The Blasket Islands - Na Blascaodaí

ní bheidh ár leithéidí ann arís 

Tomás Ó Criomhthain

On the most western point of the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland and Europe, are The Blasket Islands (Na Blascaodaí). This stunning archipelago of islands are renowned for their magnificent beauty and rugged wildness; literary heritage of the Great Blasket,  An Blascaod Mór; magical marine life – seals, whales and dolphins; puffins and array of sea birds; the “Cathedral Rocks” of Inis na Bró; the most westerly lighthouse of Ireland - An Tiaracht; and our famous “Sleeping Giant”, An Fear Marbh (Inis Tuaisceart).

People are recorded to have been living on the Blaskets in 1597 but the population ebbed and flowed. About 150 people lived there in 1840, but after the Great Famine that had decreased to 100. The population is said to have reached a peak of 176 in 1916.  Sadly, the once vibrant Blasket Island community declined as a result of the persistent emigration of its young people, until eventually the Island was abandoned in 1953 when only 22 inhabitants remained.

The way of life on these remote Atlantic islands has been documented by the islanders who dictated or wrote their stories down, and from these came three great works: the autobiography of the story-teller Peig Sayers, which became a set text in Irish schools; The Islandman by Tomás Ó Criomhthain, whose elegant, dry memoir was a lament for a passing way of life; and Twenty Years A-Growing by Muiris Ó Súilleabháín, who wrote about what it was like to leave the island forever.

The story of the Blasket Islands and its people are presented at the Ionad an Bhlascaoid, the Blasket Centre in Dún Chaoin (Dunquin).

During the summer months it is possible to visit the Great Blasket Island by boat. Journey back in time to see the reality of how the islanders lived and appreciate the unique isolation and beauty of the Great Blasket. As you travel across the Blasket Sound and see the deserted village above you, you will feel the draw of a people who have become known worldwide. The books which they penned have been translated into many languages and have been read by people from every walk of life. Watch the seals during your crossing as you will probably get to meet a seal or two, and be under no illusion they are also gazing at you! It is believed by many that people’s souls live on in the seals……

abandoned village on blasket island with boat and mainland in background

Boats to the Blasket Islands

Blasket Island Boat Trips and Excursions

Ferries operate to the Great Blasket Island from April to October (weather permitting) and leave from Cé Dún Chaoin (Dunquin Pier) or from the Marina in Dingle. You can spend a few hours exploring the Island, the deserted village, An Trá Bán (the white beach) and the network of narrow paths used by the islanders. There are boat tours, eco tours and adventure tours which will bring you on stunning scenic and nature trips around the Blasket Islands to experience the majestic scenery and wonderful marine and birdlife of the area. These operate from Ceann Trá, Ventry and Dingle. See Blasket Island Tours.

an aerial photo of the blasket centre with the sea and great blasket island  dingle peninsula ireland

Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir - Blasket Centre

The Blasket Island Visitor Centre

Learn all about the Blasket Islands and its people at the Ionad an Bhlascaoid, the Blasket Centre in Dún Chaoin (Dunquin) on the Slea Head Drive. This fascinating heritage and cultural centre / museum tells the story of island life, the community’s struggle for existence, their language and culture, and the extraordinary literary legacy they left behind. Their story is told using a variety of means – exhibitions, interactive displays, artefacts, audio visual presentations and artworks.There is a café and bookshop on site and The Great Blasket Island is visible from the Centre.

The Blasket Island Writers

Blasket Island Literature

In the 1920s and 1930s the Blasket Island writers produced books which are deemed classics in the world of literature. They wrote of Island people living on the very edge of Europe, and brought to life the topography, life and times of their Island. They wrote all of their stories in the Irish language.Three autobiographies by Tomás O’Crohan, Maurice O’Sullivan and Peig Sayers capture the life and culture of the Blasket Islands before the 1953 evacuation and the spoken Irish of a geographically isolated people  They gathered much interest both in Ireland and internationally and were translated into English and various other languages and continue to be reprinted.

map of the blasket islands

The Spanish Armada

Sinking of the Santa Maria de la Rosa

In 1588 a few Spanish Armada ships took shelter in the Blasket Sound, the area between Dunquin and the Blasket Islands. On the September 21, 1588 ‘The Santa Maria de la Rosa’ sank here with one survivor of 250 on board. The ‘San Juan de Portugal’ commanded by Juan Martínez de Recalde who had experience of this coast from the 1580 siege at Smerwick Harbour also anchored here. Recalde’s ship returned to Corunna in October 1588. Of 500 men 170 died on the journey. A monument to the Spanish Armada was erected in Dunquin in 1988.

Tomás Ó Criomhthain house Blasket Island restored by OPW

Tomás Ó Criomhthain house

OPW restoration of Blasket island Writer's home

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has recently restored the original house of the renowned Great Blasket Island writer Tomás Ó Criomhthain. The house in the abandoned village on The Great Blasket provides an authentic visitor experience and brings to life the harsh living conditions endured by the local community before the Island was finally abandoned by the 22 remaining inhabitants in 1953. The house which was in a roofless, derelict condition has been restored in a traditional manner to a high standard.

two dolphins jumping Dingle Peninsula photo by Dingle Sea Safari

Wildlife of the Blasket Islands

Sea Birds, Basking sharks,whales,seals,dolphins

The waters surrounding the Blasket Islands are teeming with life. Watch out for basking sharks, dolphins, minke whales and seals. Look up at the dramatic sea cliffs of the islands and you will see a wide variety of bird life - sea birds, gannets, puffins, manx shearwaters and maybe even a herd of deer on Inishvickillane. Tearaght Island is a protected Nature Reserve.

Bird watching on the Dingle Peninsula PDF

Marine Wildlife Tours on the Dingle Peninsula

How to get to the Blasket Islands

Ferries to the Blasket Islands run from Dún Chaoin pier and Dingle Marina.

Blasket Islands

Links to local providers