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Skellig Michael

One of the high points of the trip was the visit to Skellig Michael. This is an island about 10 miles off the coast that is reachable only by small boats. When the seas are rough they don't let anyone go. The day we went was the sunniest one of all our days in Ireland.

Skellig Michael is essentially a small mountain with very little flat surface. There is nothing but rock (the name is from Sceilig Mhichíl in the Irish language, meaning Michael's rock) with a couple of tiny grass patches and a few ancient buildings. Near the top was the site of a monastery founded in the 7th century and occupied for about 600 years. The houses were beehives and there is a graveyard. Someone counted that it was 600 steep steps to the top.

click for these pics

Lots of seabirds live on it - we saw guillemots, razorbills, puffins and some other unidentifiable-to-me other birds. We saw a few puffins flying back and entering their holes.

The site is well preserved, they restrict the number of visitors, and it is an official UNESCO World Heritage site.

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When I was an undergrad, I took an anthropology course from a prof who had done some of his field work on one of the Aran islands (the smallest one, Inisheer). We had to read his book for class, of course. A few years later, I took a trip to western Ireland and went to Inishmore, the only one you can get to easily. At the time, Inisheer was reachable only by small, private boat; you had to sweet-talk a local fisherman to get there. I didn't have time for that on my trip, so I had to settle for Inishmore. It's a fascinating part of the world.

We went to Inishmore (or Inis Mór, as most of the signs call it) a few days later. I expect there will be photographs of it forthcoming.

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