Monday, 8 August 2011

Skellig Herzog

Just a very quick detour from the Video Nasties series before we return with House by the Cemetery… My good friend and fellow blogger Martin gave me the idea for this post, based on his series of excellent dispatches from Hong Kong at his fantastic blog A Hero Never Dies. At the weekend I rescued my scanner from a mound of boxes, still unopened from our house move back in March (?) and was scanning some old photos, when I found some pics of a trip we made in 2004 to the Skellig Islands, two small steep rock islands that loom out of the Atlantic ocean, 8 miles off the South West coast of Ireland. This extraordinary, primordial world has a special meaning for me, as it was here in 1975 that Werner Herzog filmed the strange and haunting final sequence of his film Heart of Glass

An aeriel shot of Skellig Micheal, the larger of the two rocks where a colony of monks lived in isolation. Blow up the image and you can just make out the ruins of the monastic settlement which still stands today. This is where Herzog shot the footage for Heart of Glass

Passing Skellig Beag (“Little Skellig”) on the way to Skellig Michael. You can’t land on this island as the cliff walls are too steep and the terrain dangerous to negotiate. In the foreground my wife, Irene looks on, praying for a quick death due to extreme sea sickness !

Skellig Michael. If you blow up the image you can see the steps the monks fashioned out of the rock, leading up to the beehive huts where they lived on the Northwestern peak of the island. Skellig Beag is in the background, giving an idea of the distance between both islands.

Werner Herzog remembered the island in his commentary on the Heart of Glass DVD - I love this place, it’s actually Skellig Rock…a settlement of medieval Irish monks who exactly in the year 1000 were tossed off the cliff by marauding Norsemen, by Vikings and since then its uninhabited, but some of their igloo type huts, stone huts are still remaining. (You could get out) by boat but not during the winter months when the waves are too high, its too dangerous, you can’t land on this rock island… Don’t ask me how difficult it was to get out here, I was in a small boat and everybody was getting sick and vomiting and freezing and rain… Its is a spectacular place, I truly love it, that is ecstatic landscape for me…this vista is almost like the romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich looking down from the rocks of Rügen Island...

The islanders prepare to sail out to the edge of the world in Heart of Glass. This final sequence filmed at Skellig Michael can be viewed here


  1. Excellent photos Wes, looks like a great place to visit, unfortunately I haven't got particularly good sea legs and imagine I would be praying for that quick death you mentioned. Thanks for the plug!

  2. It was a gruelling journey I must admit, 50min of sailing into the surging waters of the Gulf Stream, but worth it. I shot a whole reel of film over there but only these photographs have surfaced so far, the rest got misplaced in the house-move.

  3. What a spectacular place! Kudos for braving the unkind seas to get out there - I'd like to go if I ever find myself in that part of the world!

  4. Craig, you might be seeing this majestic lump of rock on the big screen next year, as the new Star Wars film spent 5 days filming there this summer - apparently the wily local boatmen were charging the production company a thousand euros a day to haul equipment to and from the island...