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One of three UNESCO sites featured in the Dúinn Designs range, the Skelligs are two rocky islands ‐ Skellig Michael (or Great Skellig) and Little Skellig – with an interesting heritage. Previously known as the Skellocks, these steep, rocky landmarks are located in Co Kerry, just off the coast of Portmagee.
Home to one of the earliest monastic settlements in Ireland, Skellig Michael still holds the ruins of this sixth century monastery, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The largest of the two islands, and towering over 200m above sea level, Skellig Michael is the only one of the two which can still be visited. Both Skelligs are important seabird sites however, with more than 20,000 gannets residing on Little Skellig alone, making it one of the largest gannet colonies in the world.
Between the sixth and eighth centuries, early Catholics sought refuge on the Skelligs, with St Fionan’s Monastery constructed on Skellig Michael’s lower peak. Its six beehive‐shaped stone huts, two oratories, and a number of stone crosses and slabs still remain, along with a medieval church. Two lighthouses from 1826 – the Upper and Lower Lighthouses ‐ are also located on the Atlantic side of the island, though the Upper Lighthouse is a ruin.
A quiet place of solace, Skellig Michael later drew pilgrims to its shores, after the monks – estimated to number 12 and an abbot ‐ departed the island around the 13th century. While they lived there however, they spent their days in simple solitude, descending 670 stone steps each morning to catch fish before praying, studying and gardening.
In more recent times, this World Heritage site has become linked to the Star Wars franchise, as the final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was filmed on Skellig Michael. Star Wars Episode VIII also featured the island.