Would you like to visit Ahch-To?
You’re not alone. Flight booking site Kiwi.com has revealed that hundreds of people have been searching for flights to Luke’s hideaway in The Last Jedi.
Well, the good news is you can visit Ahch-To – but you’ll need to book a flight to Ireland, not a fictional planet.
Those scenes were filmed on an uninhabited Irish island known as Skellig Michael. Nor is there any computer-generated jiggery-pokery at play; Skellig Michael and it’s even tinier sister, Little Skellig, are just as breathtaking in real life.
The Skelligs – Na Scealga in Irish – rise majestically from the Atlantic Ocean eight miles off the coast of Portmagee, a fishing village on the verdant Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry.
Skellig Michael (also known as Great Skellig) wasn’t always uninhabited; it’s a Unesco world heritage site because a remarkably well-preserved sixth century monastic settlement clings to its summit. Three ancient stairways of over 500 hand-carved stone steps climb to the remains of St Fionan’s monastery: six stone beehive-shaped huts, two boat-shaped oratories, holy wells, cemetery, church and stone terraces for crops.
It was the handiwork of a group of Catholic monks who found refuge here after fleeing the mainland’s repressive laws around 600 AD. Monks lived there until the 13th century, surviving several Viking raids.
These days the Skelligs are a haven for seabirds and one of the most important breeding sites in Ireland. Birdwatchers might spy manx shearwaters, storm petrel, fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots and puffins. In late spring, Little Skellig is home to the world’s second largest gannet population – 27,000 pairs of gannets nest on every available ledge.
At low tide, a colony of grey seals can sometimes be seen sunning themselves. And if you’re very lucky, you might even spot a Bottlenose dolphin, Minke whale or a Basking shark in the depths.
The bad news is that you can’t visit in winter. Weather-permitting, small ferries go from Portmagee, Valentia, Renard Point, Baile an Sceilg and Doire Fhionain to Skellig Michael between April and mid- to late September. Be sure to book in advance because it’s a popular spot and visitor numbers are limited to 180 per day. Boats aren’t allowed to land on Little Skellig.
Even on fair days, it can be a wet and bumpy ride so pack a cagoule and travel sickness pills if you’re a landlubber. After scaling those ancient stone steps, you’ll find a registered guide at the summit who can answer all your questions. Visitors are allowed two to three hours to explore (and try out their best Luke Skywalker impression).
If you’d rather stay on dry land, the grass-roofed Skellig Experience Visitor Centre on Valentia Island has exhibitions about their monastic history, sealife and the local lighthouses. It also puts on daily cruises that circle the islands but don’t land.