The Southwest: Places to Explore

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Great Blasket Island

The Great Blasket, which measures roughly 3 km by 1 km (2 miles by ½ mile), has no traffic, no pub, no hotel, and no electricity. Yet this island—centerpiece of the An Bhlaskaoid Mhóir (Blasket Islands)—is one of the most memorable places in Ireland to visit.

Until 1954 a small community of hardy fisherfolk and subsistence farmers eked out a living here.

Today, visitors are usually attracted by the literary heritage of the island—the Irish-language writings of Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Muiris Ó Suilleabhain, and Peig Sayers (also known in English as Tomás O Crohán and Maurice O'Sullivan)—but what makes people return is something else: a rare quality of light and an intense peace and quiet in beautiful, unspoiled surroundings.

The inadequacy of the existing piers limits visitors to the island to a maximum of about 400 per day, a figure that is reached only rarely, with the average under 200. Most visitors stay for three or four hours, walking, sketching, or taking photographs.

The silence strikes you at once. The seabirds, stonechats, and swallows sound louder than on the mainland; sheep graze silently on the steep hillside. The simple domestic ruins are very touching; you do not need to know the history to work out what happened to their owners (most departed for other places, with many settling in Springfield, Massachusetts).

Before you go, read Maurice O'Sullivan's Twenty Years a-Growing, a fascinating account of a simple way of life that has only recently disappeared on the Blaskets. For an overview of the island's more recent history, read Hungry for Home: Leaving the Blaskets: A Journey from the Edge of Ireland by Cole Moreton.

Great Blasket Island at a Glance

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