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The Skellig Islands, Skellig Michael and Small Skellig, stand aloof in the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Valentia Island, Co Kerry. A designated UNESCO World Heritage site, it is renowned among archaeologists as the site of an early monastic settlement
The magnificent Skellig Islands lie 8 miles (12 km) off the coast of Portmagee in South West Kerry. Rising majestically from the sea, Skellig Michael towers 714ft (218 metres) above sea level. On the summit of this awe inspiring rock you will find a remarkably well-preserved sixth century monastic settlement. The earliest reference in history to the Skellig Islands dates back to 1400BC. During the time of the Penal Laws, Skellig Michael and Little Skellig became a haven for many Catholics whose beliefs and rights were being suppressed. The largest of the Skelligs is Skellig Michael (Sceilg Mhichil) and was home to one of the earliest monastic settlements in Ireland. These monks of St. Fionan's monastery led simple lives and lived in stone, beehive shaped huts. They would descend the steps early every morning and fish for the morning's breakfast. They would spend most of the day praying in the church, tending to their gardens and studying. These huts, which were round on the outside and rectangular on the inside, were carefully built so that no drop of rain ever entered between the stones. The monks left the island in the thirteenth century and it became a place of pilgrimage.
The Skellig Islands provide a fantastic wealth of bird life, especially puffins in late spring and gannets on the small Skellig where 23,000 pairs nest on every available ledge making it the second largest gannet colony in the world.