The Skelligs region encompasses an area to the west of the Ring of Kerry between Cahersiveen and Waterville. It comprises Valentia Island, the Skellig Isles, Puffin Island and the mainland south of Valentia Island and north of Ballinskelligs Bay, including the towns of Portmagee and Ballinskelligs.
The Skellig islands are two steep sided lumps of rock rising majestically from the sea and mainly inhabited by colonies of seabirds as well as Peregrine Falcons and Choughs. The larger island, Great Skellig or Skellig Michael is a World Heritage Site, the location of a well preserved 6th century monastery in which Christian monks dwelt for approximately 600 years. Little Skellig, closed to the public, is home to 27,000 pairs of Gannets, the second largest colony in the world. The Skelligs lie some 8 miles from the mainland. Boat trips generally operate from April to October and leave from Portmagee, Valentia, Cahirciveen, Derrynane and Ballinskelligs.
Valentia Island is joined to the mainland via a bridge and is also accessible by ferry, sailing from Reenard near Cahersiveen. It is an interesting island, displaying many moods and outstanding natural beauty.
To the west the dramatic cliffs of Bray Head prevail against the Atlantic Ocean and offer outstanding views of the Kerry coastline. The shores are washed by the Gulf Stream so the climate is mild, hence the splendiferous gardens at Glanleam House which are open to the public. Protected from the wind and frost, the gardens are stocked with plants from the southern hemisphere, a unique collection planted in the 19th century. Knightstown is the main centre of population on the island, named after the Knights of Kerry, an hereditary Anglo-Irish knighthood.
Portmagee, a quite and sleepy fishing village, is named after a famous smuggler, Captain Theobald Magee. Close by is the perfect beach, Reencaheragh Strand and the harbour is the main departure point for the Skellig Islands. The village is renowned for its fine restaurants, serving fish straight from the boats, and its traditional pubs. Ballinskelligs boasts miles of excellent sandy beaches and is a mecca for surfers and all forms of water sports. It is an ideal base for anglers, divers, hill walkers, cyclists and those who enjoy pony trekking. Portmagee is also famous for it Traditional Irish Music & Set Dancing sessions every Friday and Sunday night at the Bridge Bar, with dancers arriving from far and near helped by a group of local set dancers.
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