Circling the Skelling Islands and Driving the Ring of Kerry, Ireland


The Skelling Islands are Irelands’ newest tourist attraction having recently appeared in Star Wars Eposide VIII The Force Awakens and Star Wars Episode VIII The Last Jedi. The Skelling Islands are accessed through boat tours from Portmagee located on the Ring of Kerry, the famous tourist trail. We’d spend the day exploring both attractions. Read on to see how we fared…

This post is one chapter on our trip to Portugal, the United Kingdom (England and Norther Ireland) and Ireland. This trip was redeemed through American Airlines Advantage and enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Circling the Skelling Islands and Driving the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Today’s adventure would have us completing the circular drive of the Ring of Kerry, along with a boat excursion to Skelling Island.

We arose from the Crystal Springs Bed and Breakfast Killarney at about 7 AM. With an 8 AM breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, we were off to complete the Ring of Kerry along with a trip around Skelling Island.

Driving to Portmagee:

I set WT73Jr up with the Michelin Map again. He still couldn’t understand why adults use paper maps when “Google Maps” is so much better. Ahh. The typical old school versus new school paradigm. He humored me until it got to be a bit too much.

We drove up and out to the Ring of Kerry past Killarney. The recommendation was to drive the route counter clockwise to avoid being stuck behind tour buses, who reportedly travelled clockwise. Having said that, we didn’t encounter that many buses on the route at all. It wasn’t before long before we got into some beautiful scenery that would make you think of Ireland from a postcard.

We eventually took our first stop of the day near Kells Bay. From here, we could look across the water to the Dingle peninsula. We were able to get some great photographs in the sun which was out for the morning.

Continuing on, we made our way to Portmagee. There was more beautiful hills along the way and it made the drive pleasant and picturesque.

Visiting Portmagee:

We arrived to Portmagee at about 1045 AM. Portmagee is an end of the road sort of town. It had a small charm to it and reminded me a lot of a small version of St John’s Newfoundland in Canada with its tiny houses and small town feel.

We had an hour before the boat departure so we took a wander through town.

We wandered across the bridge over to the Valetta Island and took a look at the Skelling Adventure Center. It was half exhibition, half restaurant half gift shop. Not too exciting but it did have free wifi that showed that our tour wasn’t cancelled due to weather and rough seas.


Booking a Trip to Skelling Island:

Skelling Island was recently made popular by having scenes filmed from the movie Star Wars The Force Awakens. The island features a monastery temple that was occupied in the sixth century. The larger island has been made a UNESCO world heritage site. We had booked with Skelling Island Casey Bryan which offered multiple departures a day. We scheduled for the 12 PM departure to allow ourselves a lot of time to get to the departure. Unfortunately, even planning the trip about 6 months out, we were not able to get a landing on the island, and had to settle for a circumference tour of the place.

Visiting Skelling Island:

At the stroke of 12PM, a tour representative turned up at the pier. We were escorted onto the boat and given life jackets. We were told that the seas were mostly calm. We had taken Gravol earlier as a pre-caution. This was a very wise decision as the seas ended up being quite rough.

The first part of the ride was out through the harbour, after which the 12 KM out to Skelling Islands got progressively rougher. Needless to say, it was much more rough that we would have liked. It was akin to bopping as a cork for several hours in turbulent waters.

What it’s like to see Skelling Island:

We eventually got out to Little Skelling. It was home to 22,000 breeding birds. Little Skelling similar to a car accident, I certainly hadn’t seen anything like it and you couldn’t stop looking at it thanks to all the birds hovering over her. Our guide had indicated to us that eventually the birds go blind from smashing themselves into the sea over the years in order to get fish.

We eventually made it over to the sunny side of Little Skelling.

We then travelled the short distance over to Skelling Michael. WT73Jr was feeling a little green by this point due to all the motion sickness of the trip out.

We were given an explanation of the monastery on the top of the mountain. We were given an explanation of the various stairs and methods to access to the top that had been used and dis-used over the years.

We also saw the old paths and stairs up the side of the hill. Tumbling or falling here on the island would probably lead to disastrous consequences.

Lastly, before heading back, we were taken to the ocean side to show the areas where the movies were filmed.

We headed back. The ride back was a little bit smoother, but not by much. One last look at Skelling Island before we headed back.

We arrived back to Portmagee where the weather for the day had turned a bit cloudy.


Setting off on the Ring of Kerry:

After the rough weather and boat ride, we had a bit of a lunch sandwich rest in Portmagee. WT73Jr was happy to be back on solid ground. About a 45 minute break of being still, we then headed off in the car to head on the other southern half of the Ring of Kerry. The roads felt quite a bit more rural than the more major highway on the way to Portmagee.

We stopped at the view point at the crest for some terrific views from the top of the bluff back towards Portmagee. We also had distant views back towards Skelling Island where we had just come from.

On the second half of our drives, we didn’t have the same picture perfect views. The road was also exceptionally bumpy. Although there were posted speed limits of of 80 km/h, it was almost impossible to maintain speeds like that thanks to bumps and turns.

With that in mind, we took several stops on the way back. We stopped at several small nameless towns for a quick break. The sea was looking much colder than this morning when the sun was out.

We also had some viewpoints on the way back, where we made some new friends.


Views from Killarney National Park:

Towards the end of our drive, near Killarney, we stopped in the Killarney National Park at Ladies View. We were pretty tired by this point; it was a full day and we still had a little ways to go

Taking in the Waterfalls at Tocue Falls:

We had our last stop of the day at Tocue Falls. We had short walk to the falls which was much needed after a day in the car and the rough boat ride.

WT73Jr enjoyed clambering over slippery rocks, as kids do, and his dad wasn’t too bothered by this time to tell him to keep safe and stay out of the slippery rocky water.

Closing the Day with Fish and Chips at Quinlan’s:

We returned to Killarney a short drive away, and having had a long day, went straight to dinner for the evening. We ended up out at Quinlan’s, a fish and chip shop. It’s locally famous as they have been commercially fishing for over 50 years. There was quite a line but it was well worth it. It was halibut for me and breaded shrimp and chips for WT73Jr.

A full day nonetheless completed with bragging rights of having seen Skelling Island… something many teenagers (and dad’s) can’t usually say. We retired for the evening to the Crystal Springs Bed and Breakfast Killarney.

My Thoughts on Visiting Skelling Island and the Ring of Kerry:

A visit to Skelling Island isn’t an every day experience. It was quite a trek to get out there and back, in addition to the sights on the Ring of Kerry. Ideally, I would have liked to take additional time in taking in these sights as it was quite a trek. We somehow managed to get it all in during one day, but if I were do to it all over again, I’d probably allow for more time.

If you have visited Skelling Island, did you manage a landing on the islands themselves ?

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