If you’re thinking about visiting the Blasket Islands in Kerry, you’ve landed in the right place.
Ireland is home to many ruggedly remote nooks and crannies, but few are as isolated as the Blasket Islands in Kerry.
Offering a real chance for adventure, or a short trip to a place that time almost forgot, visiting the islands is an incredible experience.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from where to grab the Blasket Islands ferry (to the Great Blasket Island) to what there is to see and do on the island.
Some quick need-to-knows about the Blasket Islands
So, a visit to the Blasket Islands is a little less straightforward that a visit to some of Kerry’s other islands, like Valentia Island.
Pay particular attention to the ‘getting there’ section, as there are a few different companies offering ferries to the Blaskets.
There are 6 principal Blasket islands, all located west of the Dingle Peninsula in Kerry. The largest, Great Blasket, lies around 2 km from Dunmore Head, on the mainland.
The island of Tearaght is the most easterly point of the Republic of Ireland, though it remains uninhabited.
2. The Great Blasket Island
The name gives it away slightly, but the Great Blasket Island is indeed the largest of the 6 main Blasket Islands. It’s also the one that you can visit, either as a day trip or an overnight stay.
The Great Blasket Island was inhabited until 1953, by a hardy, completely Irish-speaking population of mostly fishermen and farmers. Nowadays much of the old village lies in ruins, though some houses have been restored and are open for visitors.
3. Getting to the Great Blasket Island
So, you’ll need to take a ferry to the Great Blasket Island. There are a few options to choose from (Dingle and Dun Chaoin) and we’ll take a look in more detail a little further down.
I’ll level with you here; the main reason the last inhabitants abandoned the island was because of bad weather.
Open and exposed to the whims of the mighty Atlantic, it can get pretty wild on the island. Ferries don’t sail unless the conditions are good enough, so you’ll need a fine summer’s day if you’re planning to visit.
A speedy history of the Great Blasket Island
The Great Blasket Island has a long and rich history going back many hundreds of years and it’s widely regarded as one of the best, off-the-beaten-path of the many Kerry attractions.
There’s evidence of a Ferriter castle dating back to the 13th century, but it’s likely that the islands were inhabited much earlier than that.
Life on the island
With the wild Atlantic crashing upon the shores of Great Blasket Island, conditions were tough. Life was hard, but not without its joys, and for many eventual settlers, it was a welcome change from the hardships they had to endure on the mainland.
Having said that, islanders would have to regularly contend with harsh weather, the 3-mile sea crossing to the mainland, and the long walks to see a doctor or priest.
Survival and fine traditions
Most families survived by fishing, though sheep and cows were also reared on the island, and some islanders even grew potatoes and oats — though the land wasn’t ideal for agriculture.
Music and dancing played an important role in staving off boredom, while story-telling kept their culture alive through the cold winter nights.
Sadly, by the 1940s, extremes of weather, as well as immigration of younger generations, had forced many to leave the island, and on November 17th, 1953, the remaining residents were officially evacuated to the mainland.
The home of literary heavyweights
Nowadays, the Great Blasket Island is known for producing a number of fantastic writers. Three of the most notable examples are; Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Peig Sayers and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin.
Their works vividly tell the tale of life on the harsh island, while keeping the ancient folk legends of that rugged land alive. It’s said that the islanders spoke the most poetic form of Irish of all the Irish speaking regions.
As an Irish speaking island, their works were originally written in Irish, each with a wonderfully poetic way with words that seems to flow through the blood of the islanders. If you’re not fluent in Irish, you can still enjoy them — here are 3 favourites:
- Machnamh Seanamhná (An Old Woman’s Reflections, Peig Sayers, 1939)
- Fiche Bliain Ag Fás (Twenty Years A-Growing, Muiris Ó Súilleabháin, 1933)
- An tOileánach (The Islandman, Tomás Ó Criomhthain, 1929)
The Blasket Island Ferry
To get to the Great Blasket Island, there are 2 ferry services, both of which operate throughout the summer months, typically from April until September.
They’ll only sail in good weather though, so if conditions are rough, you’ll have to wait until things settle down a bit.
It’s essential to book your ferry in advance, as spots can get taken up pretty quickly. At low tide, you may have to take a raft to the landing stage of the island, as there’s no pier.
Option 1: The Ferry from Dun Chaoin Pier
Operated by Blasket Island Ferries, this twin engine passenger ferry has space for 48 passengers, and is fully equipped with lifeboats, life vests, and quality radio gear.
It departs from Dunquin Pier (Cé Dún Chaoin) from 10:30am every day, with crossings more or less every hour — as long as the weather is good anyway!
A return ticket costs €40 for ages 16 and over, and the crossing typically takes 20 to 40 minutes depending on the conditions at sea (check times and prices in advance).
Option 2: The Eco Ferry
The Eco Ferry, operated by the similarly named Blasket Islands Ferry, is another good choice, though the crossing time will be longer, and they sail less frequently.
With space for 44 passengers, the twin-engined craft is up to date with all the required safety features. There’s space on take to look out for sea life along the way.
It sails daily from Ventry — Ceann Trá Pier, with crossing typically taking around an hour. The morning crossing departs at 10am and returns at 3pm, while the afternoon crossing departs at 12:30pm and returns at 5:30pm
Things to do on the Great Blasket Island
There’s a handful of things to do on the Great Blasket Island that make it well worth venturing over to.
Now, some of these may be hampered by the weather, if you visit when it’s pouring down, but if you visit when it’s fine, you’ll be laughing.
1. Soak up the views (and the silence)
One of the beauties of the Great Blasket Island is that, as it’s a little off-the-beaten-path, it doesn’t attract huge crowds.
The beauty of this is that the island is rarely awash with hoards of tourists, so you’ll be able to walk in peach and enjoy the magnificent views of the Kerry coastline.
2. The Blasket Island Looped Walk
The Great Blasket Island Looped Walk is a 3.5 – 4 hour walk that takes you along a very old trail and treats you to magnificent views.
This is a fairly handy walk and it’ll suit most fitness levels. Now, for some reason, we can’t find any good guide to this walk online.
If you fancy giving it a go, ask for directions on the ferry over and they’ll be able to point out where to start and what route to take.
3. The Eco Marine Tour
If you’re in search of unique things to do on the Blasket Islands, the Eco Marine Tour should tickle your fancy.
Everything from porpoises and common dolphins to Orcas (occasionally) can be seen in the waters around the Blasket Islands at certain times of the years.
This tour is a great way to see the island from a unique perspective and, if the weathers fine, you’ll be treated to great views throughout.
4. The most westerly coffee shop in Europe
Yes, the most westerly coffee shop in Europe. Now there’s a title to be proud of! If you’re on the island and in need of a pick-me-up (or if you’re feeling chilly) head to the cafe.
The Blasket Islands Cafe shot to fame several years ago when it advertised the ‘Best Job in the World’, while looking for 2 people to live in the island accommodation and run the cafe.
Blasket Island Accommodation
To truly experience the haunting beauty of the Blasket Islands, you’ve got to spend at least a night or two there.
The Blasket Islands experience is something I keep hearing about over and over again. The cottage sleeps 7, so it’s perfect for a group heading away for a weekend with a difference.
Note: if you book a stay through the links above, we’ll make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.
The Blasket Island Centre
To fully enjoy the Blasket Islands, you’ll need to be reasonably fit; there are no roads, no ramps, and it’s mostly a barren, wild land.
However, even if you’re not up for the rigors of the island, you can still immerse yourself in its culture and history at the Blasket Island Centre.
Located along the Slea Head drive, you can see the Great Blasket out over the ocean. Within the centre, discover the story of the islands and the people that called them home.
FAQs About the Blasket Islands
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from where to get the Blasket Islands Ferry from to whether or not the Great Blasket Island is worth visiting.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Can you stay on the Blasket Islands?
You can stay on the Great Blasket Island, but typically only over the summer months. There are 3 self-catering cottages that have been lovingly restored, but you can also wild camp.
What is there to do on Blasket Island?
The Great Blasket Island is a place to escape the modern world. Here you can truly enjoy an unspoiled nature. There are hiking trails, and plenty of opportunities to catch a glimpse of seals, dolphins, whales and even sharks.
You’ll also see a stunning array of birds and other island wildlife. Tours of the abandoned village offer an intriguing insight into the history of the island, and a small cafe provides refreshments.
How do you get to Great Blasket Island?
There are a number of ferries and boat tours that can take you to the Great Blasket Island, departing from a number of ports on the mainland.
Andy was once on a glorious worldwide trip on his equally glorious motorcycle. After 4 years, he’d still only made it as far as Eastern Europe, before falling in love with his surroundings and deciding to settle down a while. Nowadays, he spends his time writing about traveling through the places he once explored, normally while sipping a pint.