We left our BnB about 6:30AM. We needed to stop along the way to get cash. The boatman didn't tell us that, but I had a hunch - never ignore a hunch. The boat leaves at 10AM. Best to be at the docks by 9:30. The drive to Portmagee would be 2 hours and 45 minutes at least.
On the road, the sky would be beautiful one minute and raining the next. We truly did not know whether the weather would cooperate or not. We had decided that if the boats couldn't go out today, we would be close to other things we could see anyway. The drive would not be a loss. At 8:02, our boatman called and told us the trip was a go! Even with this news, our trip could be beautifully sunny or light rain and cloudy. Either way, we were going.
I stopped at a bank with two ATMs so we didn't even have to wait on each other. We arrived with snacks in our backpacks, binoculars ready to see birds, and €60 safely stuffed into pockets with zippers. Once at the dock, the boatmen were preparing their boats and slowly gathering their patrons. Each boat was a 12 person boat and there were maybe 10 of them. This is the total number of people who can go to the island each day. The OPW guides on the island told us there was an annual number permitted, so once the numbers are reached, no matter how good the weather, that's it. I can't find a confirmation of that, but the reasoning was to preserve the site.
|Tiny 12 person ferry. Gwyndolyn is a happy camper!|
The water was choppy, and it's always choppier going out than coming into shore... because that's how waves work. There was no standing at the front of the boat here, and even if you could have, you would have been SOAKED. The first 15 minutes of the ride were quite nice. I enjoyed being on the side of the boat that I could see things and watch the birds. The second 15 minutes were still ok, but bordering on enough. The last 15 minutes were a delicate lace of torture. Both of us kept our breakfast, but many on other boats did not. I just kept telling myself, we will be there any minute.... how many more minutes.... not sure how many more minutes I can stand... If I decide I can't make it, how would one hold onto the side of this small boat without smacking your chest into the guard rail? I was definitely concerned. When we finally got to the dock, we had to climb stairs that were insanely steep even for a normal day. The first couple of steps, I was not sure I was going to make it. It was with a sheer will of the mind that I forced what strength I had left to take the dozen or so steps up to the flat part of the dock. Then we sat on the concrete dock until a bit of color returned to our faces. It wasn't too long, and we really didn't want to waste the short amount of time we had. It was now 10:50 and the boat would leave at 2:15.
Off we go, still slightly wobbly from the boat ride. We walked around to where the mighty upward journey begins. The guide at the bottom explained in great detail how to manage the stone steps. He included a physical demonstration. And he went over these instructions over, and over, and ooooover, and OOOOVER.... I thought a few people in front of us were going to plow him down. I think he was stalling to give the group ahead more space, and hold us wobbly people down here until we were less wobbly. Smart all around, I suppose. In 2009, there were 2 separate deadly falls. Caution, watch your feet, and stop any time you need to.
Up 150 steps. Stop for a photo.
|Look at that SKY! Gorgeous day... what luck!|
|Natural stone. Uneven height and depth.|
|There is a boat in this photo. A very tiny boat.|
|Nothing to stop you if you fall!|
|See that tiny path? Those are stone steps about 3 feet wide.|
Up 145 steps. And, we're THERE! The ancient monastic site with numerous beehive shaped stacked stone structures.
|Skellig Michael monastic site dating to 600AD.|
|Beehive shaped dry stacked stone structures.|
I got antsy and wanted to go look for puffins. Gwyndolyn didn't seem to mind following me in my search. We started the descent. As we came around a corner, one flew over! A PUFFIN! I was so excited, but remembered the caution our guide had explained. We carefully made it down to the next rest area and sat watching a couple of puffins fly by and land for photos.
|Those are PUFFINS on that rock just to the right of center in the photo.|
The ride back to the mainland started with a circling of the Little Skellig. This island is one great big huge home to Gannets. In fact, this is the largest Gannet colony in the world. Seeing the birds covering every rocky top was incredible. Gannets are beautiful birds, by the way. My photos don't do them or the puffins justice. Look them up!
|Little Skellig, home to a gazillion gannets.|
We stopped for dinner at O'Sullibhean's Tower Inn. I had another bowl of seafood chowder that was ALMOST as good as my favorite one in Letterkenny. A dog kept wandering in and out of the pub. No one seemed to even notice the dog. I was only disappointed that he wouldn't come hang out with us or at least let me get a better photo.
To be continued.