Skellig Michael will remain closed to visitors for at least another three weeks, meaning the Irish island made famous by Star Wars could be facing its shortest-ever tourist season.

The isolated UNESCO World Heritage site, which featured extensively in the galactic blockbuster The Last Jedi, had been due to open up to tourists on May 15 for the outpost's already-restricted four-and-a-half month visitor season.

But the Office of Public Works (OPW) has confirmed that staff has still not been able to access the fragile Co. Kerry site to carry out pre-season safety checks due to continued bad weather.

The OPW also revealed that the maintenance work, which will include a thorough examination of each of the 600 stone steps on the ancient monastic outcrop, and which under normal circumstances would have commenced in early April, will take about three weeks in total.

That means the island, which has become a mecca for Star Wars fans from all over the world, is facing a certain delay to the start of the 2018 season, with the OPW admitting it is not in a position to confirm when the site will be opened up.

The delay to the start of the season will also create a huge headache for the 15 boatmen who have been granted permits to land tourists on the island this year.  Each boat operator is already restricted to ferry a maximum of 12 passengers a day to the protected island.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the OPW said, "Weather conditions continue to be poor and no access to the island is possible in the short term.

"The OPW have not yet been in a position to start pre-season maintenance works and general preparations for the season. Understanding that these will about three weeks to complete once we are able to get on the island, the starting date for the season remains to be confirmed."

Interest in the stunning Atlantic outpost has surged globally over the past few seasons due to the Star Wars effect.

In 2015 visitor numbers stood at 12,560 and jumped to 14,548 in 2016, and surged sharply again last year to 16,755.  The OPW has attributed the increase in figures between 2016 and 2017 to the rise in boat permits from 13 to 15 between those two years.    

In its statement the OPW also confirmed that this year's visitor season will close at the end of September 2018, which will certainly mean that Skellig Michael will be open to visitors for less than the usual four-and-a-half months.

Meanwhile, Star Wars fans traveling to West Kerry this weekend can look forward to a band new festival, the three-day May the Fourth Be With You carnival.

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Skellig MichaelCaspar Diederick