Saturday 22 July 2017

Visitors' delight as Skellig Michael awakens after a six day wait

Butch Roberts selling tickets on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday.
Photo: Don MacMonagle
Butch Roberts selling tickets on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Passenger alight from boats and make their way back to port on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Passenger alight from boats and make their way back to port on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Passenger alight from boats and make their way back to port on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Carolyn and Martin Barrow pictured on their return from their visit to Skellig Michael on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Passenger alight from boats and make their way back to port on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
American tourists, Kathy Burrage, Tess Ward and Elaine Pattinson pictured on their return from their visit to Skellig Michael on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Frace Yip from Malaysia pictured on their return from their visit to Skellig Michael on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Local boatman Joe Roddy pictured on his return from the first visit to Skellig Michael on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Skellig Michael. Image: Don MacMonagle
American tourists Christ and Heather Gandy pictured on their return from their visit to Skellig Michael on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

They waited six days, but for the first visitors of the season to Skellig Michael it was worth it as the monastic settlement awakened.

Although the season was officially deemed open by the Office of Public Works last Sunday, it took until Friday for conditions calm enough to land the first passengers on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A total of 16 licenses have been issued to boatmen to land a maximum of 12 passengers each per day during the season, which ends in September.

And although many claimed to have been attracted by the ancient monastic settlement, most admitted they only learned about it after seeing Star Wars Episode 8: The Force Awakens.

Passenger alight from boats and make their way back to port on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday.
Photo: Don MacMonagle
Passenger alight from boats and make their way back to port on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Boat owners say the 'Star Wars effect' is definitely in evidence again this year with a lot of queries from people anxious to see the place Luke Skywalker has been hiding out all these years.

And with increased demand comes a surge in prices with places on one of the boats now costing €75, an increase of €5 from last year and €15 since filming ended.

But there were no complaints from the passengers, many of whom viewed it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, like couple Chris and Heather Gandy from New Jersey.

"This was the highlight of our trip and the first thing we booked," Heather told the Irish Independent.

American tourists, Kathy Burrage, Tess Ward and Elaine Pattinson pictured on their return from their visit to Skellig Michael on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday.
Photo: Don MacMonagle
American tourists, Kathy Burrage, Tess Ward and Elaine Pattinson pictured on their return from their visit to Skellig Michael on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Her husband admitted their first introduction had been the movie.

"I feel the island has so much history and maybe the movie takes away from the authenticity of this, he added.

For mother and son, Carolyn and Marcus Burrow from Seattle, seeing dolphinswas an added bonus.

Anthropology student Marcus, saw the film and it jogged his memory from his studies.

Passenger alight from boats and make their way back to port on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday.
Photo: Don MacMonagle
Passenger alight from boats and make their way back to port on the opening day of the Skellig Rocks trip in Portmagee, County Kerry on Friday. Photo: Don MacMonagle

"We decided we just had to come and it was well worth the fare," Carolyn said.

Kathy Burrage from Durham and her friends Tess Ward and Elaine Pattison were enjoying their first trip to Ireland.

"It was fantastic, the monastery, the wildlife, everything. And we even saw dolphins on the way back," she said.

Skipper of the 'Sea Breeze' Joe Roddy has been landing passengers for 50 years. He says the season has not got into full swing yet and reports that the island was closed hadn’t helped.

"It’s Star Wars that advertises it without a doubt. I remembering starting out and telling people in four languages about the island and they didn’t know what it was about," he said.

Only about 20pc of tourists visiting the island yesterday were Irish, according to Paul Devane of Skellig Michael Cruises, who lands passengers and offers customers the cheaper option of a trip around the island for €35.

The bulk of visitors are American or European though there has been a fall in visitor numbers from Britain, he says.

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