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Archive for April 3, 2014

Skellig Michael, Six hundred steps to heaven

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Skellig Michael (unesco heratage site) , country Kerry Ireland
Irish Landscape Photography : Nigel Borrington

Skellig Michael, six hundred steps to heaven

During the summer last year I finally achieved a long ambition, to visit Skellig Michael and the Skellig islands some 16 kilometres off the county Kerry coast line, Ireland.

In yesterday post I shared the boat trip out to the Islands, today I want to share the walk up the six hundred plus stone laid steps to the very top where the world famous monastic outpost is located.

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During the boat trip one of our guides pointed out one of three stair cases to the top, if you open up this picture you will see it rising up to the settlement, there are three of these routes up that were hand built with stone cut on the island. The three of them provided landing points during different tides and weather conditions.

Landing on the Island is an experience in its own right as the swell from the sea water makes stepping off the boat great fun. As you set foot on ground again, the first stage of the walk to the top is a well laid foot path taking you to about half way around the island and about one third of the way up the 218 meters you need to climb before reaching the settlement.

As this path ends you are met by a guide, who very firmly insists you all receive a health and safety talk, sadly sometime back a visitor died while walking up the steps, the walk is very steep and if you loose your footing the drop all the way to the sea below is not broken by any obstacles. He advises to take your time, “its not a race to the top and that if you need a rest to take one.”

The walk up is hard but very pleasurable, the views as you go are stunning if a little breath taking due to the hight. One of the warnings however was to keep your eyes on your steps and not to take any images unless you had stopped in a secure location and moved aside for others to pass, even telling the people behind that you intend to stop. as you can see in the images below there are some platforms and viewing points and I did my best to only stop here.

One of the wonderful views on your way up was the hundreds of Puffins nesting here, they were due to leave any-time so its was great to still find so many of them, I got many images of them along the way.

Finally after some forty minutes you reach the last set of steps , turning through some sharp rocks you get the first view of the Settlement. This sight just takes you back, the stone wall that greets you is about four meters high from a terrace that is the only flat area on the entire Island, being used to grows vegetables in its day.

From here the only access to the inner yards and structures is through a small door in the stone wall.

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On entering you are met with the sight of the famous beehive cells of which six are still standing. The enclosed area is small and fully protected from the elements by the hight of the sea facing wall. The structure of the cells is very unique and fascinating to see. in the centre of the buildings is a small grassed area that served as a grave yard. I found this fact very interesting as it outlines the fact that the people who lived here spent their entire lives living on this Island from the moment they first arrived.

I want to post one more time on Skellig Michael, showing the full structures , living spaces and detail some of the history of this place. It is truly a fascinating place that holds some mysterys. The biggest one’s to me are : why here ?, why did these people select to live at the top of a rock over ten kilometres from the Kerry coast line, when they could have just lived on the main land?

More in the next post …

Skellig Michael, image Gallery

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