The early morning sea is calm as we cross the protected harbour waters of Portmagee. The previous day’s sunshine has gone, replaced by low grey cloud and we were not yet able to see our destination.
After an early start and breakfast in the colourful village, we were heading for the UNESCO World Herritage site of Skellig Michael, just over 7 miles off the coast. Lazy Atlantic rollers meet us head on as we make our way into open sea, our small boat to rising up the face of each wave before racing down the other side. Occassional waves crash over the side of the boat, dampening our clothes and shoes. Gannets fly overhead while razorbills race past at sea level and all the while, Rosana hangs on to the boat in fear of her very life.
The islands of Skellig Michael and Little Skellig emerge from the clouds as we draw closer, the summit of Skellig Michael never really reveals itself to us. We disembark and start the long climb to the top, up six hundred or more uneven steps. We don’t get very far before finding the first of the island’s many summer visitors.
Puffins. Spending most of their lives at sea, the brightly coloured puffins come to land during the summer to breed. Despite their sad looking faces they are one of the most comical birds to watch. Landing on land is not something that comes naturally to them, their bright orange legs splayed out before them as they seemingly crash into ground.
There are other birds here too, the razorbill among those that make their home here.
The birds are not the the reason for the UNESCO ranking though. Perched atop of the island is a Christian monastry dating back as early as six AD. It must have been a harsh life, living from this small patch of land and the sea. There is no natural fresh water source on the island, so they collected rain water instead. The low cloud adds to the atmosphere as we sit amongst the beehive shaped huts and listen to the warden talk of the islands history. Imagine living a life where you hoped for bad weather, for bad weather meant that the near constant attacks from viking marauders would cease – at least until the weather improved. It’s a privilege to walk amongst the two thousand year old buildings.
We have a calmer trip back, travelling with the rolling waves this time. We enjoy the sights and sounds, if not the smell of Little Skellig along the way. It’s home to around twenty eight thousand breeding pairs of gannets and the rockfaces are jam packed with nesting birds. We’re not able to land on the island, but we get a good view from the boat.
Back on shore we headed off to find somewhere to sleep. Unable to find a wild spot that we liked the look of we turned back to the ring and back to Mannix Point for another night. Mortimer the owner is pleased to see us again, probably because we smell so much better than when we had first arrived yesterday.