Northern Ireland

Star Wars: Skellig Michael ready for movie fans' arrival

Skellig Michael, off the coast of County Kerry. Image copyright Office of Public Works

Jedi Knights in training are again making a pilgrimage to Skellig Michael after it opened for the tourist season.

The Unesco World Heritage Site was home to a monastic community from at least the 8th Century but is best known these days as Star Wars Island.

Having featured in three of the latest movies, the County Kerry attraction is now pulling in a new brand of visitor.

However, this year's influx was delayed by poor weather and an opening date of 18 May had to be pushed back.

A spokesman for the Office of Public Works, the Irish government agency responsible for looking after all national monuments, said: "Due to the sea weather conditions of wind resulting in swell and given the significant amount of cargo and materials which needed to be transported, the boats upon which the OPW rely could not travel until 16 May."

Image copyright Office of Public Works

Since the Stars Wars effect kicked in following the release of The Force Awakens in December 2015, Skellig Michael has seen thousands make the crossing from various harbours to see the monastic stone dwellings where Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Daisy Ridley (Rey) shot key scenes.

In 2016, 14,648 people made a crossing which, dependent on sea conditions, can take up to 90 minutes.

Last year that figure had swollen to 16,792 visitors and this year it is expected to grow again.

With so many feet making what the OPW warns can be a hazardous trek, the job of keeping them as safe as possible gets bigger by the year.

Image copyright Offoce of Public Works

Of this spring's work, the spokesman said: "Firstly general maintenance has to be undertaken on the island's accommodation as it suffers greatly during the winter period.

"In addition, this year, extra work had to be undertaken to upgrade some of this accommodation. After an inspection of the island, necessary works are identified and undertaken for health and safety reasons.

"Crews carried out clearance of steps/walkways where visitors are accommodated, clearance from the pier of all algae and growth and consolidation of loose masonry."

The site is expected to remain open until 30 September, which is the final day for visitors, after which it will formally close until the 2020 season.

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