Image of the Week: Great Blasket Island
Updated: May 22, 2020
One of the great archipelagos off the southwest coast of Ireland is the Blasket Islands, also known as Na Blascaodaí in the Irish language. The archipelago includes 6 islands: Great Blasket Island (An Bhlascaod Mór), Beginish (Beiginis), Inishnabro (Inis na Bró), Inishvickillane (Inis Mhic Uileáin), Inishtooskert (Inis Tuaisceart), Tearaght Island (An Tiaracht). Each year, my hiking group head to the Great Blasket to hike, swim and camp overnight, taking in the silence of the surroundings while looking back at the Irish mainland. It is a very special place, where we hope we can return to on August 11th when the islands are expected to be open to visitors once again. Click on any of the photos to enlarge them.
There is a ferry service that calls only to the Great Blasket and sails from Dunquin. This ferry service is mainly for day-trippers. People can also camp on the island overnight. As you can see, there is also a fantastic beach on the island, which seals frequent.
A view from An Cró Mór, the highest point of Great Blasket (292m/958ft),
looking back to the Irish mainland.
The Great Blasket is rich in animal life and is teeming with rabbits. Seabirds which never frequented the coast of the mainland were abundant there, and they are still to be found, though not in such numbers since their food supply decreased. These include the storm petrel, guillemots, puffins, razorbills, the Manx shearwater, and the black guillemot.
In terms of plant life, the Great Blasket is coated on top with a covering of furze, whins and heather, with peat (or bog or turf) beneath much of it. Turf, at a depth of one sod below the stripped surface, was usually cut with a spade.
The Blasket Islands are the most westerly point in Europe and the Great Blasket is located 3 miles off the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. In the past few years a number of the houses have been restored and amenities added for visitors.
One of the views from the western end of Great Blasket back to the Irish mainland.
Day visitors sitting close to around 150 seals, who are taking in the sun.
The Great Blasket is a lot larger than I initially thought, there are three small hills on the island and it takes rougly 3 hours to hike around its circumference.
One of the many sheep on the Great Blasket, they keep the island well trimmed back,
which makes it a lot easier to hike around.
The Blasket islands were inhabited until 1953 by a completely Irish-speaking population and today are part of the Gaeltacht or Irish speaking region. At its peak, the islands had 175 residents. The population declined to 22 by 1953. The government evacuated the remaining residents to the mainland on 17 November 1953 because of increasingly extreme weather that left the island cut off from emergency services. The evacuation was seen as necessary by both the Islanders and the government. Many former residents still live on the Dingle Peninsula, within sight of their former home.
The old school bell lays rusting in one of the many fields on the eastern side of Great Blasket, giving a hint that people once lived and worked on the island.
The view from the most westerly tip of the Great Blasket, with Tearaght on the right, Inishnabro in the centre and the island Charles Haughey once bought, Inishvickillane on the left.
For information on boat trips, click here
For more information on the islands, click here
For a moving story about the last islander to visit his home one final time, click here
For a beautifully shot video showing the Great Blasket, click here