Skellig Michael: 'I like the solitude and peace of the island'

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Skellig Michael: ‘I like the solitude and peace of the island’

For the last 34 years, Pat O’Shea has looked after a rocky island that once housed a monastic settlement, was attacked by Vikings, and is beloved by Star Wars fans.
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Each Monday between April and October, he steps out of his house, looks across the rugged expanse of County Kerry and to the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
He eyes the often choppy, frigid waters with an inquisitive eye, trying to judge whether the swells might hamper his weekly commute to work.
At 07:00, he rings the owner of the transport boat moored alongside the village of Portmagee, to determine whether he and his small team will make it across for work on Sceilg Mhichíl, the largest of the two Skellig islands, and one of Ireland’s national monuments.
Pat and his colleagues at the Office of Public Works (OPW), a state agency, are the caretakers of this world-renowned rocky crag, about 12km off Ireland’s south-west coast.
It’s a dramatic location, with its soaring jagged cliffs and abundant birdlife, particularly puffins.
Its smaller sibling, just across from it, is famed for its massive colony of tens of thousands of gannets.
The south peak of Sceilg Mhichíl is 218m high and was used as a hermitage by monks, with the 183m-high lower peak containing the main monastic site.
The remote hermitage and well-preserved monastery, reputedly founded in the 6th Century by St Fionán, is also one of the island of Ireland’s three Unesco World Heritage sites, along with the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, and Brú na Bóinne in County Meath.

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