The earliest reference in history to the Skellig Islands dates back to 600AD. 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.
The monks of St. Fionan's monastery led simple lives and lived in stone, beehive shaped huts. They would descend the 670 steps early every morning and fish for the morning's breakfast and would spend the rest of the day praying in the church, tending to their gardens and studying. The huts, which are 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. There is a fantastic wealth of birdlife on and around the Skelligs, especially puffins in late spring and gannets on the Small Skellig.
The boat departs daily from Portmagee pier at approximately 10:00am, weather permitting. The boat trip to the Skelligs takes 45 minutes and you have between 2 hours and 2 hours 30 minutes on the rock. The boat stops for a while at the Little Skelligs to allow you to view the bird colony and seals. The return boat trip lasts a further 45 minutes and you are back in Portmagee at around 3 o' clock. It is advisable to book at least 2 days in advance.