Sunday 25 June 2017

Lonely Planet names Skellig Ring one of world's Top 10 travel regions

Best in Travel 2017

Little Skellig from Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Little Skellig from Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2017
Spectacular: Skellig Island
Little Skellig. Photo: Fáilte Ireland/Raymond Fogarty

Pól Ó Conghaile & Greg Harkin

Kerry's Skellig Ring has been named one of the world's top regions to visit next year by Lonely Planet.

The accolade comes in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017, the bestselling collection of travel trends, destinations and experiences for the year ahead.

The Skellig Ring connects Valentia Island with Waterville via the Gaeltacht area around Ballinskelligs - and of course, includes the Skelligs themselves.

The influential travel brand describes it as “perhaps Ireland’s most charismatically wild and emerald stretch of coastline” with Skellig Michael dubbed a “remote, wave-pounded hunk of rock rising out of the Atlantic like a giant triangle.”

The UNESCO World Heritage Site featured in Star Wars: the Force Awakens, and is set to play an even bigger role in Episode VIII, due out next year.

Lonely Planet's Top 10 Regions for 2017

  1. Choquequirao, Peru
  2. Taranaki, New Zealand
  3. The Azores, Portugal
  4. North Wales, UK
  5. South Australia
  6. Aysén, Chile
  7. The Tuamotus, French Polynesia
  8. Coastal Georgia, USA
  9. Perak, Malaysia
  10. The Skellig Ring, Ireland

Though the Skelligs received a huge publicity boost this year, the Skellig Ring is relatively little-known compared to the tour-bus-loaded Ring of Kerry.

Off-radar attractions range from Ireland's first Dark Sky Reserve to Coomanaspic Pass and the surprising Skelligs Chocolate factory overlooking St. Finian's Bay.

In Portmagee, Lonely Planet recommends stopping into The Moorings, where Star Wars actor Mark Hamill famously pulled a pint.

Welcoming the news, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said the accolade provided a great marketing hook and "will surely help to inspire travellers everywhere to put the Wild Atlantic Way on their holiday wish-list for 2017."

Tourism Ireland will be promoting the Skellig Ring region with a new video and a specially-created page on Ireland.com among other activities, Gibbons added.

“I am delighted that The Skellig Ring is being internationally recognised as a place of rugged and ethereal beauty," added Minister for Tourism, Shane Ross.

Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2017
Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2017

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel picks are compiled by writers, editors and its substantial online community of bloggers and tweeters. “The Skellig Ring should be on every traveller’s must-see list," a spokesperson said.

However, not everybody believes the area will see the benefits of additional visitors in the coming year.

“The truth is we are already choc-a-block with people already booking for 2017,” said Eoin Walsh, who operates boat trips to Skellig Michael.

“We used to be able to go out from April 1 to October 31, but that has been cut by six weeks so the season won’t start until May 22 and finishes on October 2 - so we miss Easter and October mid-term completely.

“Kerry relies on tourism. It’s our main income.”

Walsh added: “We’ve had brilliant weather for the past week, but can’t go out because the OPW tour guides aren’t there.

“The OPW needs to invest in more tour guides and extend the season otherwise there will be a lot of Lonely Planet visitors who are going to be very disappointed.”

Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2017 also saw Canada named the No.1 country to visit next year, with Bordeaux topping the list of cities.

Last year, the travel guide listed Dublin as one of its Top 10 cities for 2016, with Ireland previously featuring among the Top 10 countries for 2015.

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