Overlooking the Blasket Islands at sunset from Slea Head.
Within 10 minutes of setting foot on the Great Blasket Island, we had sighted a brown hare, a fox and at least 50 common seals lounging out on the beach for all to see – there were also a few donkeys pottering about the old lane-ways! The weather had cleared up following a disastrously rainy morning and we took off down to the beach as the sun blazed down upon us. We learned from a local guide on the island that the seals had been brought to shore due to the stormy weather – they flopped and frolicked around as we carefully considered their every move from a distance.
Following this, a talk was provided by the OPW on the local characters that once inhabited the island, giving some background to the harshness of island life and what led to the eventual abandonment of the Blaskets as a home for many. There was freedom on this day to explore and imagine what life was like for those who were forced to leave in order to survive and keep up with rapidly changing times.
The Blaskets were abandoned in the 1950s as harsh weather conditions and an ageing population cut the Great Blasket off from the Dingle mainland more than ever. Due to their remoteness, the Blaskets served as a great peek into Irish tradition and what life was like in rural Ireland. Interestingly enough, the Blaskets seemed to have spurred a literary spree, with several writers, authors and artists coming from this small place (Peig Sayers and Tomas O’Crohan are the most well-known, having made their way onto Irish syllabi for the last few decades).