June 5 -- Skellig Michael

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Monday, June 5. We got up early and headed down to Portmagee to catch a boat out to Skellig Michael, the fourth and final World Heritage site we visited on this trip. (As an aside, I've now been to 17 World Heritage sites. Only 795 to go! Holly's somewhat behind with 12 sites -- slacker!)

Skellig Michael is truly amazing - an incredible combination of nature, history, and geography. It's an island about 12 km off the coast of southwest Ireland that was chosen by early Christian monks as a site for spiritual retreat in the seventh century AD. Today, you can climb up to the top of the island (714 feet above the sea) and see the ruins of their monastery.

Skellig Michael and its neighboring island are also home to a bird sanctuary, which means that the islands are covered with thousands of sea birds, including nature's cutest bird, the puffin. It's tough to capture the experience of circling the islands with thousands of birds flying all around you, but the slideshow might get at it a bit.

After the Skelligs, it was back in the car for the drive to Adare, outside of Limerick, where we stayed at Clonunion House, a b&B that was formerly a stud ranch for raising horses, including a horse graveyard in the back.

The following morning we got up and headed into the airport in Shannon. A brief 16 hours later, we touched down at SFO, tired and a bit overwhelmed and happy to be home again.