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Great Blasket Ghost Island

Great Blasket Ghost Island - Ireland

Often shrouded in mist and invisible from the mainland which is only just over a mile away, lies the island of Great Blasket, which for its size and position was miraculously able to produce three of Ireland’s greatest writers, Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Peig Sayers and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin who wrote about life on the island and growing up in the tight knit community.

Great Blasket Derelict HouseJust off the coast of Dunmore Head on the Dingle coastline, the island is 4 miles long and rises to a lofty 300 m at its high point.

To reach the island, visitors must travel on the summer ferry that leaves from its nearest large town, Dunquin.

People lived on the island until 1953 when the Irish government finally decided it couldn’t guarantee the safety of the population which had regularly been cut off from the world for weeks on end in great storms. At that time only 22 people remained with the majority having left because of the danger or because young people wanted to pursue a more fulfilling life on the Irish mainland.

Great Blasket RuinsMany of the islanders homes are now just ruins, including those of O Criomhthain O Suilleabhain. The home of Sayers was restored and used as part of the hostel that visitors could stay in if the weather turned bad.

Until its forced evacuation, the island was the furthest west settlement in Ireland and the population which at its peak was no more that 150 lived peaceably, fishing the inlets and coves of the rocky west coast. Most of the homes were built on the north east shore where the high point of the island gave them shelter from stormy westerlies.

Great Blasket Harbour
Nobody knows for sure exactly when Great Blasket was first inhabited. According to one report the first dwellers settled in 1710, whilst rather surprisingly the log of a Spanish vessel records the islands being populated with Spanish speakers in 1597.

Whilst no one knows for sure, there is also a good chance that it was early monks who first colonised the island having come in search of and finding the tranquillity and solitude they needed for their communion with God. From that day on, the inhabitants had to make the best of a difficult life, gleaning what they could from the land and sea to survive.

Great Blasket Old House
The decision to evacuate the island came after the islanders had been cut off from the mainland for weeks in April 1947. They made an emergency call to the president, Éamon de Valera, requesting that supplies be taken urgently to the island where the inhabitants were in danger of starvation. After several more similar situations, the Irish parliament voted to evacuate the island for the safety of the inhabitants.

Up to 2007 the government still has problems with the island. They want to make the island into a national park but an individual contested that he owns a greater part of it and wants to be compensated.  Finally an agreement signed in 2007 resolving the differences between the government and Blascaoid Mor Teoranta (BMT) paved the way for 95% of the island, including the old village to become National Park.

Great Blasket and Sybil Head

Great Blasket Island remains uninhabited today and only the occasional visitor from the mainland, brave enough to take the tiny ferry, disturbs its peace. It is a remote and wildly beautiful place where you can spend several hours or all day at one with its natural beauty and what remains of years of human existence on the island.

There are high peaks and sublime, powdery white sand beaches, turquoise waters and emerald fields. There’s almost a magical, other-worldly feel to the place and if you can brave the choppy waters of the Atlantic, it’s a sight you’ll never forget.