Ireland’s Skellig Michael has become one of the country’s most famous attractions, but it might soon be more difficult for tourists to visit.
The towering rock island in the Atlantic Ocean, home to an early medieval monastic settlement and one of the most important sites for breeding seabirds in Ireland, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as a Statutory Nature Reserve, a Special Protection Area, and a proposed Natural Heritage Area.
But it’s likely the island being one of the filming locations of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and Episode VIII: The Last Jedi in 2014 and 2015 that brought the increase of visitors to the site. According to The Irish Times, the numbers have been steadily rising — from 12,560 visitors in 2015 to just under 14,700 visitors in 2016 and 16,755 visitors in 2017. Skellig Michael is open to visitors between mid-May and September 30.
With this influx of visitor numbers comes concerns over the preservation of the site, so Ireland is looking to enact new measures to limit visits further. Several agencies have been asked by the Office of Public Works to prepare new management plans for Skellig Michael. (There was a management plan for the site between 2008 and 2018.)
While nothing is set in stone yet, one proposal — set forth by An Taisce (the National Trust) — calls for the island to “attach a capacity level for visitors equal with safety and the conservation of the site. A strictly-defined limit on the number of visitors in any daily period is needed.” UNESCO has also recommended measures like stricter regulations for boatmen operating tours to the island.