An Irish island that was showcased in two Star Wars films has decided that it will not open to visitors until 2021. Skellig Michael, situated 12 miles off the coast of Kerry, is unable to open for its regular visitor season this year, as those in charge wish to maintain visitor and staff safety in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Skellig Michael is a dramatically beautiful rocky outcrop that shot to fame when it became a filming location in two Star Wars films – The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. It has a smaller sister island, Little Skellig, that is always closed to the public. Skellig Michael can only be reached by boat, which proves highly challenging when considering COVID-19 risks. "On a mobile, constantly-moving platform like a boat, there are multiple touch and clutch points that passengers will hold onto, and of course they all need direct assistance to safely board the vessel and get off at the destination pier," says the Office of Public Works.

Mark Hamill on Skellig island during filming
Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, pictured on Skellig island during filming © Tourism Ireland

An additional problem is that the island formerly housed a monastery and its monks, and the narrow passage routes for people going to visit the ruins make social distancing problematic. It is extremely difficult to pass at the two-metre gap recommended to achieve social distancing. In addition to the risks to visitors, the OPW has concluded that opening would be hazardous for its on-island guide staff because accommodation facilities are extremely limited on the island, and staff are required to live in close proximity to each other.

View from Skellig Michael to Little Skellig, Valentia Island
Skellig Michael is staying closed until 2021 ©Stefan Missing/Shutterstock

For further information on Skellig Michael, please visit here.

Lockdowns are easing globally as the planet adjusts to a new normal. Find out how COVID-19 is changing travel.

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