The Office of Public Works (OPW) today confirmed that Skellig Michael, the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site located off the Kerry coast, will open to visitors on Sunday 14th May 2017.
The opening date had been jeopardised in recent weeks when maintenance staff discovered that a major rockfall had taken place at a location close to the OPW base at the Island. A considerable amount of rock and other material had descended onto the Lighthouse Road in a location close to the accommodation and stores huts maintained there for the OPW works staff and there were significant safety concerns that further unstable material still on the higher slopes could pose a direct threat. OPW staff and their safety contractor have worked in the last number of weeks to resolve these issues and following a final inspection by the OPW’s structural engineer this morning (10th May), the go-ahead has been given to allow the site to open this coming weekend.
The OPW will continue to monitor the situation and advise that if an identifiable risk arises, access may have to be curtailed at short notice in the interests of the safety of staff and the public.
“We are delighted that we have been able to do the necessary safety works to deal with this problem” said Grellan Rourke, the OPW’s Senior Conservation Architect responsible for Skellig Michael. “The rockfall posed a considerable challenge for our staff and contractor who have worked hard to deal with the problem while simultaneously dealing with the normal pre-season maintenance checks at the site to make sure the visitor areas are ready for visitors.”
OPW staff usually spend up to 3 weeks making the Skellig site ready for visitors each year in advance of the mid May opening to address issues such as loosened steps, issues created by burrowing birds and other winter season effects. All of these checks have now been performed satisfactorily and the site is ready to receive visitors.
Assuming there are no further incidents, the OPW expect that the site will remain open to the public until the scheduled closing date on 2nd October 2017.
The OPW also announced today the conclusion of their recent public competition to award permits to local boatmen to land visitors at Skellig Michael. A total of 13 boatmen were selected in the competition and these, added to the 2 boatmen selected in an earlier competition in 2016, will now be available to deal with any intending visitors to the Island. A full list of the 15 nominated boatmen is available on the OPW’s Heritage Ireland website http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/south-west/skelligmichael/. While these individuals are approved by the OPW, they operate independently and any arrangements for booking, paying fares etc are made with the boatmen directly.
The OPW finally also reminds all intending visitors to Skellig Michael to familiarise themselves fully in advance with the challenge and the risks involved. A Safety film has been prepared and is available to view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuJ8Dw_iNwU. All visitors planning to travel to the site are strongly advised to view it.