Bacon, sausage, fried ham and eggs, tomatoes and toast were laid before me on a piping hot plate. From the bright bay window ahead I gazed out on a cool grey morning. St. Finnian’s bay curved outward like an emerald teacup steaming with hazy fog. Out on the water, nearly lost in the mist, the faint silhouette of a pair of mountainous rock “islands” beckoned for exploration. My mother and I scurried back to our small cottage behind the main house, part of the charming Beach Cove Bed and Breakfast.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Trips out to the fabled Skellig Islands relied on the weather, which wasn’t exactly “cheery” that morning. But the thickly accented man on the phone didn’t seem concerned. Joe Roddy and Sons charter several boats in daily trips to the Skelligs. Because the island is both a National Heritage site and a wildlife reserve, visitors must book ahead with a certified charter.
Green, grasping bushes reached out to the rental car on both sides of the road, which curved up the side of the steep hill like a lone snake, in Ireland. Thanks to the fog, visibility was a joke. We pulled into the tiny town of Portmagee and scurried through the misty rain to the dock.
Our small fishing boat hopped over the white capped waves, spraying the ten or twelve passengers at every opportunity. Within minutes, layered cliffs spotted with small caves gave way to open ocean. My mother and I chatted with the other passengers on the boat. Travelers and adventure-seekers like us; they had no way of knowing the true reason for my pilgrimage.
We continued on in a similar, rollercoaster-like fashion until Little Skellig appeared suddenly on the right. It was massive, spotted all over with white seagulls like packing peanuts. Slowing down, the boat’s motor was silenced for a few minutes of sight-seeing from the deck before it powered up again and turned towards our final destination; the Great Skellig.
Seven miles out from the southwesterly tip of Ireland, a mountain of a rock rose hundreds and hundreds of feet into the foggy air. Soon, we pulled up to a steep concrete wall adorned with an unguarded stairway of slippery stone steps. We had to time our jumps from the boat to the stairs to match the rise and fall of the waves. My heart, still pounding from the intense ride, nearly stopped. Below us, crystal water poured forth from an enchanting black cove cut into the side of the cliff. Above us, the island rose almost vertically into the sky where it vanished into fog.
Many who came choose not to attempt the hundreds of slippery, uneven steps up the side of the mountain. My mother and I had to stop and rest frequently before we reached the summit. But we kept going, cheered on by hundreds of adorable puffins who had made their nests in the vine-covered slopes of Skellig Michael.
After two years of writing and seventeen years of dreaming, I was finally here. This March, I published my first book, Kerry, Ireland A.D. 800. In this fictional tale, two children are marooned on Little Skellig and rescued by the monks of Skellig Michael. As an author, I was amazed by how much more beautiful and powerful the island was than I had ever envisioned it. When I finally stepped into the monastic ruins and saw the “beehive” stone homes of the ancient monks, it was like no other experience I ever had the privilege to enjoy. My book, my dreams, had come true.
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