Spectacular Scenery on Na Blascaodaí (The Blaskets)
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Beyond its famously scenic mainland, Ireland offers a tremendous variety of islands that are great to explore. The Aran Islands, visible from the Cliffs of Moher, are probably the most popular Irish archipelagos for tourists and day trippers. But a less-known destination that’s fantastic for lovers of wildlife is the Na Blascaodaí or “Blasket” group of islands. Holiday makers, bird lovers and photographers get a unique experience on the six Na Blascaodaí islands that rise out of the Atlantic about six kilometers off the tip of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry.
A Lonely Outpost Visitors can take a car hire Ireland to the ferry in Dunquin. Which takes about 20 minutes to reach the Islands. Unlike, the Aran Islands, Na Blascaodaí are no longer inhabited. They do, however, bear the marks of residents who lived on the rocky outcroppings all the way up until 1953, when the government decided that the last twenty or so islanders would be better-protected from the harsh weather conditions if they were moved to the mainland.
The Blaskets have a worldwide reputation, partly because old ways of live that were preserved on these lonely outposts attracted tremendous interest from anthropologists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Researchers wrote several books about life on the islands, which encouraged islanders to write books of their own, many of which gained a worldwide audience.
The biggest island, An Blascaod Mór (called simply “The Great Blasket Island” in English), is a popular haunt for visitors keen to get a look at the stunning environment that sustained its inhabitants for so long. At its peak, some 175 people resided on An Blascaod Mór and made a living by working its land. Despite the island being deserted, it continues to captivate visitors with its old village and its rocky landscape, constantly battered by winds and crashing waves.
Writer's Paradise Visitors to Blascaod Mór like to stroll its 6.5 kilometer length, which includes peaks that rise 292 meters high. Along the way, walkers can see the ruined cottages that housed the Irish-speaking population. Among them were famous writers including Muiris Ó Súilleabháin, Tomás Ó Criomhthain and Peig Sayers, who wrote Twenty Years A-Growing, The Islandman and An Old Woman's Reflections, respectively. There are also several pre-historic sites on the Island, showing that people somehow subsisted there many centuries ago.
Day-trippers enjoy the varied wildlife of the island. The waters surrounding the archipelago are home to a colony of seals, whales and basking sharks, while a huge variety of seabirds live there, including puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars and European storm petrels. Visitors generally get off the ferry and explore the main island for an hour or two, after which they have the option of cruising around the six island archipelago before returning to the mainland.