Our guest post on the Blasket Islands in Dingle, County Kerry Ireland is from Stephanie Chastain of Infinite Ireland.
My husband and I traveled Slea Head drive on a cloudy June morning. We had initially planned to climb Mount Brandon that day, but not knowing what the skies would do, we opted to check out the Great Blasket Center located at the end of the Dingle Peninsula in southwest Ireland.
We knew the drive to the Center would be pretty–all of Ireland is pretty. I am not sure we were prepared for one jaw dropping view after another or the little treasures we found along the way: the shrines and crosses many still pay homage to, surfers at Coumeenole Beach, and temporary cliff-side waterfalls flowing into the road from rain the night before.
When we arrived at the Blasket Center, we were welcomed by the smell of scones and tea. We wandered around their illuminating exhibits for an hour or two, amazed by the stories of the land and the people. Even the threat of rain couldn’t keep us from traveling out to the islands that afternoon. Lucky for us, a boat was leaving the Dunquin Pier an hour later. We bought our tickets, walked down the steep and winding path to the boats below, and waited for the captain to arrive.
Pedro finally bounded down the path and hopped on board. I am not sure we had ever met a more gregarious Irishman before. He shared everything from entertaining drinking stories, to Blasket Island history and his delicious lunch.
Our quick journey to Great Blasket Island was punctuated by an unexpected visit from sharks, which dot the sea all around the Dingle Peninsula. Pedro slowed the boat to get inches from them. Closely watching the basking sharks feed on plankton, we were amused these majestic creatures barely took notice of us. Pedro offered to lead a quest for more sea life, but we opted for the full three hours on Great Blasket.
As soon as we landed, our party dispersed. It was as if we immediately donned the role of Blasket Island pioneer, exploring this great land on our own with little to guide us save a small lightly trodden path. The last resident of the Blaskets left in 1953 when the government could not guarantee their safety.
We decided to walk as far as we could in the time we had available around the outer edge of the island. The rich landscapes were captivating—waves crashing below, rolling green hills ahead, the sun burning through the clouds and mist. With so much to take in, we found the walk easy and we soon reached the other end.
We could have completed the loop walk on the other side, but the fear of Pedro abandoning us on the island for a night compelled us to return the way we came. Many furry friends kept us company along the way. A rather large rabbit lazily nibbled grass. A donkey taught its foal to romp in the field and a seal silently bobbed its head at us as if to say thank you for visiting this sacred place.
We rested near some abandoned homes until Pedro returned. I imagined the hard life this fishing community must have experienced. We were entirely cut off from the main land—no phones, no electricity, no running water or any other facilities. The solitude is peaceful, yet melancholy. I tried to imagine sending my husband off into the sea like so many brave wives did. I thought about what it would feel like looking out to the horizon not knowing whether he would return. I also thought about the joyous and bountiful homecoming, and the celebrations and sorrows shared between friends and family.
I was, for a moment, a Blasket Islander. But as our boat approached, the sound of its engines drew me back to the present. I looked at my husband and smiled. We were travelers once again.
Ireland captured the hearts of Stephanie and Joe Chastain on their first trip in 2006 and every time thereafter. Knowing that easy to understand, concrete and helpful information was difficult to find on the web, they created Infinite Ireland as a guide for first time visitors to Ireland. From their mistakes to secret tips and handy how to’s, with Infinite Ireland you can be sure your trip is perfectly planned. You can follow Infinite Ireland on Twitter and “like” them on Facebook.
Editors notes: In Irish, the Blasket Center is Blascaod Centre and it’s in Dún Chaoin (in English; Dunquin)
We rented a cottage with the view in the second photo in 2008. It brings back memories.