(Image: public domain)
The notorious sea mist swirling around the Dingle coast often conceals the Blaskets despite their proximity to the mainland. Situated only two kilometers off Dunmore Head in County Kerry, Ireland, and former home to several noted writers, Great Blasket Island – the largest of the group – has been abandoned since 1953 when the Irish government decided it could no longer guarantee the safety of its remaining residents.
Until that time, a small fishing community perched on the relatively sheltered north-east shore looking over the Atlantic Ocean. Even at its peak, the population was little more than 150 inhabitants living in primitive cottages that form the now deserted village. The beginning of the end came in April 1947 when severe storms cut Great Blasket Island off from the mainland for several weeks, prompting the government to send emergency supplies to inhabitants. The island was finally deserted less than a decade later, leaving behind a moody and mysterious landscape dotted with romantic ruins.
More recent times saw a hostel and cafe open on the island, and a ferry taking visitors across during summer months. But a dispute between the Irish state, which wants to turn the Blaskets into a national park, and the individual who claims to own most of the land, forced visitor accomodation to close. As of 2008 an agreement has reportedly been reached to sell 95 per cent of the land – including the abandoned village – to the Irish state for use as a national park.
(Image: Profrap, public domain)
Incredibly, the tiny population of Great Blasket Island yielded a number of gifted writers. Through their work, Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Peig Sayers and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin offered a vivid glimpse into the romantic yet harsh realities of life in an isolated island community, while helping to keep alive local folk tales. The ruins of Ó Súilleabháin’s childhood home (above) are extant today, assuming the ubiquitous sea mist doesn’t cut the Blaskets off from the mainland.