For the last few years, Star Wars fans have been flocking to a rocky island off the western coast of Ireland, inhabited by loads and loads of puffin. Skellig Michael was the location used for scenes on Ahch-To, the lost planet of Luke Skywalker’s self-imposed exile, where the character made his return to the “Star Wars” franchise at the end of 2015's The Force Awakens. And, then we got an even closer look at Skellig Michael in the next movie in the franchise, The Last Jedi.
Obviously, because the island was a filming location for recent Star Wars movies, interest in setting foot on the island is at an all-time high. But you don’t have to be a fan of Star Wars to want to visit some of the most extraordinary landscapes in the world. We’ve been working on a spectacular Ireland itinerary for some clients that includes a landing on Skellig Michael and we’ve learned that booking a landing tour on Skellig Michael is pretty complicated, for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, because of the unique ecology of Skellig Michael (and its smaller sibling, Little Skellig), you can’t just get on a ferry and disembark on the island. Visits that set foot on the island are capacity controlled, and for that reason, every boat that lands passengers on Skellig Michael needs a license from the Office of Public Works in order to legally take visitors to set foot on the island.
In light of that, you’d think that you’d want to book far in advance, and again, you’d be wrong. Boat operators who take passengers to Skellig may or may not get a license in any given year, and the licenses for the upcoming season haven’t been issued yet. Applications for the new licenses were due from interested boat owners by January 21st this year, and the licenses will be awarded at some point in the coming weeks. It’s entirely at the government’s discretion as to when the announcement about who gets a license will be made.
Since the boat operators who had licenses to land in 2017 and 2018 are not guaranteed to have their license renewed for the new season, boat operators generally don’t accepting bookings until they are 100% sure that they have a license secured.
So, the bad news is that with interest at an all-time high, you need to plan ahead. The good news is that if you do plan ahead and book with a travel advisor like Huckleberry Travel, we can monitor when the licenses are awarded. We'll be among the first to book our clients in the upcoming season, as soon as we know what’s available.
But, even if you don’t plan far enough ahead to do a landing tour, you may still be able to see the nesting puffins (digitally altered to be “Porgs” in The Last Jedi). There are eco tours that don’t make landings, and, of course, so much of Skellig Michael can only be seen from the water.
Either way, booking a trip to Skellig Michael will be a lot easier if you’re working with someone who knows the ins-and-outs of navigating a complicated system. If you’re thinking of a beautiful trip to Ireland, or you’re a rabid Star Wars fan, we can help get you there, while minimizing the hassles along the way. We’d love to talk to you about making the trip, so if you want to do it—let us know!