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September 5th 2012   moving butterflyclip8 52c

signskellig

 

Skellig Michael, or Great Skellig, is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, 11.6 km west of the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. 

 

Christian monastery was founded on the island at some point between the 6th and 8th century, and was continuously occupied until its abandonment in the late 12thcentury. The remains of this monastery, along with most of the island itself, were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996.

The monastery remained continuously occupied until the 12th or 13th century. During this time, the climate around Skellig Michael became colder and more prone to storms, and this, along with changes to the structure of the Irish Church, prompted the community to abandon the island and move to the abbey in Ballinskelligs.

 

 The weather is mighty at the moment, the best spell since the  end of May. There is so much to be done here, the garden is wild after the wettest summer in memory (our's). We need to give serious thought to investing in a second poly tunnel, if we want to eat home produce all year round. First things first.....

 We have a trip to make that we have been talking about for along time, and right now feels like the right time. So it takes us an hour to make up our minds, load up Rosie (our '76 land rover), leave Molly in safe hands and we are off. 

We phoned ahead to the boat man from Sneem as we had chosen this location as our departure, (there are many more). He assures us that conditions are looking good for the trip on the following day. He gave us the departure time and the diretions to the pier. Rosie has not undertaken a long trip like this before so she is as excited as us.

First we had a family stop to make in Galway along the way, and soon we were heading south. The day was beautifu, warm and sunny, no better way to begin an adventure. We headed in the direction of Ennis as the Car Ferry from Kilimar to Tarbert would be the more interesting route for us. The new motorways seem  unnecessary in a country this size and this beautiful.

You may get there more quickly, but what do you see ? the same as you would on a motorway in any other country. "Don't pay the Ferryman" why not ? if we don't use it we will loose, it so we bought a return ticket. It is an excellent service with a boat every hour on the hour on the way over and every hour on the half hour on the way back, and it does what it says on the tin, very efficient, friendly, a shop and clean toilets......garferry. We have been on the Ferry before, four years ago when we toured part of the Ring of Kerry.

 

Rosie likes these roads, and eats them up but at her pace, what's the hurry ? we will get where we are going, eventually.We stopped in Castlemaine to phone and check the weather conditions for the boat trip, no sign of Jack Duggan, but there is a pub called "The Wild Cononial Boy".  By the time we reach Sneem having crossed over the MacGillycuddy's Reeks  mountains from Killorglin we were brave and hungry. So the local fresh fish and chips washed down by a pot of tea tasted just perfect. No time to waste as the evenings are drawing in much earlier now, and we want to pitch our tent. The location is most important for us. To be in a place that is not interfering with others,  yet quiet enough for a good nights sleep and if possible somewhere to have a morning dip is always a bonus.

pierjrWe dip daily at home in our river and now look forward to that, rain hail or snow. We took the road towards Caherdaniel as we were taking the boat from there to the Skelligs. We noticed a sign for Gleesk pier , it was a long winding narrow road which seemed to be bringing us back into Sneem. When we arrived at the pier we were in familiar surroundings. We had camped here four years ago when on our ring of Kerry trip.

 Rosie fit in nicely here, it was time to check out our surroundings before settling for the night, nothing had changed except that the little deserted house was now for sale. We felt right at home here. A lot of the new big modern houses on the hillside also looked abandoned, possibly just seasonally occupied.

     

How could it be more perfect, there was even a suitable place to have an early morning swim. Just as we were about to settle for the night, the farmer arrived with a trailer load of cattle, there was much huffing and puffing and cattle not doing what the farmer wished but eventually each saw the other's intentions and all was well. Not a sound was heard except for the singing waters and a good night's sleep ensued.

judsea

 

We awoke early excited and ready for our boat trip. But first.... it's time to test the water. We have gotten so used to the temperature of our river water. At 7am and the sea water here was like a warm bath. It is like a lagoon with the water trapped here in this slipway. Aware of the sound of silence, with high rocky hills surrounding us, it appeared that we were the only two people in Kerry at this moment, (magic).

 

We packed up and moved on not wanting to disturb the energy here by cooking breakfast. We passed through the village of Caherdaniel, no living creature to be seen and it was now 8am. Just outside the village there was a beautiful view of the bay and we had a nice hot breakfast here. I took homeopathic tablets for motion sickness and prepared a bottle of water with ginger as past experiences on boats have never been good.

teajudy

 

 

 

Hot tea from a stove in the back of the car tastes better than I can describe. The Land Rover Series 3 is a short wheel base so the back is just too short to sleep in. But it may be possible to modify it for sleeping when the weather is not so suitable for the tent. But we don't have that problem on this trip.

We followed John the boatman's directions to the Pier, which was down a long and winding road with sharp bends. Rosie's lack of power steering was noticable but not a problem. We wre first to arrive, so there was time to walk around and see that part of the Kerry Way walk passed this way.(It might be an adventure for the future). So we just hung around. Jimmy's knees were caving with excitment or maybe it's a new dance move he is practising.....

 By now other adventurers are arriving, and then we could see our boat arriving. All aboard for the Skellig's.There were ten passengers, four dogs and John the boatman.

 

hooked

 

 

 

bowleg

 

 

boatsk

dogboat

 

We passed the Islands of Deenish and Scariff. There is a house on Deenish, not now occupied . Later we learned that John and friends spent the previous night partying there. (he looks none the worse for the wear, but the dogs are very sleepy).  This little one appears to have just three working feet, but he is still capable of getting around the boat and jumping up onto the side and centre benches when it suits him.  

Molly our Belgian Shepard would also feel at home here on this dog friendly boat, but dogs are not allowed on the Island. We have taken her previously on a dog frindly boat from Cleggin to Inishboffin for a weekend in search of  the elusive Corncrake.

 

Soon we got our first glimpse of the Skellig's. Skellig Beag to the east looked like a white capped scraggy rock, there was some green patches visable on Skellig Michael. 


 

firstglimpse

 clip6 32

 

 

From here it just looks like a rock,  impossible to land on, walk on, live on !                                           The boat trip took two hours, but it was a beautiful sunshiney day, and no feeling of sickness, what more could a body ask for. As we get closer it still looks like a Great Rock. Soon we realise that other boats have arrived ahead of us, and have already docked to allow their passengers get onto the island. The boats await just off shore to spend time fishing while waiting for the return journey.  The excitment is building as we await to dock.byepier

 

 

 

 

 

There was a high swell at the pier for landing, but John is experienced with getting people on and off without diffiulty and all was well.

 Once ashore we stood on the pier for a few minutes to steady our legs, and then we made our way up the narrow roadway towards the steps, a large grey seal smiled at us from below. There was the sound of an engine ahead could it be a moterbike ? no, it was a motorised wheelbarrow, off to the pier to collect a delivery of essentials.  

 We were met by one of three guides at the foot of the steps. He said that it was his job to frighten us. He explained the dangers and hazzerdous conditions on the island, and of the recent death's of two tourists who strayed from the recommended pathway. He asked for care to be taken on each of the 600 plus steps. He said that he had frightened 27 people already today. They had decided not to undertake the climb and were all standing on the roadway waiting for their boatman to return to take them back to the mainland.

For us conditions were just perfect, the sun was shining, the steps were dry and it was onwards and upwards. From the begining we could see that care needed to be taken, the steps were wide but the depth varied on each one. They were flat slabs, taken from the rocks on the island and self supporting. Sometimes there were places to step aside and allow a descending walker to pass, other places it was a sheer drop. Either way it is no place for the faint hearted or children.

steps1

steps2

 

This is indeed a very beautiful place, a special place where the nature is strikingly raw. Where self sufficiency is life or death for any living creature.  We reached the top and could see the bee-hive dwellings where the monks once lived. The huts are all very close together, no space for privacy. But meeting ones basic daily requirments,  shelter, food  and spiritual needs consumed much of their day and the need for privacy would possibly not be the most important item on the agenda. 

A guide told us all the known facts of the life once lived here.

 

A community of 12/15 monks lived here on this 30 acre island mostly rock between 600-900 A.D living from the land and sea. 

 

 bee

  They had  few areas where they created small gardens. But there are no trees, no visable source of fuel for cooking or heat. It is thought that they would have gotten fuel from the mainland possibly traded for it. There were quite a few other monastic settlements along the south coast. This being a beautiful sunny day it seems like a wonderful place to live, but during cold wet winter months the harsh conditions would be unimaginable.

highviewhelipad

topviewskelligbeag

 

 

To walk down the steps against the driving wind and rain and to stand on a slippy rock with waves crashing all around to catch fish, knowing that all were depending on you to have something to eat that day. How  many winter's days did they go without ?

Some remains were found  and were deficient of basic nutrients to sustain them. 

 

 

 

 

dangersign

 clip2 47b

 

There is a small chapel built on the highest point of the island (not accessible to visitors) with a stone Trough to collect rain water. It is believed that this is a place of retreat, where a monk would spend time alone in meditation living on water alone.

beehive2door

 

 

 

 

 

Skellig Michael is a National Heritage Site and there is work constantly been done to rebuild and maintain the island. We spoke with some men who have been living and working there for ten years now, from March until October. The guides also live here during this time with two weeks on the island and one week off. They live in small chalets on the roadway with solar panels on the rooftops.  They catch fish including lobster, with boats arriving daily with provisions to met their needs. 

  We met a man on the steps carrying two buckets, each filled with a mix of lime plaster. He does this on average of ten times a day for the rebuilding of the chapel.....video......

There is also work taking place on the roadway to protect visitors and residents from falling rocks.    Two men were attaching scaffolding poles to the rocks on the cliff face with 100ft drop below.

skelligbeag1

 

The monks left the Skellig's after 300 years when the climate seemed to change and conditions became too hard and hazardous to stay.

Two lighthouses were built on the west end of the island in the 1800's, and two families lived here. The remains of two young children were uncovered and it is unknown what caused their deaths, but probably due to the harsh climatic conditions. The lighthouses are now automated and unmaned. 

beehive3detail


We had a picnic in the sunshine reflecting on those who dedicated themselves to the nature here.  Three magical hourswere spent here that we would not soon forget.

Looking across at Skellig beag through binoculars we could see that the white peaks were birds. Ganets, constantly flying in and out, it was like a moving mountain top (an amazing sight ).

 clip2 20b

 

garden1

 

All too soon it was time to take our leave and John was waiting at the pier when we arrived. All aboard once again for another two hour journey. A passenger on the baot asked if the white peaks on Skellig beag was guam, we passed her the binoculars and asked her not to say what she saw but to pass on the binoculars to the next and each person who wished to look. We were all so amazed that John took us around the island so that we could see for ourselves. The birds flew over our heads.      video........

 We took a last glimpse towards the two islands and we gestured  the unspoken words of  "beighimid arais aris"

Sleep was catching up on all passengers before the journey's end, and when Derrynane Harbour came into view all were happy, John's dogs were the first to disembark having taken their place at the top of the queue

Two things were on our minds now, hot food and a place to camp. Rosie was waiting on the pier with one eye out to sea. We took the coast road as we decided that a Chineese take away was what would satisfy our need right now. In Cahersiveen we found exactly what we were looking for, we ate on a bench seat overlooking the bay where the monks are now positioned overhead

 

 

 

monksinboat2

 

 

Later we found a quiet place to pitch our tent at a scistercian abbey and cemetry not far from Listowel. After a  little night cap we had a great night's sleep. We drove to the Garden of Europe in Listowel to have our breakfast alongside the river. Again it was a beautiful day. It is not far from here to the car ferry in Tarbert. We were not in any rush home so we dilly dallied all the way home stopping off here and there where ever took our fancy.

vegetables

 

 

Home again and all our beautiful harvest awaits. To our surprise our very first "Grapes" just a small bunch but then the vine was only planted a year ago when we put up the pollytunnel. And the taste m.m.m.m.m good.

 Melons,chillis,etc

hummingbirds hovering md wht 

 

 

  

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