Monday, September 22, 2008

Postcards from tiny islands.

Afternoon all. Somewhere in the chat following FP's historical playlist, I mentioned that I live near a natural phenomenon know as the Skelligs. I also promised, vaguely, that if I was to make it out to them before we move, then I would put up pictures for all to see.

Well that promise, friends, is about to be honoured.

Being as we move in a week, I have suddenly had to start carpe-diem-ing all over the place. The other day, for example, the weather was brilliant so I climbed the mountain that I have been meaning to climb for 18 months (a mountain with a Stations of the Cross on it, so I got me some credit there...). Then yesterday the weather was, incredibly, very fine once more so I phoned up the boat people and they said that yes, they were going to the Skelligs today. Result! Fine weather, you see, does not always equate to good sea, and landing at the rocks is not easy at all. Not at all...

Anyway, after a 45 minute boat trip we arrived at the two Skelligs - Little and Great - which form one of the most arresting and fascinating natural attractions I have ever seen. The little one is not habitable and is, essentially, a massive bird sanctuary. The big one - Skellig Michael - is habitable, just, and was settled by some crazy-ass monks if the 6th century. St Fionan is believed to have founded the monastery which was active right through Viking invasions and terrible seas up til the 15th century. The monastery was then finally disbanded, but the rock remained a pilgrimage site up until 1820.

In 1820 it was decided to use the rock for a lighthouse. Two were built on the island and were manned right up until 1986 when the computers finally took over. By that point the rock had become a UNESCO World Heritage site and is guarded by an army of archaeologists and historians who live there for two weeks at a time and, in good weather, welcome a limited number of tourists to the island each day.

It's a 700-step, 230m climb top the top, but boy is it ever worth it. Let me just re-iterate that everything on these pictures is balanced on a tiny, jagged rock 16k out into the Atlantic. Madness.

And, as a treat, whilst you peruse my postcards from tiny islands, have a listen to this song from the excellent Walkmen's new album You and Me. It's called, somewhat appropriately, Postcards from Tiny Islands. Who knew?

06 postcards from tiny islands.mp3



Little Skellig. The world's second largest Gannet colony. Yes. Those are birds. Thousands of them.


The view from Little Skellig toward Great Skellig, or Mick as we know him. The loomer.

The larger island is marked by various bits of precarious natural sculpture. This is the view back to bird-poo rock.

The mysterious 'Frod enjoys the view toward the ancient cross, beehive huts, chapel, tombstones and little Skellig. You can just make out my beard.

The road back to the boat. Someone built that. Madness.

Oh and we totally got to see dolphins on the way back. That was a goood trip.

Finally, as a bonus, here's The Blue Route, another brilliant track off the brilliant Walkmen's brilliant album You and Me.

11 the blue route.mp3

22 comments:

snadfrod said...

Ok, I realise that the first picture doesn't make it quite so clear that the island is covered in birds. I wanted ti use that one, though, to show the scale of it. Just to point out, though, that I'm not referring to the two very obvious birds in the foreground. I'm not THAT stupid...

I have closer pics of that Skellig, so might change it later, or add another....

alimunday said...

Absolutely fabulous.

Frogprincess said...

Just the fresh salty seascapes I needed. Beautiful photos! Thank you so much. FP

CaroleBristol said...

Wonderful, thanks for posting those pictures.

steenbeck said...

Beautiful pictures, good music. Are you going on a caravan trip?

ToffeeBoy said...

Brilliant piccies snad - I'm jealous. I love islands (probably due to my Orcadian ancestry) and these shots make me want to be there - now!

Having said that, the picture of the path (road - are you sure!!!???) carved into the hillside brings on a vertigo attack just looking at it...

GarethI said...

I'm torn between jealousy (at seeing a place that is, in the Romantic sense, sublime) and pure boneshaking vertigo at the sight of that road. I thought the clifftop path between Borth and Aberystwyth was scary, but it's nothing - nothing - compared with that.

That rock you call Mick… it's the spit of Scooby Doo, isn't it?

snadfrod said...

It really is an incredible place, and toffee is right, there's something about islands, isn't there? Thank you all for the nice comments. And of course its a road: you could get a bus up there...

@steen - oh yes. Our secret plan. Its still being worked on as we speak, but in a few weeks, hopefully announcements can be made and we can get the 'spill on the case!

Blimpy said...

Fab post!!! Love it!

nilpferd said...

Beautiful trip. Reminds me partly of the west of Scotland, and partly of the south of New Zealand. But mostly that I need to get to an ocean some time soon..

gordonimmel said...

Excellent pictures, but can I just say that in that 'mysterious frod' photo you remind me of Stephen Ireland -before all his hair fell out obviously!

snadfrod said...

@gordon - as random and potentially insulting as that comment was, I love it! Not least because it gives me the opportunity to point out just how good he was at the weekend!!! Yay!! And I'll get to go to the Liverpool game!!! Double yay!!! God bless football!!!!!!

DarceysDad said...

Re vertiginous roadways etc - I don't do heights very well, and get nervous BEHIND the wall at the Cliffs of Moher, but the worst DsD experience was belly-crawling to the cliff edge at Dun Aonghasa and peering over to find that not only was it 300ft straight down, but that it's an overhang!! AAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHH!!

If you're going to the City vs LFC game, Snadfrod, I'm now double-disappointed I can't be Gordon's guest this year. Best of luck for the rest of the season (bar one game) AFTER Oct 5th, you two!

snadfrod said...

@DsD - that's a shame, I have to say, as its going to be one heck of an interesting one, no?

The Cliffs of Moher, though - now you're talking. Many is the time I've taken friends of mine there and crawled myself over THAT edge... Sadly, the last time we went, they've now sanitised it all. You can't get down to the platform any more, they've fenced it off to a radius of about 50m either side. The upshot of that, of course, is that people still climb the fence, they just do it at a point 50m away from where they used to. Tourists, huh?...

Is Dun Aonghasa the one on the Arran Islands? What a spot that is.

TracyK said...

The cliff walk from Aber to Borth is a doddle: I used to do it almost every Sunday to the Clarach car boot, once returning carrying (in my hands, without a bag: what the hell was I thinking?!) a massive watermelon. Just like in Dirty Dancing...

The walk between Lynton and the Valley of Rocks, north Devon: jeebus, that's very scary and had me whimpering and leaning almost horizontally left all the way there. Great pie at the little tea rooms nestled in the Valley made it almost worth while. I'm not afraid of height,s per se, but just thinkign about walking cliff paths makes the pit of my stomach drop to my knees.

Fabulous pics there, I often wonder why David Almond called Skellig in his book Skellig.

DsD said...

@ Snadfrod - Yes, Inishmore (so I've seen the Father Ted titles shipwreck for real).

Doubledonds for Tracy's last comment about the pit of y'stomach!!

Shoey said...

What beard?

saneshane said...

'frod great pictures..
if you are still reading this...
how many of the 14 tracks are quality? I do enjoy The Walkmen but it's always questionable how many tracks are worth it on each album.. don't you think.

garath feel free to chip in please... good call on scooby!

snadfrod said...

@shoey - you can just make out, I think, the fuzzy edges of my beard (of which I'm very proud) on the photo of the back of me head. Any claims that it isn't a proper beard/wouldn't keep a gnat warm etc etc will be flatly denied.

@shane - yes I'm still here (just) and can inform you that the album is 90% filler free. Its a damn sight more focused and even than the other albums. Yes, it doesn't have a Rat or a Louisiana on it, but its all the better for it and much more even of tone. Get it!!

Shoey said...

It's easier to see the invisible birds.
(j.k. very cool pics).

saneshane said...

@'frod
don't know where you'll be by now... but got it and enjoying it.

snadfrod said...

@shane - I'm delighted, and I'm just finding that it grows and grows. Good work.