Skellig Michael to remain closed this season

The monastic Island, Skellig Michael founded in the 7th century, for 600 years the island was a centre of monastic life for Irish Christian monks. The Celtic monastery, which is situated almost at the summit of the 230-metre-high rock became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It is one of Europe's better known but least accessible monasteries.Photo:Valerie O'Sullivan

Kerry’s world heritage site, Skellig Michael is to remain closed to visitors this season because of COVID–19 concerns.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has today confirmed the news following a review of the original closure decision in early May.

The OPW says having consulted with a number of parties both inside the OPW’s Heritage Service and externally, it wouldn’t be feasible to open the island site for the remainder of the scheduled visitor season.

They discussed the challenges with local boatmen who are responsible for bringing visitors to Skellig Michael and investigated with them the possible changes that might be made in order to make the visitor experience safer.

They say the risks involved in both the boat voyage and the visitor experience on the island itself can’t be addressed sufficiently to guarantee the safety of both visitors and OPW staff.

The world heritage site, which lies 12km off the Kerry coast, had been due to open on May 15th; the visitor season usually finishes at the end of September.

OPW Heritage Commissioner John Mc Mahon says they’ll now plan for a resumption in 2021, when they will hopefully be able to accommodate visitors at the site again.

OPW workmen continue to remain on the island to carry out essential maintenance and other works on the island and its monuments.

The Skellig Experience Centre in Portmagee is currently open, and local boat sightseeing trips around the island continue to be available.