What you should know about the Skellig Islands before you plan your trip
About the Skellig Islands
The Skellig Islands are two small extremely steep and rocky islands situated about 13km west of Bolus Head on the Ring of Kerry. The larger of the two islands Skellig Michael is open to the public, the smaller one is not but can be seen and photographed from Skellig Michael. A Christian Monastery was founded on Skellig Michael between the 6th and 8th century and remained occupied until the 12th century. The remains of the monastery, and most of the island, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Recently the island was featured in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
How to Get to the Skellig Islands
You can only take a boat trip that docks on the island in the summer season which is between May 12th and October 2nd and the boat trips are always subject to weather conditions on the day. Outside of this time period it may be possible to do a perimeter boat tour which allows you to see the island close up but won’t stop to let people off.
The crossing takes about 40 minutes to an hour but can take longer depending on weather. There are contact details for the local boatmen that have a permit to run Skellig Island trips on the Office of Public Works website. The Skellig Experience Visitor centre also runs cruises around the island without landing on it.
Before you go to the Skellig Consider the Following:
It’s a seriously hard climb! There are more than 600 steps to the summit and they are extremely steep. There are no handrails and the rocks can be dangerous, especially if wet.
If you decide to go, then you really have to make the climb or you will be waiting at the bottom with no shelter for the boat to return.
Along the climb there are intermittent little plateaus where you can take a rest but they are not really suitable to wait for long periods of time.
There is no toilet on the island or on the boats. Go before you go!
What to bring? Good walking shoes or boots, a jacket, some food, water and sunscreen.
Please watch the following safety video produced by the office of public works:
Skellig Experience Visitor Centre
If you can’t make it to the Skellig Islands we recommend that you visit the Skellig Experience located just off the bridge from Portmagee to Valentia Island. Here you will find exhibitions on all aspects of the Skellig Islands as well as a 14 minute film presentation.
Contact the Irish Tourism Group –
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The Ring of Kerry, a 180km circular route around the Iveragh Peninsula in Ireland’s southwest, is quite possibly Ireland’s most well-known driving route. Superb Mountains and coastal settings combined with vibrant towns and villages will make this tour one of the highlights of your Ireland vacation.
All of our Self Drive tours include a detailed suggested itinerary which will help you decide what to see or what to leave out. For those who wish to take a break from driving we can arrange a bus tour through this route.
The 10 Stops to Make on your self-drive or Escorted Ring of Kerry Tour are;
Killorglin is the first town you will meet when you begin your Ring of Kerry Adventure! Home to the famous ‘Puck Fair’, Ireland’s largest and the world’s oldest market fair. The town has some nice restaurants and shops and pretty riverside views.
Glenbeigh & Rosbeigh Beach
The mountainous backdrop here is glorious, and the half circle of hills from Seefin to Drung Hill, nicknamed the “Glenbeigh Horseshoe” is one of Kerry’s finest mountain walks. Near to Glenbeigh Village you will find Rosbeigh Beach with its lovely sand dunes and shale walks.
This is the principal town on the Ring of Kerry and birthplace of the famous Catholic Emancipator Daniel O’ Connell. Pay a visit to ‘The Barracks’, Cahersiveen Heritage Centre which gives an insight into the life and times of Cahersiveen.
You can reach Valentia by the car ferry from Cahersiveen from April to October. Outside of this time take the bridge across to the island from the pretty harbour village of Portmagee. There are a few places to visit on the island including the village of Knighstown with its beautiful period buildings, Valentia Island Lighthouse and Geokaun Mountain & Fogher Cliffs; Valentia’s highest point and a superb spot to enjoy 360 degree views of the island and beyond!
Skellig Experience Visitor Centre & The Skellig Islands
Skellig Michael also known as the Great Skellig is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island was featured in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. At the summit of the 230m high rock there is a 6th century Christian monastery and stone beehive huts which the monks who inhabited the island lived in. Boat trips to the islands can be taken from Portmagee pier. Trips to Skellig are not for the feint hearted however as there are 670 stone steps to climb before you reach the top! You can learn more about the Skelligs at the Skellig Island Visitor Experience which is located on Valentia Island near the bridge across to Portmagee.
Ballinskelligs or “Baile na Sceilge” is one of the few remaining Irish speaking areas in this region of Kerry. Southwest of the village you will find Bolus Head, which looks over St. Finan’s Bay and the Skelligs. The ruins of Cill Rialiag, an early Christian monastic settlement are located nearby. Ballinskellig Beach known locally as Ladies Beach is a stunning place to relax or take a long beach walk!
Waterville is a lovely little village overlooking stunning Ballinskelligs Bay and nestled on the beautiful Lake Currane. The town was a favourite holiday spot of Charlie Chaplin and his family who used to holiday here. They first visited the town in 1959 and came back every year for over ten years.
Caherdaniel and Derrynane House
Caherdaniel is small but striking and perhaps set in one of the most scenic locations on the Ring of Kerry, on the shore of Derrynane Bay. Derrynane House is the ancestral home of Daniel O’ Connell, a 19th century politician who achieved Catholic emancipation for the Irish people. The house is now a public museum.
Kenmare town was founded in 1670 by Sir William Petty and has a history of lace making, demonstrations of which can be seen at the town’s Heritage Centre. One of the most striking features of the town is its colourfully painted houses and shops. There are lots of nice restaurants, pubs and craft shops here also.
Moll’s Gap is a pass on the road from Kenmare to Killarney. Here you will find unrivalled views of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks Mountains. Nearby you will find Avoca Handweavers which sells Irish giftware and local food produce.
To discover these locations and more on your own Ring of Kerry tour, contact us today:
Saint Brigid is the Patroness of Ireland, also known as ‘Mary of the Gael’. Her feast day, Saint Brigid’s Day, is the 1st of February, the start of the Spring season. Traditionally Saint Brigid crosses like this one are made from rushes on her feast day and hung in the house for the rest of the year to ward off evil and danger from fire.
Saint Brigid’s Day is believed to have come from the pagan festival ‘Imbolc’ which literally beans ‘in the belly’ and celebrates spring and the arrival of longer days. In pagan mythology, Brigid was the goddess of fertility.
In some parts of Ireland St Brigid’s Day is celebrated with the ‘’Brideog’’, a handmade doll traditionally fashioned out of straw and dressed in white. The Brigeog is taken from house to house and usually at each house the visitors play traditional Irish music and dance.
Saint Brigid is associated with County Kildare and is sometimes referred to as ‘Brigid of Kildare’. According to legend Brigid founded a monastery at Kildare on the site of an older pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid, served by a group of young women who tended an eternal flame. In the 6th century, a monastery was erected on the same site. The original monastery no longer exists but a new Cathedral was built on the site during the 13th century. This Cathedral still stands and the sisters of St. Brigid (nuns) reside there.
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Our Knitting Tours are hugely popular but past customers have often mentioned that they would like to return to Ireland to relax and to knit, so we have come up some new tours to fill this demand – Luxury Knitting Retreats!
Each Knitting Retreat is 6 Nights Long ; the retreats are centered around four nights in a luxury hotel with a day either side in Dublin, also staying in a nice four star hotel.
There are also two options for our 6 Night Luxury Knitting Retreats; Our Southwest Knitting Retreat includes the beautiful Parknasilla Resort hotel in Country Kerry and our Northwest Knitting Retreat is centered around the spectacular Harvey’s Point Hotel in Donegal. Both of these retreats feature some fantastic optional local touring and throughout your retreat stay you will have the company of our much loved knitting instructors, Carol Feller for the Southwest Tour and Edel MacBride for the Northwest Option.
Please review our Website for travel dates, do get in touch with us sooner rather than later as our tours do book up very far in advance and we wouldn’t want you to miss out!
The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit! Contact us today for a quotation –
Christmas in Ireland really is a joyous occasion, a time when family members come to celebrate together, a time for tearful airport reunions, boozie parties, festive food, family gatherings and a time for making lasting memories. We’ve put together a selection of our favourite Irish Christmas Traditions purely for your festive enjoyment!
It’s a relatively new tradition but for the past number of years, Ireland has had some great Christmas markets in the lead up to the Christmas period. Galway Continental Christmas Market is probably the longest running market and here you will find more than fifty traders from Ireland and further afield in Europe. The market is outdoors in the centre of Galway City, complete with Christmassy carousels, mulled wine and festive entertainment! It usually runs from the last week of November until the third week of December. In Northern Ireland, the Belfast Continental Christmas Market is also proving to be a very popular with numbers and support growing tremendously every year. This market runs from about the 15th of November until the 21st of December.
Two of Ireland’s biggest Christmas Festivals are Waterford Winterval & the Dublin Docklands Festival. Popular attractions in Waterford include a festive horse drawn carriage, a vintage Ferris wheel, a Christmas train ride through the city and the Exploration Dome which showcases 360 degree movies on snow creation, astronomy and more! The festival usually runs from the 21st of November to the 23rd of December. With Christmas Choirs, Brass Bands, Christmas Market Stalls and a Family Christmas Treasure hunt, the Dublin Docklands Christmas Festival has been running successfully for a number of years. It runs from December 12th to 23rd and many of its attractions are free.
The Annual Christmas Swim!
In coastal towns across the country a freezing cold Atlantic Ocean swim is becoming an annual custom. This is usually done to collect money for local charities or clubs and it is certainly an experience given that the temperature in Ireland around December can drop below freezing point
Hot Port/Hot Whiskey & Enough Food to Feed a Small Army!
If there is one thing an Irish mammy knows how to do, it’s keep her family well fed at Christmas time! In many households around Ireland Hot Port & Hot Irish Whiskey is the Christmas Drink of choice. Of course we have the big Turkey dinner on Christmas day and at home in Cork where I hail from we have Spiced Beef on Christmas Eve.
The Wren Boys
Hunting the Wren (pronounced ‘Ran’ in some places) is one of my personal favourite Irish Christmas Traditions. People have been doing this for hundreds of years in many places throughout Ireland. To hunt the wren, local musicians and dancers dress up and paint their faces, and travel from door to door singing, dancing and playing Irish music. ‘Wren Boys’ go around on Saint Stephen’s Day, the 26th December and money will be collected, usually for local clubs or charities. The original Wren Boys would have hunted and killed a wren in advance to take on parade with them but that’s not done anymore. Local legend tells us that the reason the wren is hunted is because of its involvement in the betrayal of St. Stephen. Another version of this tradition says it’s to celebrate the Wren as the King of all birds. Legend says the Wren is the king because once all the birds in Ireland had a race to see who could fly the highest. The eagle was winning but the clever wren jumped up on his shoulder and flew the final length beating all the other birds, including the eagle!
The Annual Roses Vs Quality Street Debate
In an Irish household at Christmas you will find either one or the other of these types of sweets. A point of constant debate is which one is better. Personally I go for the quality street every time!
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Aran Islands Dress Display (Submitted by Carol Gerling)
All of our 2016 Knitting Tours have been and gone and we were very happy with the feedback. We are busy making changes to our itineraries to further improve them for future groups!A sincere thank you to those that filled out our feedback surveys, some of the comments we received –
Southern Knitting Tour –
”This tour was absolutely wonderful and we had the best time. I would do this again in a heartbeat! In fact, we are considering the Northern tour for next year”.
”Although I have been to Ireland before, I really loved seeing the island at this level. The sites chosen were great and I can truly say I’ve seen southern Ireland. The trip to inis oirr was the highlight of the trip – just loved it.”
Northern Knitting Tour Comments –
”A glorious trip! We had very few wobbles for a trip of this size and complexity, and I very much appreciated the insights and professionalism of our guide, our driver, and everyone at Irish Tourism. Worth every penny and then some.”
”Best tour I have ever been on!”
”It was a great trip. I really enjoyed being in Ireland. All in all, it was well organized, interesting, and met my expectations.”
Our 2017 Knitting Tours are Very Busy but We do Have some Spaces Available. For More information please visit our website www.irishtourism.com/knitting
Irish folklore and stories were describing ghosts, monsters and banshees long before they were made into blockbuster films. It is not surprising therefore that we have our fair share of haunted castles in Ireland as well as, some eerie and frightening locations to visit! Here is a list of 7 Irish ghosts that you just might bump into on your travels here in Ireland:
Anne Tottenham at Loftus Hall
Loftus Hall is a mansion house on the Hook peninsula in County Wexford which is said to be haunted the ghost of young Anne Tottenham. The story goes that Anne had an encounter with the Devil, fell ill and was confined to her room for the rest of her life. Throughout the years there have been several reported sightings of her ghost.
Lady Maud Plunkett, Her Husband & Jester Puck at Malahide Castle
Malahide Castle is just outside Dublin City, built in 1185 by King Henry the II for the Talbot family, the castle is said to have five ghosts including that of Maud Plunkett and her husband Lord Chief Justice. The castle jester, Puck who is said to have been murdered by one of the Talbot family, on occasion also makes an appearance!
The White Lady of Charles Fort, Kinsale
About two miles outside the town of Kinsale lies Charles Fort, an old army barracks and reported home to ‘The White Lady’. The story goes that this unfortunate lady married a soldier of the barracks who was shot on the day of their wedding. Overcome with grief, she jumped to her death, still wearing her white wedding dress. Her lost soul has been spotted wandering the grounds, wedding dress and all.
Red Mary at Leamanach Castle
Leamaneh Castle is a ruined castle located in Kilnaboy in the Burren Region of Country Clare. It is said that the ghost of Máire Rúa (Red Mary) roams the grounds. According to local legend Red Mary wed 25 men, killing each one in turn. Eventually, after murdering her final husband she was captured and sealed into a hollow tree. The frightening apparition of her red-haired ghost is said to be still seen at Leamaneh today.
Little Harriet at Charleville Castle
Charleville Castle is a Gothic-style castle located in County Offaly. The castle is believed to be occupied by a little ghost girl named Harriet who died tragically in the castle in 1861. Her eerie childlike laughing and screams have been reported by many people throughout the years. Others are sure that they have seen the image of a golden aired little girl in a blue and white dress.
The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit! Contact us today for a quotation including some or all of these locations today –
We’ve compiled a list of the 10 Most Popular Things to do in Dublin to help you decide what to take in when you Visit!
Dublin is our capital city and the starting point for a lot of people’s journey around Ireland. Founded by the Vikings in 998AD, the city has a varied and interesting past and quite a few stories to tell. If it is your first trip to Dublin, you might want to tick a few of these famous visitor spots off your list:
Visit Kilmainham Gaol
Kilmainham Gaol is one of the biggest unoccupied prisons in Europe, it is now a museum and access is by guided tour. When it opened in 1796, the prison was one of the most modern of its time. Since then it has housed many political prisoners including those associated with the 1916 Easter Rising. Tours can get very busy and if you plan to visit, do call ahead or book tickets online.
See Glasnevin Cemetery
The Glasnevin Cemetery opened in 1832 and contains monuments and graves of some of Ireland’s most prominent national figures including Michael Collins, Éamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith, Maude Gonne, Luke Kelly of the Dubliners and many more. Onsite, in the world’s first cemetery museum visitors can learn about the history and the lives of more than 1.5 million people that are buried in the cemetery.
Visit the Museums & Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle was built in 1204 and was until 1922 the seat of the United Kingdom government administration in Ireland. Today it houses The Chapel Royal, The Chester Beatty Library which displays artistic treasures from around the world, The Revenue Museum which offers an interesting history of tax collection in Ireland and the State Apartments; the venue for Ireland’s Presidencies of the European Union, Presidential inaugurations and prestigious functions. The grounds of the site are free to explore, admission to the State Apartments is by guided tour only and tickets can be purchased in the Upper Castle Yard in advance.
Walk Around Trinity College & See the Book of Kells Exhibition
Trinity College was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, it is Ireland’s oldest university and has had many famous students including Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Jonathan Swift. Visitors to the College can enjoy guided tours of the magnificent Old Library and Book of Kells Exhibition. You cannot pre-book tickets and the line can get very long for entry, do arrive early if you plan to visit
Have a pint at the Guinness Storehouse
The Guinness Storehouse is one of Dublin’s busiest attractions and one of the most popular things to do in Dublin. The museum is set out over seven floors which surround a glass atrium in the shape of a pint of Guinness. The exhibition covers the process of making Guinness, right through to the marketing, sales and distribution of the finished product. The seventh floor houses the Gravity Bar with fantastic views of Dublin City.
Enjoy The (Free Entry) National Museums of Ireland
Three out of our four national museums are located in Dublin; The Museum of Archaeology and the Natural History Museums are located quite close to each other off Kildare Street and the Decorative Arts and History Museum is located at the Old Collins Barracks on Benburn Street. All of these museums are free entry and well worth a visit!
Visit Christchurch Cathedral & Dublinia
Christchurch Cathedral is the elder of Dublin’s two cathedrals, the other being St. Patricks. The cathedral famously contains the tomb of Strongbow, a medieval Norman-Welsh warlord who came to Ireland at the invitation of King Diarmuid MacMorrough. The cathedral also contains the largest Crypt in Ireland and amongst the things you will find there are secular carvings and the mummified corpses of a Cat & a Rat, commonly nicknamed Tom & Jerry! The adjacent Dublinia Exhibition is especially great for kids but enjoyable by most anybody, it covers the period of Dublin’s history from the arrival of the Anglo Normans to the closure of the monasteries in the 1540s.
See The GPO & New GPO Museum
The General Post Office (GPO) is the headquarters of the Irish Post Office and one of O’Connell Streets most prominent buildings. During the Easter Rising of 1916, the GPO famously served as the headquarters for the rebellion leaders. The new GPO Witness History Museum documents the buildings history and brings the events of the Easter Rising to life.
Do Some Shopping on Grafton Street
Characterised by energetic buskers and talented streets artists, Grafton Street and the surrounding streets contains some of the best shopping to be had in Dublin. There are also lots of nice cafes and bars in this area. Nearby at Meeting House Square there are often theater and film screenings and on Saturdays there is an excellent organic food market.
Check out the Night Life at Temple Bar
Temple Bar is one of the best places to be in Dublin by night! Home to some of Dublin’s best traditional music bars and restaurants as well as some great art galleries, popular watering holes include The Palace Bar, The Temple Bar Pub, Oliver St. John Gogarty’s and The Auld Dubliner.
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The best way to learn about all the things to do in Dublin is to visit yourself. Contact us today for a quotation including some or all of these locations today –
What are The Aran Islands and why are they interesting?
The Aran Islands; Inishmore (Irish Spelling Inis Mór), Inisheer(Inis Oírr) and Inishmaan (Inis Meáin) are located off the coast of Galway. The islands lie about 13km (8 miles) from the coast of Galway. This distance to the mainland has made the islands far more traditional than the rest of Ireland. Many traditional farming and crafts can still be seen on the island and the people speak Irish as their first language here.
The landscape on the Aran Islands may be like nothing you have seen before. It is karst and rocky and you will find land made fields surrounded by stone walls.
Clothes – The Aran Islands are famous of course for the traditional Aran Sweater but some other clothes are also unique to the island; the men for example wore a woven belt called a Crios and leather shoes called Pampooties! You can find out more about traditional Aran dress in the Stitches in Time exhibition at the Aras Eanna centre on Inisheer.
Land Making – The land on the Aran Islands is karst and rocky so the locals have to create land, they do this by mixing sand and seaweed and placing on top of rocks to create fertile soil.
Currach Boats – you may see these lying on the beaches on Aran Islands, they are a traditional Irish boat with a wooden frame over which animal skin would have been stretched over, although modern Currachs are now covered with canvas. These Currachs were a lifeline for Aran natives in times before motor powered boats and ferry crossings.
Day Trip or Stay Overnight?
Many of our clients take day trips to the Aran Islands. We recommend getting the morning ferry or flight and taking the evening ferry home. Make sure you leave in plenty of time and arrive at your departure point about 30 minutes early. The ferries usually leave on time and the journey to ports can sometimes take longer than expected. Calculate the time it will take you to get from your location to the port and add an hour to it!
There is ample accommodation on all of the islands, should you wish to stay overnight. There is a hotel on Inishmore as well as several good B&Bs, Inisheer has a small hotel/guesthouse and several good B&Bs and Inishmaan has several good quality B&Bs.
Get in Touch with us about booking your Ireland package including the Aran Islands and we can secure you the best available accommodation.
Aran Islands & Disabilities –
Although some of the ferries may have wheelchair access, access to the ferry is often by floating pontoon which may not be suitable for wheelchair users, depending on tides. The best thing to do is to check with the ferry company a few days in advance.
The islands themselves are not totally disabled friendly, the tour companies on the ground do not have wheelchair adapted buses and the ground can be quite uneven in places and so is not ideal for maneuvering wheelchairs around.
Get in Touch-
The best way to learn about the Aran Islands is to visit yourself. Contact us today to book your trip!
Our final blog post in our Aran Islands series explains how to get to the Aran Islands by ferry, flight or as part of a bus or rail tour.
How to Get to the Aran Islands Option 1: Ferry –
You can get to the Aran Islands by passenger ferry from Rossaveel which is about an hour west of Galway City or from Doolin in County Clare. You cannot bring a car across on the ferry.
Weather permitting; the ferries from Rossaveel go year round whereas the ferries from Doolin usually go from around March to October. The ferries can be cancelled if the weather is too bad as the crossing would be too dangerous. The ferries from Rossaveel have less cancelled sailings per year than there are from the Doolin port.
How long does the ferry to the Aran Islands Take?
Rossaveel to Inishmore – About 45 Minutes
Rossaveel to Inishmaan – About 55 Minutes
Rossaveel to Inisheer – About 65 Minutes
Doolin to Inisheer – About 30 Minutes
Doolin to Inishmaan – About 40 Minutes
Doolin to Inishmore – About 90 Minutes
The ferry crossing to the Aran Islands can get very rough, if you suffer from travel sickness, then you should think about your journey before setting off. Think about visiting the island closest to port (Inishmore from Rossaveel and Inisheer from Doolin) and pick up some motion sickness pills before you go. I find sitting outside, looking out to the horizon helps me!
How to Get to the Aran Islands Option 2: Bus Tour/Ferry –
There are a number of companies offering bus transfers with ferry tickets from Galway city. You take the bus as far as Rossaveel and then take the ferry. If you don’t want to drive, this option is included in our Independent Rail Tours.
How to Get to the Aran Islands Option 3: Fly–
You can fly to the Aran Islands in a small passenger plane from Connemara airport. The flight takes about 10 minutes and there is a maximum of 8 people allowed in the plane, depending on the weight of the passengers, there could be fewer than 8. Connemara Airport is located in Inveran which is about 40 minutes west of Galway City. You do need to book your flight in advance with Aer Arann Islands.
Get in touch with us today and take the hassle out of booking your trip to Ireland and the Aran islands!