Conservationists in Ireland fear that an island off its south-west coast could be stripped of its Unesco world heritage status thanks to a spike in tourist numbers after it appeared in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Visitor numbers to Skellig Michael increased after Rey (Daisy Ridley) walked its slopes in the film. An Taisce, Ireland's national trust, says the site has been "hijacked" by the Star Wars link.

Skellig Michael juts 218m out of the Atlantic Ocean about 13km off Ireland's southwest. More than 600 steps carved out of rock take visitors up 200m around sheer cliffs to the remains of a church, graveyard and six stone beehive huts where monks fasted and prayed from the 6th century to the 13th century.

Skellig Michael has Unesco world heritage status.
Skellig Michael has Unesco world heritage status.

"We consider that the state-supported use of the monastic island and its promotion by Failte Ireland as a Disney-Lucas film location is now endangering its continued designation as a World Heritage Site," An Taisce said in a letter to Josepha Madigan, Ireland's Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht.

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Preservation requirements mean that visitor numbers to Skellig Michael are usually limited to 11,100 people a year, but that jumped to 16,755 this year.

Alex Connolly of Failte Ireland, the national tourism development agency, said that "there is no danger that the island will be damaged or diminished" and that the Star Wars connection would "raise the profile of Ireland to a wider demographic".