Heritage group alarmed at rising number of visitors to Skellig Michael

Over 16,700 went to off-shore Unesco site last year, 5,000 more than in 2015

Skellig Michael, the Unesco World Heritage Site off the Co Kerry coast. Photograph: Getty Images

A heritage group has expressed concern about a “continuous rise” in the number of people visiting Skellig Michael, the 6th century monastic island off the Co Kerry coast.

The popularity of the Unesco World Heritage Site, considered one of the greatest remote scenes of early Christendom, has increased since it appeared in the Star Wars film series and due to the numbers using the Wild Atlantic Way tourism route. Skellig Michael is open to visitors between mid-May and September 30th.

An Taisce’s Charles Stanley-Smith said the “fragile and unique site” was visited by 16,755 people last year, 5,000 more than in 2015 and far in excess of the suggested 11,000 included in a management plan presented to Unesco in 2008.

However, the Office of Public Works (OPW) said the numbers fall “within the range of what is recognised as acceptable and sustainable”. It said the numbers were constantly monitored and reported to Unesco.


Skellig Michael cost the OPW €510,000 to run last year, but brought in no direct income for the State.

Licensed boat operators charge between €85 and €100 per person to bring visitors to the island, 11.5km off the coast.

Fifteen 12-seater boats serve the island under a permit system, which are tendered for annually. The OPW said no permit fees apply to the boat operators and it does not collect a fee from visitors.