Skellig Ring named as one of top regions for travellers in Lonely Planet 2017 yearbook

The Skellig Ring — consisting of Skellig Michael, the 6th century precipitous monastic island off the coast of Kerry, its sister island the Little Skellig, and the coastal villages on the mainland — has been named among the top regions in the world for travellers in the influential Lonely Planet 2017 yearbook.

Skellig Ring named as one of top regions for travellers in Lonely Planet 2017 yearbook

The accolade puts south Kerry on a footing alongside the Azores, an ancient site in Peru, and southern Australia, and is likely to increase calls on the Office for Public Works to extend the visitor season on the Unesco world heritage site of Skellig Michael to meet demand.

The Skellig Ring is described as “perhaps Ireland’s most charismatically wild and emerald stretch of coastline” in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017.

“Glimpsed at the end of The Force Awakens, Skellig Michael will play a bigger role in this year’s sequel and local businesses are gearing up for the expected visitor bump,” it states.

While the guide recognises that “nothing beats actually landing on Skellig Michael and climbing the 600 treacherously steep stone steps to reach the intriguing, beehive-like chambers”, the string of villages from which the boats depart also offers a host of distractions — from cosy pubs and Blue Flag beaches to historic ruins, it says.

Between mid-May and mid-September of this year, some 13,500 people had visited Skellig Michael, 1,000 more than the whole of the previous season, the OPW said.

Boatmen want a return to pre-2007 arrangements which saw the island open from April to the end of October.

Seanie Murphy, who operates from Portmagee, said 74 days are lost because of the shorter season. In September, over two weeks were lost because of bad weather preventing the boats operating on the 12km sea crossing.

“It doesn’t just affect the boatmen to the Skeillig, it affects everyone — hotels, guesthouses, bars, in Killarney and all over the area,” said Mr Murphy.

The Star Wars film, while undoubtedly leading to more US visitors, makes no real odds to boat business: There is always more demand than can be met, said Mr Murphy.

The OPW has previously rejected calls to extend the season, citing bad weather in October and the need to protect the fragile island from too many visitors.

Meanwhile, TripAdvisor has given accolades to the culinary delights of Dingle, with three of the town’s restaurants earning plaudits.

Idas Restaurant in the town has come second in the fine dining category for Ireland, with two other restaurants, The Chart House and The Global Village, sixth and seventh, respectively, in the 2016 Travellers Choice Awards.

The winner is the Mulberry Garden in Dublin.

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