the force awakens

Skellig Michael's obscurity is about to end 'in a blaze of silver-screen glory'

The New York Times has made some predictions about the island’s future.


Skellig Michael renovation work PA WIRE PA WIRE

THE NEW YORK Times is predicting Skellig Michael will soon turn into a tourist hotspot after featuring in the upcoming Star Wars film.

The tiny island off the coast of Kerry is a Unesco world heritage site and is being used as a location for the new Star Wars VII and Star Wars VIII films.

Already a popular tourist destination, the number of people landing on the island is limited.

However, the former monastery has now been put firmly on the map by the recent high-profile filming.

After visiting the island, journalist with The New York Times Lucinda Hahn described it as “one of the country’s most mystical places”, but noted that it attracts fewer visitors than sites with more of a, er, “high-wattage wow factor”.

“Its relative obscurity seems about to end in a blaze of silver-screen glory,” she writes.

“There was something mournful and beautiful about it all: the six beehive-shaped monastic cells huddled together, two boat-shaped oratories, as well as crude stone crosses, serving as grave markers, and the ruins of a medieval church.”

The views over the Atlantic were endless, and gulls and gannets soared and dived, their cries echoing with either anguished loneliness or triumphant salvation, possibly a bit of both.
I imagined Luke Skywalker in one of the dank beehive cells, crouching as the monks had centuries before, marooned on the island with his demons.

She also recalled the excitement of the “villagers” with Mark Hamill arrived for a pint in mid-September.

“In the Bridge Bar, a pub overlooking the harbor, patrons fumbled for their cellphones to capture video as he pulled a pint of Guinness,” she writes.

The attention the island has received in recent months has been met with concerns from those highlighting Skellig Michael’s Unesco status, vulnerable nesting sea bird population, and crumbling architecture.

Hahn remarked on the latter, noting the 618 “steep, uneven stone steps winding heavenward”.

The stairway offers almost no hand rails or safety guards, and many visitors are struck with paralyzing fear on the ascent. With the knowledge that two American tourists fell to their deaths while negotiating the stairs in 2009, I took each step slowly, one by one, wielding a walking stick for balance. At the top, I exhaled with relief, then ducked my head under a massive stone lintel and stepped into the monastery site itself.

Stars wars: The Force Awakens will be released in cinemas on 18 December. The role Skellig Michael will play in the film is not yet known.

Read: Did the Star Wars filming actually cause any damage to Skellig Michael? >

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