Skellig Michael ~ County Kerry, Ireland
It's hard for me to put into words how incredible this place is. If I could recommend you to do only one thing in the whole country of Ireland - I would say you should go to Skellig Michael. It is a place unlike any other place in the entire world. When we were there, I felt as though I had stepped onto a different planet. Hence, why they chose it as a filming location for Luke Skywalker's hideout in the most recent Star Wars films.
The Skellig Islands are two uninhabited islands about 7 miles off of the Southwestern coast of Ireland. Tours run out of the adorable coastal town of Portmagee (along The Ring of Kerry) and they only run in the summer months. The larger of the two islands is Skellig Michael which is the location of a monestaty founded by Gaelic monks between the 6th & 8th centuries. Currently, the only inhabitants are adorable little puffins, which you will see up close & personal all along your hike up the 618 stone steps to the top.
A Couple Tips...
Yes, I said 618 steps. It's a lot - the equivalent of around a 30 story building. They're not like normal stairs either, they're literally rocks. So they are uneven, different sizes and can be pretty slippery if they're wet. So wear good shoes! It is definitely a strenuous hike up, but I'd say still doable for most people. Just take your time and focus on the stairs when you're walking, then stop to admire the view, take pictures, and catch your breath.
The tour companies do not operate if the weather does not permit, so make sure you check ahead of time if they're running that day. The day we had planned to go, we called and they were not running so we switched some things around and made other plans. The next day, we tried again and thankfully they were running so it all worked out in the end. But definitely call ahead if you can to make sure.
Access to the island is by boat and to get on and off the boat you have to jump - literally jump - from the boat to the platform. Depending on how choppy the water is that day, the boat can be quite unstable which makes it a little intimidating getting onto the platform. There are people on the boat and on the platform to assist you though. Again, just take your time and go at your own pace.
Since the access to the island is by boat - I would suggest taking a Dramamine in the morning. Even if you don't usually get motion-sickness, you don't want the first time to be when you're about to climb 618 rock stairs.
There are no handrails along the steps. Going up it isn't too bad but coming down there were a few times I had to sit on my butt and scooch down a step or two. When you're that high up and have nothing to hang on to, it can be a little scary taking those first few steps down. Again, take your time and go at your own pace.
There are absolutely no facilities on the island. No toilets, no water, nothing. So make sure your biological needs are taken care of before you get on that boat. Pack some waters and a snack to treat yourself with at the top.
Star Wars? CHECK
What more could you possibly ask for?
**See my full Ireland itinerary here.