Monday, May 30, 2016

Skellig Michael Awakens

CBS News recently discussed the popularity of Skellig Michael, an island in the Atlantic off the southwest tip of Ireland, after being featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The island, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, is now being stormed by fans of the Jedi.

Skellig Michael is the real thing. If you don't have a spaceship, you need a boat to cross the lumpy, seven miles of open ocean off the southwest tip of Ireland. ...When you land, you're greeted by Bob Harris, the tourist guide.

Harris knows all about a place so special it's been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- not just for its spectacular natural beauty and its enchanting wildlife, but also because somewhere around the 6th century A.D. a small group of adventurous, devout Christian monks established a monastery here. Generations of monks stayed for at least the next 600 years. The monks' beehive huts, chapel, and graveyard have remained essentially as they were.

No spaceship, but lots of little ships, have brought an ever increasing stream of tourists to the island, a bargain at around $67 a pop. They've been drawn, certainly, by its enduring charms, but also by its new Hollywood notoriety.
There's a limit on the number of tourists allowed on the island -- just 180 a day. The operators are already more or less sold out for this short May-to-September season, even if the visit can be a challenge for some. Two people, both American, have fallen off these steps and died here.

The Skellig Islands are two small, rocky islands off the western coast of Ireland: Skellig Michael (or Michael’s Rock) and Skellig Bheag (or Little Rock), home of over 25,000 pairs of gannets.

It would seem some of what makes Skellig Michael unique inspired Bellairs to create a third similarly-named island. Skellig Padraic, is said to be near the Arctic Circle where Prospero is deserted by the Warden of the Out Isles. There's isn't much on Patrick’s Rock - craggy rocks, a hut for shelter, and a roofless stone chapel beside a graveyard - but Prospero makes his home there for much of the story [The Dolphin Cross; Magic Mirrors; 181].

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