Nick McCaveney travels to a galaxy not so far away where scenes from the latest Star Wars film were shot

I’M bouncing around our fishing boat with unbridled glee as we steer towards the Skellig Islands off the west coast of Ireland.

Christian monks inhabited the island for 500 years a millennium ago, but it was the arrival of the Millennium Falcon last year, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that has shot the small rocky outcrops into international stardom.

I do wonder what the monks of the Middle Ages would make of the sudden influx of Star Wars tourists, and the fact their monastery will feature as a Jedi outpost for Luke Skywalker in the 8th Star Wars instalment, The Last Jedi.

Approaching Skellig Michael, the larger of the two islands, is a magical journey. There are loud squawks as we pull into the dock, and puffins zip past my ears as I wander along a cliff path to the foot of the ancient walkway leading up the mountainside.

Only 13 boats are licensed to make the journey to Skellig Michael, but they won’t dock if the water is too rough. Thankfully, the Force is on my side and I’m one of the lucky 114 visitors that’s allowed to walk on the protected island on the day of my visit. But we’re still outnumbered by puffins at least 10 to one.

The delightful birds, with bright orange beaks and feet, are everywhere, poking their heads out of every nook and cranny along the hillside as I hike to the island’s cradle.

“The puffins come for the tourist season,” our guide tells me as I head up the slated steps, as Rey did on her journey to meet Luke, until I reach the island’s cradle.

Rey must have run straight past Luke on her way to the monastery, which is further up beyond the point where they meet in the film.

I take a few minutes to soak up the splendid views out to Little Skellig and Co Kerry, posing on the spot with a lightsaber and Yoda toy that someone has thoughtfully brought with them. Most people appear to be content with the cradle, but my journey is only half complete, so I continue to the 1000-year-old monastery, leaving others behind. Being alone helps me understand why the monks built their small place of worship on this island, which they believed was at the end of the earth. I explore the six stone huts and small cemetery with childish enthusiasm, continually reminding myself this is where the greatest Jedi ever lived.

Daisy Ridley (Rey) was sick for most of the time during filming for The Force Awakens, my hotelier, Gerard Kennedy, tells me as we sit down for dinner in Portmagee later on.

“She was very nervous too,” he says, although admits she appeared much more relaxed when the production crew returned in August 2015 to film scenes for Star Wars VIII.

He’s also quick to point out there were no A-list egos on show.

“They were both very down to earth. Mark Hamill even pulled a pint over there,” he explains, pointing to one of their taps which has now features in their Star Wars tour for guests.

Gerard managed the Moorings hotel for 27 years and believes the Wild Atlantic Way driving route is mainly responsible for the area’s popularity.

The following morning, I continue my journey along the Way to Valentia Island, which is seeing a resurgence in slate production thanks largely to a hefty order from the British Government to redo the roofing on the Houses of Parliament.

A long time ago, a dinosaur left its footprints in a rock on the island’s shore. Two separate and easily identifiable tracks were discovered by a geology undergraduate in 1993, and there is also evidence of the tetrapod’s tail, carved around 385 million years ago.

Later that night, I witness something that may have taken just as long to arrive in our skies - not from another galaxy, but certainly from far, far away - as I join a stargazing experience at Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve, one of only three ‘gold tier’ reserves on the planet. Every photon I see from the stars is absolutely unique, explains manager, Julie Ormond.

It may not be Star Wars, but this little island is out of this world. For more information, visit