I’ve wanted to visit Skellig Michael for… Millennia. But I’ve always put off the trip. It’s not so much that the island is far, far away, although having said that, it is pretty inaccessible; it’s more that the timing has never been right. Due to rough seas and inclement weather, access to Skellig Michael is restricted to a fairly short summer season, from mid-May to the end of September and, well… I’ve just been up to something else. But it has always been there, in the back of my mind, as somewhere I have wanted to visit. Sometime in the future. Except now it is too late.
The appeal of Skellig Michael for me lies in its relative remoteness; 19 kilometres offshore from Portmagee on the Iveragh Peninsula, in County Kerry, on the west coast of Ireland; a stark buttress of rock, jutting 218 metres out of the Atlantic, famous for its seabird colonies and the atmospheric remains of an 8th century monastery; the beautiful beehive-shaped constructions of its former residents testament to the craft and devotion of an earlier age. For me, Skellig Michael is wrapped up in romance; a romantic story, which enshrouds the island as effectively as the crashing Atlantic breakers isolate it. Except now someone has written a new story for Skellig Michael, and it is no longer such a romantic one.
Skellig Michael has a new kid on the block; a resident more redolent with popular culture than a bunch of 8th century monks: Luke Skywalker. Skellig Michael became the location for Ahch-To during the filming of Star War: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It is now referred to as Star Wars Island, FFS.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Star Wars––Jar Jar Binks and Watto excepted. What I don’t like is the prospect of making a one-hour small-boat crossing in rough seas accompanied by three Darth Vaders and sixteen Stormtroopers; climbing the 618 steps to the monastery at the summit, listening to endless conversations about “this is where Rey first felt the Force”; and trying to imagine my romantic idyll of peace and monastic seclusion against a background symphony of clashing lightsabres.
But then why should my claim to the island be any more valid than someone else? Perhaps Star Wars fans could be looked upon as a new breed of pilgrim, more closely aligned to the original monks of Skellig Michael than appearances would first suggest.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny tries to decide which galaxy far, far away to visit next.
Check out more of E. C. Glendenny’s writing in Easy Come, Easy Go.