Managing the cultural landscape of Sceilg Mhichíl: connecting nature and culture in a multi-stakeholder management effort

Office of Public Works
Published: 05 October 2020
Last edited: 14 November 2020
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Summary

Sceilg Michíl is the world’s most spectacular example of early medieval extreme monastic sites located on the Great Skellig, a sandstone island raising 218m above the Atlantic Ocean. The site was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1996. Additionally, the two Skelligs (Great and Litte Skellig) are also internationally recognised as Key Biodiversity Areas as one of the most important breeding grounds for seabirds.

The management of this place requires an integrated nature-culture approach taking into consideration both the rich natural and cultural values of the place.

The island is managed on the basis of the wider recognition of its multiple values (natural, cultural, social and economic) and access to the island is regulated to ensure the protection and conservation of the place’s natural and cultural values. This is put in place through a system of inter-agency cooperation and constant consultation with local actors and communities living on the Iveragh Peninsula.

Classifications

Region
North Europe
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Buildings and facilities
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Theme
Culture
Islands
Land management
Legal & policy frameworks
Local actors
Outreach & communications
World Heritage
Challenges
Shift of seasons
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
Aichi targets
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources

Location

Skellig Michael (Great Skellig), Toghroinn Fhíonáin, Kerry V23, Ireland

Challenges

  • Environmental challenges: conservation of fragile breeding grounds, sharing benefits with local actors, climate change vulnerability, conserving nature and culture in an integrated manner
  • Social challenges: changes in local communities and local actors, people’s awareness on the Outstanding Universal Value and other values, balancing conservation needs and accessibility
  • Economic challenges: local economic development, the Skelligs and the World Heritage property of Skellig Michael plays a key role for the economy of the Iveragh Peninsula through the provision of tourist services and amenities
  • Heritage-related challenges: accessibility is limited and weather-dependent, the island has a limited carrying capacity, visitors’ behaviour. 

Beneficiaries

The main beneficiary is the site as the integrated management allows for a more comprehensive understanding and management of the place. Local actors are also beneficiaries though the systems of enhanced participation and consultation.

How do the building blocks interact?

The pillar of this solution is the recognition of both cultural and natural value (BB1) as a baseline for the management and conservation of Scelig Michíl, as a World Heritage site and a heritage place. The unique features of the site require for management and conservation to be carried out in a nature-culture integrated manner to ensure the conservation of both the archaeological and built remains, and the biodiversity of the island. This important interconnectedness has strengthened the understanding of Scelig Michíl as a cultural landscape (BB2) for which the conservation of the built heritage requires specific attention to the natural features of the place and vice versa. Lastly, the management of a complex landscape requires a network of cooperation with multiple actors at the national (BB2) and local levels, with particular attention to local communities and stakeholder who have the potential of participating in informed decision-making processes. This process is facilitated through the establishment of a Scelig Michíl Stakeholder Forum (BB3), where representatives from all relevant public and private stakeholders group have the chance to meet and exchange with the site management team and the site management institutions.

Impacts

Sceilg Michíl is one of the most impressive early-monastic settlements in the world. It location on the remote rocky island of the Great Skellig makes this place even more significant. The management of Skellig Michael requires the comprehensive understanding of the site’s unique cultural and natural value as a cultural landscape, its natural conformation as a lonely rocky island well represent the ideas behind extreme monasticism and the archaeological complex of Sceilg Michíl. The integrated management strategy for the site looks at strengthening the nature-culture connections as baseline for the management and conservation of the site

The management in place, through constant processes of consultation and discussion with local communities and stakeholders as the place represents a change for local development and sustains the livelihoods of many living on the Iveragh peninsula.

Contributed by

Fergus McCormick Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí - Office of Public Works

Other contributors

ICCROM-IUCN World Heritage Leadership