemots, razorbills and Atlantic puffins (with 4,000 or more puffins on Great Skellig alone). Smaller numbers of choughs and peregrine falcons can also be seen.

The surrounding waters teem with life also. Grey seals are common, and basking sharks, minke whales, dolphins, beaked whale, and leatherback turtles have also been recorded. The islands have many interesting recreational diving sites due to the clear water, an abundance of life, and underwater cliffs down to 60 meters (200 feet).


Popular culture[edit]

The Skellig islands are featured prominently in a sequence at the end of the 1976 German film Herz aus Glas (Heart of Glass) by Werner Herzog.

Irish Group Clannad wrote a song "Skellig" for their 1987 Album Sirius.

Canadian singer/songwriter Loreena McKennitt wrote the song "Skellig" for her 1997 album The Book of Secrets.

The 1998 children's book Skellig by David Almond

Tristan Jones, in his sailing/travel novel "ICE!" writes of a visit to the Skellig Isles en route from England to North America in 1961.[3]

Scenes for Star Wars: The Force Awakens were shot on Skellig in July 2014.[4]


External links[edit]