Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Skellig Experience - continuing the Irish Travels Tale

4"x9.75" watercolor on rough 140lb. paper.
For more information, or to purchase, click here. Plein air view of Little Skellig and Skellig Michael from our host's home, "Art on the Ring of Kerry" with Barbara Mastaglio.

On Tuesday, during our Irish painting expedition the weather and seas were fine enough to take the journey off shore to visit Skellig Michael.  The small boat ride out is not bad at all, but the trip to the top can be a bit precarious. This place looks like a pyramid shaped rock roughly 7-10 miles off the coast of Ireland from Valentia Island. A visitor center called, "The Skellig Experience" shows a film about what you are about to see and experience, and is one of the places you can catch a boat out to the skellig.  Once you're out there, there's no 'messing about'.  This was my fifth or sixth trip out there (jeez, I've lost count now), and they currently have added a guide to meet you near the base of the rock to let you know that not everyone has to climb up there to experience the place. After all, it IS quite steep, there are about 700 steps to the top (who's counting?!) and it IS a strenuous trip up there.  Many in our group chose to stay near the base of the skellig- that gave them about an hour or so to sketch.  You really can't take much with you out there as you don't want a lot of weight to drag up those stairs if you choose to take the trip up. You DO need to be 'hands free' for what ever you decide to take, a VERY small back-pack/day-pack or cross-body strapped bag is about all that you would want to have with you. Just enough to hold your camera, a bottle of water to drink (note- there IS NO restroom). On the various trips out there I've found that while the trip across the water can be cool or windy, once you're at the top within the place where the monks lived, it's almost like a warm little micro-climate. You'll be peeling off your layers and tying them around your waist. 
So - mid-way up, it looks like this:
 You start to think the stairs will never end. There are twists and turns in some places. Some years I've been it didn't seem too tough (and I was younger then!). 
If you go in June, the puffins are still nesting there, and are a most amazing thing to see!! (this photo from one of my previous trips out there)
Their nests are all over this rock of an island, and every where along the path you are climbing to the top. 

You'll hear them, they sound like a miniature power saw! Click on this link and scroll down to "Sounds" .
 Now, nature isn't everything you'll see here, although that in itself is pretty amazing! Once you've made the climb to the top, an ancient monastic site with ancient stone beehive huts awaits you. 

The history of this place is quite amazing.  Guides await your arrival to help you understand what you are seeing. 
Now,  this seems like the kind of place with enough interest to keep you focused all day, but if you've made the climb to the top, you don't have time to linger. The tides wait for no man! (or painters, climbers, sketchers, etc).  Remember, there are no facilities on this place (no lav, loo, potty, tidy toilet, etc), and your boat captain is awaiting his turn to pull in to the rock step to pick you up.  Most of the boats wait just off the skellig, some a bit closer in!
 um, yeah, remember to not look down over the edge! (gulp, seriously!) You don't want to end up like one of the monks (not on this trip anyways!
Once you are safely back on your boat, say good-bye to the island as it gets smaller in your line of vision.
and keep your eyes pealed as your captain takes the boat close to Little Skellig.  You might spot a seal lounging on the rocks, as the waves crash around the island.  

Above, gannets with their huge wing span soar.  Some are lining the sides, all in rows, stacks and rows of birds!  All that white stuff? yep, bird poop. hmm. But who needs to know that? The 'keyholes' and caves in the rock lend an air of great mystery!
Gradually, the islands become two big pyramids in the ocean as we head back home.
A kayaker followed our boat in for a short while in the channel, until he could no longer keep up!
As we come closer to the pier on Valentia Island, at the "Skellig Experience" you'll pass by the old telegraph houses, where the workers lived who laid the first transAtlantic telegraph cable. (and now this telegraph field is for sale, check that link!).   So yes, there was life before cell-phones! 
So there you have it- a condensed version tour of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can visit this next summer with me! Click on this link to find out a bit more about my workshop next summer on Valentia Island!  

A day at sea (and a climb like that) takes a LOT out of a painter, so I opted to make a couple water-color post-card sketches. We set up on the lawn outside of "Skellig-Experience" which over looks the channel between Valentia Island and the mainland- which is the beautiful fishing village of Portmagee. Right across the way fishing boats were coming in. Colorful buildings make up the main street along the waterfront. Bridge Bar was calling our names, "Dinner, Guinness, Harp, chowder, fresh fish" etc. Well, you get the idea.  We were sitting in the sun, but a quick drop in temperature at the end of a long days adventure made us more hungry than ever!
   I'll be drawing the names of two blog subscribers tonight -to receive a post-card done on location that day.  I'll post the names as soon as I have the winners permission! Thanks for following along on the adventure! I do hope you'll join me next summer! Please take some time to peruse Barbara Mastaglio's website for "Art on the Ring of Kerry". This is such a wonderful place to visit, Barbara makes you feel like a local! And on top of all that, I'll be teaching palette knife technique as well as "decision making for plein air painting", with demos, talks, and personal critiques of your work.

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Blogger Maureen said...

Thanks for sharing this Roxanne. The Skelligs are amazing!

September 17, 2013 at 6:10 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Thanks for sharing this Roxanne. The Skelligs are quite amazing!

September 17, 2013 at 6:11 PM  
Blogger Roxanne Steed said...

Glad you enjoyed it Maureen!

September 17, 2013 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger Cheryl Kling said...

You had me at Puffin! thanks for sharing your experience. I'm getting in shape now for those stairs.

September 18, 2013 at 8:54 AM  
Blogger Roxanne Steed said...

Thanks Cheryl- I can't wait for you to see this next summer!

September 18, 2013 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Cindy Williams said...

This is a great post! Thank you for sharing, puffins have evaded me since I have lived in the UK. I want to see one up close. Very nice painting too :)

September 18, 2013 at 11:04 PM  
Blogger Roxanne Steed said...

Thanks so much Cindy! Those little birds are pretty amazing! I realized how powerful they are once I saw them fly & fish. They are really tough little creatures!

September 19, 2013 at 9:59 AM  

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