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Blasket Centre (County Kerry) - Ionad an Bhlascaoid

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Statue at the Blasket Centre, Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry

At the extreme end of the Dingle Peninsula this statue outside the Blasket Centre reminds visitors that life was never really idyllic off the Kerry coast.

© 2004 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Bottom Line

If you are doing the Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula, make sure to take the detour to the Blasket Centre (also signposted as Ionad an Bhlascaoid). Within sight of the Blasket Islands themselves on a headland, this center was established to highlight the history and culture of the islands. And it succeeds - even if you have never heard of the Blaskets before, you will leave impressed. Not only by the forbidding rocks looming off the coast, but by the culture that flourished there until 1953.

Pros

  • Fascinating exhibition on the history of the nearby Blasket Islands.
  • Details history of the writers and storytellers coming from the isolated island.
  • Visitors can experience the Irish language as spoken by the island community.

Cons

  • Out of the way.

Description

  • The Blasket Islands off the Kerry coast were evacuated in 1953, the community was resettled on the mainland.
  • Opposite the islands a modern center was constructed on the Dingle Peninsula to preserve the heritage of the Blaskets.
  • The Irish language and the literary output of the island community form an integral part of the exhibition.

Guide Review - Blasket Centre (County Kerry) - Ionad an Bhlascaoid

1953 was the year the Blasket Islands were evacuated and given up. The dwindling island community was resettled on the mainland and life on the Blaskets became a memory. A memory that would not be forgotten - for two reasons. Anthropologists had flocked to the islands to record the way of life and traditions of the fairly closed community off the Kerry coast. And the scholars encouraged the locals to preserve their memories. The islanders took to this like ducks to water and a huge literary output was the consequence. Led by Peig Sayers, a "blow-in" (she wasn't born on the island) who proved a fount of stories.

Though Irish schoolchildren have to slog through Peig's stories during their Irish lessons, the Blasket literati are virtually unknown outside Ireland. And the islands themselves are mentioned in most guidebooks as an impressive landscape feature only. The Blasket Centre sets out to rectify this. Located in an exciting setting on a headland it provides the visitor with a comprehensive history of the islands. You will learn what life was like in such an isolated location and why the Irish government had to take the decision to evacuate the whole community.

The Irish language features large in the exhibition as well. Blasket was the center of attention for linguists and anthropologists for decades.

Also highlighted is the literary output of the islanders. The small community produced a disproportionate amount of writers and books, Peig Sayers' folksy stories being the most well-known of them. You can buy a good selection of books in the Blasket Centre's shop.

What you can also buy is a very decent meal in the sizeable restaurant. Where a glass front allows an unhindered view of the Atlantic Ocean. The statue of an islander struggling against the wind will remind you, however, that daily life was far from romantic for the community.

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