Today, Thursday, May 30, was our day to go out to Skellig Michael, a tiny island about 10 miles into the North Atlantic. It is the site of an ancient Christian monastic outpost, which existed from (maybe) the 7th to the 12th centuries. It is also an bird sanctuary with billions of puffins and gannets and who knows what else.
Weather is always a concern going out because getting from the boat to the little, rocky staircase landing can be impossible if conditions aren’t right. The almost 700 rock stairs can also pose a hazard if wet. We were lucky; the ride out was choppy with swells and two women in our 12-person boat got very sick (none from our group) but we were able to land and the stairs going up were dry.
Some places defy description by people such as I. It was an incredible experience. Every step you took was possible only because men seeking a place to live their faith on the edge of the world made it possible. Any soil on the rocky outcropping had to be brought from the mainland, one little sack at a time. Every one of the hundreds of stair steps had to be hewn and placed and supported by the labor of the monks. Any level spot had to be created. Truly extraordinary.
Of course, it couldn’t last. The Roman church eventually had to press its imprint on the community and, at one point, turned it into a place where wayward clerics were sent as a sort of penance. Finally, Vikings assaulted the community over a period of time and the whole thing was done.
The walk up was windy and exposed and exhilarating. Con’s desire to make us understand how the place came to be and the mindset of the men who created it over the centuries was inspiring.
Needless to say, Michael was the one person in our group who opted out of this excursion. He and Killian took a three hour walk out to one of the headlands pointing out towards the Skelligs.