Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Displaying items by tag: Skellig Michael

Kerry’s Skellig Michael may re-open to visitors on July 2nd, after a minor rockfall forced a temporary closure of the UNESCO world heritage site.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) told RTÉ News that specialist teams assessed the site and have removed debris, and cautioned that re-opening in a week’s time is subject to weather conditions.

 "Our staff, supported by experts and colleagues in the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, are currently on site and are taking all necessary steps to enable a safe return of visitors within the shortest possible turnaround time while strictly adhering to any environmental and other legal obligations imposed at this UNESCO World Heritage Site that is, at the same time, a sanctuary for breeding sea birds,”Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan said.

This year’s season on the island 12 km off the Kerry coast began on May 15th, but the island was closed on June 13th after the rockfall that day. No one was injured in the incident, the OPW said.

However, earlier this week Birdwatch Ireland expressed concern about the potential impacts of safety measures being taken on Skellig Michael, following the recent rockfall.

The independent bird conservation organisation said it had not been consulted to date about “sweeping operations” on Skellig Michael, designed to remove any loose rock material.

Birdwatch Ireland said it was concerned about the negative impact of such “sweeping” on sensitive nesting birds on the island.

The sixth-century monastic site is an internationally important habitat for seabirds and is home to some of the largest breeding populations of Manx shearwater and storm petrel in the world. Its high cliffs and ledges also support nesting sites for puffins, fulmars, kittiwakes and guillemots.

It was used as a set for Star Wars, which also caused some concern about the impact on such a sensitive habitat.

Last February The Irish Examiner reported that Grellan Rourke the former site manager at Skellig Michael who worked on the island for more than 40 years, had described filming scenes for two Star Wars episodes there as “inappropriate”.

Rourke claimed many visitors to the world heritage site were now more interested in its Hollywood depiction rather than its ancient history.

Skellig Michael was used for filming scenes for both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

The NPWS said it “has been liaising with the National Monuments Service and the OPW in relation to the recent rockfall on Skelligs, and follow up work, including ‘sweeping’ of the area concerned and possible further Health and Safety responses”.

“This work, including assessments and monitoring in relation to the bird populations, is ongoing,” the NPWS parent department – Housing – said.

Read more on RTÉ News here

Published in Island News
Tagged under

Birdwatch Ireland has expressed concern about the potential impacts of safety measures being taken on Skellig Michael, following last week’s rockfall which led to the temporary closure of the UNESCO world heritage site.

The independent bird conservation organisation said it had not been consulted to date about “sweeping operations” on Skellig Michael, designed to remove any loose rock material.

Birdwatch Ireland says it is concerned about the negative impact of such “sweeping” on sensitive nesting birds on the island, lying 12 km west of the Kerry coast.

The sixth-century monastic site is an internationally important habitat for seabirds and is home to some of the largest breeding populations of Manx shearwater and storm petrel in the world. Its high cliffs and ledges also support nesting sites for puffins, fulmars, kittiwakes and guillemots.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) said on June 13th that it was closing the island temporarily to visitors, due to a “ minor rockfall event” at around 1 pm that day. No casualties occurred, it confirmed.

It said an OPW works crew, accompanied by specialist contractors, would visit the island this week to carry out this work “with a view to re-opening the island to visitors as soon as possible”.

However, BirdWatch Ireland spokesman Niall Hatch said it had not been consulted about the “sweeping operations” planned by the OPW to make the island safe for visitors.

“Once we learned of what was being proposed, my colleague Oonagh Duggan, who is our head of policy and advocacy, wrote to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) on June 15th to raise our concerns about the potential impacts of the sweeping on the sensitive nesting birds on the island,” Mr Hatch said.

He said Ms Duggan specifically requested “details of the safeguards that are being put in place to protect breeding birds at and around the site of the rockfall and to ensure that legal protections for the nesting birds are guaranteed”.

“She also stressed that, despite the undoubted significant pressure for OPW to open the island back up for visitors, it is vitally important that the legal protections for the breeding birds under the Wildlife Acts and the EU Birds Directive are adhered to,”Mr Hatch said.

He said the organisation was informed that evening that NPWS was “seeking further information from OPW with regard to their proposed plans”, and it hoped to revert with more detail in the near future.

“We have not received any further communications from either NPWS or OPW about this matter since then,” Mr Hatch said.

A local artist and community worker in Kerry, who did not wish to be named, also appealed for care.

"I really understand the importance of Skellig Michael for the local economy, but can I please remind everyone involved about the extraordinary beauty and vulnerability of the island at this time of year, with thousands of North Atlantic seabirds nesting there - it is important that all interventions are done without any harm to them,” she said.

“As the island is a wild location it should always be understood and presented as such. It is usually part of the essence of such a location that safety for human visitors can't be fully guaranteed, and that has to be accepted and acceptable to all concerned,” she said.

“In the meantime, there is a need for very extensive oversight and scrutiny for all works planned at such a location,” the artist added.

The Department of Housing said its NPWS staff were working closely with OPW staff and contractors in “monitoring the situation”, and said, “they have been consulted at all stages”.

Published in Island News
Tagged under

Kerry’s Skellig Michael has been closed to visitors due to a rockfall, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has confirmed.

No one was injured, but the UNESCO world heritage site will remain closed “until further notice”, the OPW says.

A full examination of the site and clearance of the debris is due to take place this week.

It is the third significant rockfall in recent years. In 2015, a large boulder broke free from a slope and landed in the middle of Lighthouse road, used by visitors, while rocks and debris also fell from the upper slopes in 2017.

The visitor season for the 6th-century monastic site 12 km off the Kerry coast had opened on May 15th this year and is due to run until the end of September.

Skellig Michael was closed throughout the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic and had a later visitor opening last year.

It is expected that a detailed examination will assess if there is any imminent danger of further landslides or rockfalls which could threaten the safety of visitors and staff on the island.

Published in Island News
Tagged under

Living on a small island in a cabin with no electricity or running water for five months of the year may not be for everyone, but Skellig Michael's Catherine Merrigan wouldn’t miss a season since she began working as a guide there in the year 2000.

On her first night, she decided she had made a big mistake and would leave next morning. However, a storm blew up, she couldn’t leave for five days and fell in love with the rock and its birdlife.

She learned that there are up to 10,000 breeding pairs of puffins, and that puffins often like to take a break from their partners...which means the relationship thrives.

A Skellig Michael PuffinA Skellig Michael Puffin

“Watching their antics, their playfulness...I never get tired,” she says. She is enthralled by the kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, gannets, rock pipits and even a golden eagle spent time there.

Over the two decades, she began taking notes and photographs, and the result is a beautifully illustrated paperback which she spoke to Wavelengths about.

Living Among the Puffins on Skellig Michael by Catherine Merrigan, published by Rebel Press, is available in the Dingle Bookshop, Co Kerry and on Amazon at £12.99 sterling or 15 euro.Living Among the Puffins on Skellig Michael by Catherine Merrigan, published by Rebel Press, is available in the Dingle Bookshop, Co Kerry and on Amazon at £12.99 sterling or 15 euro.

Published in Wavelength Podcast
Tagged under

Skellig Michael's re-opening to visitors has been deferred to July 1st due to weather and sea conditions, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has said.

The OPW had set a target date of June 21st for the 2021 season, but says that this has been put back "owing to recent poor weather and sea conditions off the south west coast.

"This target date was dependent on favourable weather conditions, allowing preparatory safety works to progress in a timely manner prior to opening," the OPW said today.

"Unfortunately, due to periods of poor weather conditions hampering the progress of work on-site, the re-opening of Skellig Michael has now been postponed,"it said.

Subject to weather, the opening will take place on July 1st.

OPW guides sought urgent talks several weeks ago about the re-opening date, as the announcement was made when consultations were still underway on health and safety issues related to Covid-19.

The pandemic and a serious rockfall last summer meant that the UNESCO world heritage site was closed to visitors throughout 2020.

Donal McCrohan, chairman of the Skellig Boatmen’s Association, said that the 15 licensed operators serving Skellig Michael have been informed they can take their maximum of 12 passengers.

McCrohan, who runs Skellig Coast Adventures, said that bookings were brisk but there was still good availability.

The OPW had advised visitors watch a safety video to prepare for a trip to Skellig Michael, which is on www.heritageireland.ie

Published in Island News
Tagged under

Guides on Skellig Michael are concerned about lack of consultation over the decision to re-open to visitors from June 21st.

As The Times Ireland edition reports, guides employed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) are concerned about the manner in which the re-opening was announced.

They also fear the OPW has not taken adequate steps to limit visitor numbers in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Unesco world heritage site was closed to all visitors last year due to the health and safety considerations linked to Covid-19, and the fact that a serious rockfall occurred last July near the guide accommodation – in which no one was injured.

Early last week, Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW Patrick O’Donovan confirmed a target date of June 21st for this season’s re-opening.

He said it would be subject to weather conditions, and completion of preparatory health and safety works by OPW crews.

However, guides understood that health and safety consultations with management were still taking place when he made his announcement.

"It’s not at all safe,” a source close to the guides confirmed.

“There was no guide representative involved or consulted before they made the decision to open, and critical agreements were made with boatmen - although it is the guides who have the job of managing visitor safety and being first responders in the complex circumstances of this season,” the source said.

“The whole industry around the Skellig depends on the role of the guides in the front line of the island, and the lack of consideration for both guides and visitors is unforgivable," the source added.

Donal McCrohan, chairman of the Skellig Boatmen’s Association, said that the 15 licensed operators serving Skellig Michael have been informed they can take their maximum of 12 passengers.

He said the fleet based mainly in Portmagee and several other Kerry harbours has been preparing its own safety protocols in conjunction with an industry professional.

McCrohan, who runs Skellig Coast Adventures, said that ferry trips were outdoors where the ventilation rate would be “exceptional”.

He said that passengers would be required to complete a Covid-19 questionnaire.

McCrohan said that though bookings were brisk, there was still very good availability, and prices for his trips were retained at 2019 levels.

The OPW said it had “set a target date of June 21st to reopen Skellig Michael to visitors, and this is subject to all preparatory works on the site being completed in time”.

“A health and safety plan for reopening is not yet complete and engagement with all concerned parties is currently under way,” it said.

“ OPW has also advised the local boatmen who carry visitors to the island of the target date. While the boatmen are licensed to land on the island, health and safety arrangements on the boats are entirely a matter for the boat operators,” the OPW added.

Read The Times here

Published in Island News
Tagged under

Skellig Michael may re-open to visitors from June 21st, according to Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW) Patrick O’Donovan.

The midsummer opening for the UNESCO world heritage site off Kerry will be subject to weather conditions, and completion of preparatory health and safety works by OPW crews, Donovan said today.

As Afloat reported last month, the 15 licensed ferry operators for Skellig Michael were told that visits would be permitted this season within Covid-19 guidelines.

The sixth-century monastic site was closed to all visitors last year due to the health and safety considerations linked to the pandemic, and a serious rockfall last July near the guide accommodation – in which no one was injured.

The OPW has been reopening heritage and cultural sites this season under the Government’s road map.

It advises that intending visitors should consult HeritageIreland.ie for updates ahead of planning their visit.

“I am very pleased to be able to share this much-anticipated good news with holidaymakers eager to visit Skellig Michael this summer and with the rural communities who rely on tourism to the island,” Donovan said.

“I myself look forward to visiting this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site soon and I hope that weather conditions will allow OPW staff to complete the required preparatory works so the reopening can go ahead on June 21st,”he said.

“Thanks to the progress we have made on the path to recovery, we will have the opportunity to discover and enjoy national treasures such as these over the coming months,”he added.

Published in Island News
Tagged under

Skellig Michael ferry operators are hoping that the UNESCO world heritage site may re-open to visitors from mid-June.

As The Times Ireland edition reports, the sixth-century monastic site off the Kerry coast was closed to all visitors last year due to Covid-19 health and safety considerations.

Donal McCrohan, chairman of the Skellig Boatmen’s Association, told The Times Ireland that the re-opening in June is “provisional”, but the 15 licensed operators are optimistic that visits will be permitted.

Last year’s closure by the Office of Public Works (OPW) was extended for the entire summer season after a serious rockfall last July near the guide accommodation – in which no one was injured.

The OPW has been reopening heritage and cultural sites this season under the Government’s road map, but has not made an announcement to date on Skellig Michael.

However, McCrohan said that the 15 licensed ferry operators running trips to the rock 12km off the Kerry coast were told at a meeting last Friday that mid-June was being examined..

McCrohan said he would be accepting provisional bookings for visits from later this week.

Ferry operator John O’Shea, who runs trips to and around Skellig Michael from Caherdaniel, Co Kerry, said that he and his colleagues had been told they would be given a more definite date by late May.

O’Shea said he is taking bookings from mid-June and will offer a refund for landing trips if the island is closed.

O’Shea is one of several operators who will still run “non-landing” trips around Skellig Michael and Little Skellig this season, which work out at half the cost of landing trips.

It is understood OPW staff have not been given any date as yet for return.

McCrohan said the logistics on visits had not been discussed in detail last week, but he said the boatmen’s association is preparing its own risk assessment for the sea trip and landing.

Last year, ferry operators had proposed a protocol that would involve checking passengers for symptoms, requiring use of face masks and reduced numbers to meet social distancing requirements.

However, the OPW believed the need for cleaning and sanitisation and social distancing on ferries in rough weather – and on the island - would prove too challenging.

The OPW was unable to comment.

Read The Times Ireland here

Published in Island News
Tagged under

Skellig Michael will not be reopened to visitors this season due to concerns around the spread of coronavirus, the OPW has confirmed.

But as The Irish Times reports, the decision which followed a promised assessment after the island was closed in May has left local boat operators disappointed, but not surprised.

“There are a few operators doing sea angling trips but the landing trips [on to Skellig Michael] are the bread and butter for most of us,” said Donal McCrohan, chairman of the Skelligs Boatmen’s Association.

“We would have liked to get going ahead but it is what it and this is the outcome and I suppose we just have to look forward to 2021 and come back with a bang.”

Yesterday (Thursday 30 July) the OPW said it had taken the decision not to reopen the island off the Kerry coast due to the risks involved in both the boat passage to the island and visiting the island itself amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Unesco World Heritage site features prominently in the second instalment of the recent Star Wars film trilogy, which concluded in cinemas this past Christmas.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Island News

Skellig Michael’s former site manager has expressed his misgivings around filming for the Star Wars movie franchise at the Unesco World Heritage site.

As the Irish Examiner reports, Grellan Rourke — who recently retired from his role after 41 years — gave a lecture at UCD where he discussed the challenges of maintaining the Co Kerry island, which is both an early Christian monastic site as well as an important sanctuary for marine wildlife.

Speaking on filming for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Rourke observed: “The whole thing was very professional but in a way, I think it is inappropriate to use a site like that for commercial filming.”

He also suggested that filmmakers could have digitally recreated the island and its surrounds without “putting anything in jeopardy”.

And he noted how the popularity of the films and demand for fans to visit the location has brought the island’s limited boat trips to full capacity — as well as changing the public perception of the place.

“It’s sad in one way, the real history of the place, over 1,400 years, that the real history is set to one side and the more recent make-believe is to the fore,” he said.

The Irish Examiner has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Island News
Tagged under
Page 1 of 4

Afloat's Wavelengths Podcast with Lorna Siggins

Weekly dispatches from the Irish coast with journalist Lorna Siggins, talking to people in the maritime sphere. Topics range from marine science and research to renewable energy, fishing, aquaculture, archaeology, history, music and more...

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating