The two jagged Skellig rocks explode out of the sea roughly 8 miles (12 km) off the coast southwest Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula (often known as the Ring of Kerry). The larger of the two, Skellig Michael (officially the Great Skellig) is the larger of the two, and is the only one with a harbour. Little Skellig can only be seen from water, or from Skellig Michael. Ironically, this means that the Little Skellig island is possibly more photographed than Skellig Michael!
The closest port of call is Portmagee, where the majority of boats sail from. The islands are weather-beaten and isolated – giving a sense of being at the edge of the world!
There was a buzz in 2015 when Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released, giving fans a peak at Luke Skywalker’s faraway hideout at the end of the film – a hideout that just so happened to be filmed on the Skellig Islands.
Fast forward to the end of 2017 when Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was released, where fans spent large portions of the film with Luke Skywalker, Rey and a newly-introduced species called porgs (inspired by Skellig Michael’s real-life puffins) – all on Skellig Michael. It is here where Luke Skywalker has been hiding since Episode VII, and where Rey comes to find him. And it is here, on this rugged, desolate island, that Rey slowly convinces him to train her in the ancient art of the jedi – and where she first discovers her connection to the Force.
The pointed, jagged islands feature throughout the film, and their iconic triangular shape makes them stand out – both on and off screen! However, most of the close-up scenes during Rey’s interaction with Luke are actually filmed on Malin Head, a craggy, desolate headland literally at the end of the world (well, at the end of Ireland!) in County Donegal, the farthest northern reaches of Ireland.
Skellig Michael hasn’t always been inhabited by lonesome Jedi – in fact, the living arrangements of Luke and Rey mirror the island’s former occupants. Clinging to the sides of Skellig Michael are a huddle of beehive huts. These adorable and iconic rounded stone huts date back to the 6th – 8th century, when a Gaelic Christian monastery was founded on this remote, inhospitable island. Star Wars island Ireland has always been a remote place, inhabited by those wishing to escape from the world while protecting sacred texts – be they Jedi or monks protecting ancient Christian texts or sacred Jedi texts.
The island’s most famous inhabitants are puffins, adorable black-and-white plump birds. While filming on the Skelligs, the puffins routinely wandered into the scenes. As protected species, the Star Wars filming crew wasn’t allowed to remove the birds. Removing them digitally would’ve cost a fortune. So the best solution the Star Wars filming crew found? Invent a new species vaguely reminiscent to the puffins and simply copy-paste the images on top of the stowaway puffins! And so, the wildly-adorable porgs were born…
Atlantic Puffins (the only species of puffins from the Atlantic) are regular visitors to the Skelligs in spring and early summers in order to breed and raise their chicks in a protected and controlled environment before heading off as far as Canada in search of food.
For Star Wars fans near and far, if visiting the Skelligs didn’t quell your Star Wars travel fever, tick a few other filming locations off the list:
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