The magnificent Skellig Michael is one of only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Republic of Ireland. On the summit of this awe-inspiring rock off the Kerry coast is St Fionan’s monastery, one of the earliest foundations in the country. The monks who lived there prayed and slept in beehive-shaped huts made of stone, many of which remain to this day. The monks left the island in the thirteenth century. It became a place of pilgrimage and, during the time of the Penal Laws, a haven for Catholics. Following in the monks’ footsteps involves climbing 618 steep, uneven steps. Getting to the top is quite a challenge, but well worth the effort. As well as the wealth of history, there is a fantastic profusion of bird life on and around the island. Little Skellig is the second-largest gannet colony in the world.