Ireland – Ring of Kerry & Skellig Michael Monastery

– AUGUST 06 & 07, 2015

We reached the Ring of Kerry and it is a beautiful scenic drive around a western Ireland peninsula.  Here are some images from this drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

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The Ring of Kerry scenic coastal drive.

This brings us to the furthest west point of the Ring of Kerry, which is the departure point for Skellig Michael.  Skellig Michael is an island off the west coast of Ireland.  A very long time ago, Monks from the Irish mainland decided it would be a good idea to ride a boat out to this island (it takes 2+ hours via motorboat today, so imagine this in a row boat) to build a monastery here to be closer to god.  Yeah…I don’t get it either, but this is what they did.  This island has no life and the soil is only good in very, very small patches to even attempt to grow any crops here.  They had to import goats and rabbits to this island so they could have a food source.

The island is pretty much all rock, so they mined the rock with hand tools to build a staircase that reached up to the top of the island.  This process took them a generation to complete, all the while supplies had to be imported from the mainland.  They did fish in the ocean just off the island, but there is no shore to speak of, just a rock edge.  They first had to build a dock so their boats wouldn’t keep getting damaged by smashing up against the rocks.

They certainly had their work cut out for them here….and to say they were persistent would be an understatement.  Its an impressive accomplishment and it was well worth the effort to get out there….but that’s a whole different story.

The internet contains information on Skellig Michael, but it barely scratched the surface as to how to exactly get out there.  It states you should arrive at the docks early to get a ticket.  Well…it turns out that they are sold out two weeks ahead and the boat “captains” (I use quotations as I now consider them no more than taxi drivers) don’t care about the customers because they know they are sold out weeks ahead.  You see, only a certain number of people are allowed to walk on Skellig Michael each day, so that number matches the seating capacity of the 14 or so boats that make this trip each day.

So you arrive early in the morning (what does early in the morning mean anyways?  Is it the same for a banker than it is for a farmer?  I think not…this is how getting information is like in Ireland) and you speak to the captains.  Two were nice and asked us to be on standby, while the rest were assholes who told us to book in two weeks and come back (how do they think people on vacation can just go away and come back two weeks later?  How do they really think this would work for anyone???).  We waited on standby, but the 8 spots that opened were promptly swallowed up by a group of locals waiting to get on the boats (even though we were there first).

So what to do….what to do indeed.  We obtained a list of the captains names and phone numbers from the local pub (of course you would expect to find this information from a pub of all places) and towards the bottom of the list one guy said he could take two people on for the next day.  John O’Shea…this guy would turn out to be one of the biggest assholes we met on the entire trip thus far (that’s 6 months of people meeting there folks).  John said to meet him at a different dock the next morning and we would be on his boat.  We used the free day to find this other dock, then drive some more Ring of Kerry roads.

The next day we arrived at the dock 15 minutes early.  John pulled up the boat and we ended up boarding with a large Irish family (who had organized a special friends trip to Skellig Michael at a discount, so John allowed us to join so he could make some money back).

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Boarding the Skellig Michael taxi boat.

We loaded onto the boat, but John  and his young helper (his son maybe???) did not introduce themselves to us, explain what was happening, inform us of where the life jackets were, or anything else.  They just barked at the family to get on board (we boarded first) and he set sail.

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It was a bit cold on the ocean in Ireland.

It was freezing on the ocean and the way John drove the boat had huge waves splashing on us the entire way there and back.  I selected the spot right by the captain’s area, so we got minimal splash.  The family got soaked.

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But at least we got on a boat and we were headed for Skellig Michael.

So even though the boat taxi driver couldn’t be bothered to say hello or really anything else, it didn’t matter because we didn’t have to wait two weeks like the other boat taxi drivers said we had to.  We froze ourselves for 2.5 hours until we arrived at Skellig Michael.

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Skellig Michael is in sight!

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This is the dock area.

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We are unloading onto Skellig Michael. Our boat was the first one to arrive and I was first onto the island. It felt cool…not gonna lie.

The boat taxi driver said to be back at the boat around 12:15pm as bad weather was coming that afternoon.  No problem…12:15pm it is.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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This sculpture was peering over the ocean.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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This is the mid-point where they had small patches of soil to grow crops. Not much area was suitable for food production. Goats would roam this area back in the day.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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Many steps had no guardrail and were right on the edge of a cliff edge. One slippery step or one large wind gust and you would join the tourists who have died here on these steps.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We started walking the 618 steps to the top of Skellig Michael to see the monastery.

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We arrived at the monastery!

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The gateway to the monastery.

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The grand walkway to the monastery.

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The Skellig Michael monastery.

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The Skellig Michael monastery.

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The Skellig Michael monastery.

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The Skellig Michael monastery.

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The Skellig Michael monastery.

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The Skellig Michael monastery.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – this is a cemetery located for VIPs who worked on the monastery grounds.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they built domed structures out of the rocks available on the island.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they built domed structures out of the rocks available on the island.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they really knew how to use stones in structures back then. They are still standing today, which today’s architects can’t claim for their work in the future.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – another shot of the grave site.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – Jill looking over a prayer spot..

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they built domed structures out of the rocks available on the island.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they built domed structures out of the rocks available on the island.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they prayer spot that looks out over the sea.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they built domed structures out of the rocks available on the island.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they built domed structures out of the rocks available on the island.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they built domed structures out of the rocks available on the island.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they built domed structures out of the rocks available on the island.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – a stone retaining wall.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they built domed structures out of the rocks available on the island.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they built domed structures out of the rocks available on the island (and yes Jill was freezing).

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The Skellig Michael monastery – the cistern to retain rainwater.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – the community room that has a window looking out towards the stone cross and the sea.

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The Skellig Michael monastery – they built domed structures out of the rocks available on the island.

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The monks were raided regularly by the Vikings for food and valuables. They built this structure to have only one way in and one way out for easier defense.

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It was a little breezy up there!

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A picture of a Skellig Michael local puffin.

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A picture of a Skellig Michael local puffin.

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The stairs for our decent. We are on track to return around 12pm (we were due at 12:15pm).

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The stairs would change direction around large stones like this one.

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Beautiful scenery.

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The stairs were worn, slippery and tight.

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Some locations just screamed for us to take some pics.

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Some locations just screamed for us to take some pics.

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Some locations just screamed for us to take some pics.

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Some locations just screamed for us to take some pics.

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Some locations just screamed for us to take some pics.

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Some locations just screamed for us to take some pics.

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Some locations just screamed for us to take some pics.

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The path continuing downward.

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This is your view as you get closer to the ramped walkway to the boats.

I was walking on the paved path (Jill was just behind taking a few last pics), only 3 minutes away from the boat dock, and it was only 12:04pm.  The boat taxi driver came around the corner and literally screamed at me.  He called us ignorant morons who couldn’t listen to his basic instructions.  He claimed we were supposed to be there at 12pm, not two days later.  I looked at him like he was nuts (which I think he really is) and I told him that we were asked to return by 12:15pm and it was 10 minutes before that time, so we were early.  He jumped up, swore at me some more, then screamed that my wife had better get there or she would be swimming.  I told him to stop talking, take a deep breath, and to calm down or else we would be having a different type of conversation going forward.  He shut up and then walked on to find Jill.

I went to the boat and waited, as right behind me Jill came down to the dock and got on board.  She said he had done the exact same thing to her as he had done to me, which I assumed he wouldn’t do after our little “chat”.  We left it be (as Canadians will do) and rode the 2.5 hours back.  The boat taxi driver again managed to splash his customers at every wave he could (we had our same spot again so we stayed the driest) and we got back to shore.

Upon arriving back at shore I asked Jill to go to the car and warm it up, then when she left I had a conversation with John O’Shea.  We did not mince words and this jerk claimed that he had specifically told the two dumb Canadians to be there be 12pm as he knew we would be trouble.

WHAT?????

We were the first to arrive at the dock in the morning, he said nothing to us, then he clearly said 12:15pm when I got off the boat at the island.  He demanded that I apologize to him for Jill being so slow.  I was blown away, as I told him that you don’t speak like that to your customers…or for that matter to anyone else period!  He demanded an apology and wasn’t about to give me one, so I walked away and thanked him for being so professional and for making the people of Ireland look good.

John O’Shea needs a reality check, but classy Canadians know when to leave a maniac standing alone and looking stupid.  Skellig Michael was worth this BS to see it….but if you go there then be aware of the boat taxi drivers and their sense of entitlement.

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For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.

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