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Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry

Tourists warned about dangers of visiting Skellig Michael

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Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry

A safety report detailing the dangers of the tourist hot spot Skellig Michael off the coast of County Kerry has warned that tourists must be made aware of the dangers of the ancient monk settlement.

The safety review was carried out after two US tourists died while climbing to the world heritage site, which is perched 218 meters above sea level.

Last May, Joseph Gaughan (77) from Pennsylvania, died from serious head injuries after he fell while descending the steep steps. New Yorker Christine Spooner (57) from Rochester, New York, died last September after she fell while climbing the islands steps.

Tourists must climb steep and rugged steps, which are over a thousand years old. Monks inhabited the barren island over a thousand years ago.

The report made 31 safety recommendations and noted that there was a lack of awareness among visitors about what was involved in viewing the site.

Three tourists in total have died while attempting to climb the steps to the heritage site.

At the moment there is no fencing or handrails in place to assist tourists in the ascent of the island.

Conservationists and the Office of Public Works (OPW) firmly believe that the building of a handrail will destroy the natural beauty of the site.

The OPW has reconfigured some of the steps along the steep edge and has installed a steel chain along the ledge of a steep and dangerous ledge.

The safety review recommended that there should be one departure point for all the tourist boats and that they should be told of the dangers of the world heritage site.

The review described the steep slope as a route that is more acute than many mountains, and that the terrain is less forgiving than many slopes tackled by mountaineers.

The report praised the OPW and said "the health and safety of all visitors remains an absolute priority for the OPW."

The report has insisted that notices should be placed in the press and "in all promotional literature" displaying the official opening and closing times of the island and warning tourists of the dangers of the island.

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