Blasket Centre: A Cultural Gem on the Dingle Peninsula

The Blasket Centre is a heritage and cultural centre located on the Dingle Peninsula, paying homage to the community that once lived on the Blasket Islands.

Entrance to the Blasket Island Certre
Entrance to the Blasket Island Certre

The centre reopened on June 28th, 2022, after undergoing a significant refurbishment. It offers an accurate and creative portrayal of the islands’ history, their cultural background, and their impact on literature, both nationally and internationally.

Whether you decide to visit the centre in person or take an online tour from the convenience of your own home, the Blasket Centre offers a captivating exploration of the past.

Explore the Facilities at the Blasket Centre

When visiting the Blasket Centre, you’ll have access to a wide range of facilities designed to enhance your experience. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a literature lover, or simply someone in search of breathtaking views, the centre has something for everyone.

Statue in the Blasket Island Certre
Statue in the Blasket Island Certre

The Blasket Centre exhibitions show the island life, including fishing, farming, work, transportation, home life, housing, and entertainment.

The Centre also explores the community’s fight for survival, their language and culture, and the remarkable literary heritage they left behind.

What a bedroom was like in the Blasket Islands, Kerry
What a bedroom was like in the Blasket Islands

Visitors have the opportunity to explore these different aspects through various methods like exhibitions, artefacts, interactive displays and audiovisual presentations.

Don’t forget to take advantage of the stunning views from the centre’s location.

Situated on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the Blasket Centre offers panoramic vistas that will take your breath away. Soak in the beauty of the surrounding landscape while learning about the rich heritage of the Blasket Islands.

Take a Tour of the Blasket Centre or Tour the Island

Join a guided tour to learn about the history and culture of the Blasket Islands. The knowledgeable guides will take you on a journey through time, sharing stories of the island’s inhabitants and their way of life.

Mock-up of the Blasket Islands
Mock-up of the Blasket Island in the Blasket Centre

As you explore the exhibits, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the hardships and triumphs the islanders faced.

Admire the stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean from the centre, offering a glimpse into the isolated beauty of the Blasket Islands. Captivating exhibits showcase the literary achievements of the island, highlighting their significant impact on Irish literature.

In addition to the Center, visitors can also enjoy the spectacular clifftop viewing platform, offering stunning views of the wild Atlantic coast and islands.

Golden Beach in Kerry

Tours of the deserted village on the Great Blasket Island (subject to weather conditions) are also available for those seeking a deeper immersion into the island’s history.

The OPW will provide you with a guided tour of the island village, and you will need to reach the island independently via ferry. The closest ferry leaves from Dunquin Pier.

Embark on an Online Tour of the Blasket Centre

Can’t make it to the Blasket Centre in person? No problem! You can still explore the rich history and culture of the Blasket Islands through their online tour. Sit back, relax, and take a virtual journey from the comfort of your own home.

Their online exhibits offer a fascinating insight into the island’s past, showcasing the lives of the islanders and their unique literary achievements. Learn about the hardships and triumphs they faced, and gain a deeper understanding of their cultural contributions.

Whether you’re unable to visit in person or simply want to enhance your Blasket Centre experience, there online tour is the perfect way to connect with this extraordinary place.

Some exhibits

Old Telegraph from the Blasket Island
Old Telegraph from the Blasket Island

The National School on the Great Blasket Island

Located at the heart of the village, the National School was constructed around 1864. During its peak, this educational institution accommodated up to sixty students and had a faculty of two teachers.

However, as a consequence of emigration and the subsequent decrease in population, the school’s attendance dwindled, and by the time it shut down in 1941, only six pupils remained.

Interestingly, the schoolhouse also doubled as a place of worship, where visiting priests conducted Mass during the summer and islanders gathered in the evenings to recite the Rosary.

Literary Legacy (island authors)

The Blasket islanders were encouraged to write their life stories in their native language, resulting in a collection of books that offered a unique perspective on the challenges of island life.

The three most well-known island books are “An tOileánach”, “Peig”, and “Fiche Blian ag Fás”.

Peig Sayers

Picture of Peig Sayers taken on the Blasket Islands
Peig Sayers

Her autobiographical book “Peig” draws on traditional tales to illustrate her observations about her upbringing, marriage, and life on the island. She dictated her autobiography to her son Mícheál.

Tomás Ó Criomhthain,

A farmer and fisherman who spent his entire life on the island, is considered one of the greatest island writers. Despite being taught only English in school his major works, “Allagar na hInise” and “An tOileánach,” were written by hand and provide valuable insights into the island’s history.

Eibhlís Ní Shúilleabháin

Is remembered for her series of letters published as “Letters from the Great Blasket.” These letters, written in English, reflect her experiences on the island and the mainland, capturing the decline of the island’s population.

She also kept a diary in Irish, providing detailed observations about the social life of the islanders.

Muiris Ó Súilleabháin

Wrote his account of his formative years on the Blaskets. His book, “Twenty Years A-Growing,” became a national acclaim and an international classic of autobiographical writing when it was published in 1933.

Emigration

The Great Blasket, at the rim of Western Europe, provided a unique perspective. Islanders looked in both directions before deciding to settle nearby or embark on a journey to America.

Those who chose America faced challenges similar to other European immigrants, but they found support in specific areas like Springfield, and Massachusetts.

Half made boat in the Blasket Island Centre
Half-made boat in the Blasket Island Centre

While some adapted well, others struggled to adjust. Despite their experiences, many Islanders returned to their birthplace, unable to forget the culturally rich environment of the Great Blasket.

The population on the island declined, with more women leaving for a better life.

On November 17, 1953, only 21 people remained on the island: 4 elderly women and 17 men. More women than men left during this period, seeking a better life.

Staying meant poverty and hardship as domestic workers, so they chose to emigrate to Springfield where family members had settled.

The Blasket Islands You can see from the viewing platform

Beiginis

Located on this island is rich grass that has helped fatten the Islanders’ cattle. Additionally, the remains of a herdsman’s dwelling can be found here.

Tiaracht

Also known as Westerly, Tiaracht is the most westerly of the Blasket Islands. A lighthouse has been present on the island since 1870.

A Puffin taking shade from the sun on the Skellig Michael
Puffin

The Islanders used to gather feathers from this island for their bedding, and puffins were hunted for food.

Inis Tuaisceart

The site contains the remains of a structure called Brendan’s Oratory. Although it was only sporadically inhabited in the nineteenth century, potatoes were grown here and sheep were fattened.

Inis Mhic Uibhleáin

This was the home of the Daly family until it was abandoned in 1904. An early monastic site can still be seen on the island.

Inis na Bró

It was inhabited until the middle of the last century. It served as a summer grazing area for the sheep and cattle of the Great Blasket.

The Sleeping Giant (The Great Blasket Island)
The Sleeping Giant (The Great Blasket Island)

An Blascaod Mór (The Great Blasket) Also known as the “Sleeping Gaint”

This island measures 5.2km in length and is 1km wide at its broadest point. OPW will do tours on this island.

Practical Information

The Blasket Centre is open from March 10th to November 7th, from 10:00 to 18:00, with last admission 45 minutes before closing. It is also open for bookings in winter.

The Centre offers guided tours that take approximately one hour, and the average length of a visit is an hour and a half. Each tour group can accommodate a maximum of forty people. Photography and video are permitted.

EntryPrice
Adult€5
Senior/Group€4
Child/Student€3
Family€13
Children under 8Free
Blasket Centre Entry Prices

On-site, you will find a bookshop, museum, archive facilities, workshop, and language rooms. Additionally, there is a restaurant that offers wifi. Wheelchair access is fully available, along with designated car parking. Furthermore, the building is equipped with special needs toilet facilities.

Make the Most of Your Visit with a Heritage Card

When planning your visit to the Blasket Centre, consider purchasing a Heritage Card. This card not only grants you access to the Blasket Centre but also to other remarkable heritage sites across the country.

With a Heritage Card, you can enjoy unlimited visits to the Blasket Centre, allowing you to make the most of every experience.

Plus, you’ll save on admission fees, making it a cost-effective way to explore Ireland’s rich cultural heritage. By purchasing a Heritage Card, you are not only gaining exclusive access to these extraordinary sites but also supporting the preservation of cultural heritage.

Your contribution plays a vital role in maintaining and safeguarding these treasures for future generations. The cost of a Heritage Card is

Heritage CardPrice
Adult€40
Senior (aged 60 years or over)€30
Student (with Valid ID)€10
Child (aged 12 to 18)€10
Family (2 adults and 5 children aged 12 to 18)€90
Ireland Heritage Card

How to Getting There

Located 16km from Dingle, the Blasket Centre is easily accessible by car (R559), by travelling the Slea Head Drive, with parking available on-site. For those using public transport, the Local Link Kerry website provides up-to-date travel information.

Conclusion

The Blasket Centre offers visitors a unique and engaging experience, providing a deep dive into the history, culture, and literary heritage of the Blasket Islands.

Through its engaging exhibitions, rich storytelling, and virtual tour options, it offers visitors a profound insight into a community that has left an indelible mark on Irish literature and history. 

Whether you choose to embark on a guided tour, explore the exhibits, or engage with interactive displays, the Blasket Centre guarantees a memorable and educational experience.

Check out my web pages on the Ring of Kerry Drive, The Skellig Ring and Slea Head Drive.