Photo courtesy of Bill Hottell

Five of the 26 travelers who accompanied local historian Bill Hottell on a recent trip to Ireland took a break atop the remote rock island called Skellig Michael, off the coast of County Kerry. From left, Walt Havens, Louise Stevens, Suzi

Jennings, Scott Jennings and Kathleen Havens had to negotiate 619 steps carved out of stone to reach the top, where there are the remnants of the sixth-century monastery. Some of the island’s stone beehive huts (which were inhabited by monks) and tombstones have survived 1,500 years, according to Hottell. In the background is Lesser Skellig, a small island that is home to 54,000 gannets, Hottell said. Everyone on the trip had studied Irish history under Hottell’s tutelage to prepare for the journey.