Slea Head Scenic Drive in County Kerry

Dunmore Head (Dun Mór) and Great Blasket Island (An Blascaod Mór).

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Slea Head Scenic Drive

The background setting to the enactment of An Blascaod Mr National Park Act, 1989

1. The Blasket Islands lie off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. The seven islands and several islets and rocks are in the barony of Corca Dhuibhne on the north side of the entrance to Dingle Bay. As one looks out at the archipelago from Slea Head below Mount Eagle on the peninsula, Innisvickillane is to the south-west; Innisnabro to the west; and further west, behind the Great Blasket is Tiaracht, which has a lighthouse; to the north, lies Inis Tuaisceart; and off the east of the Great Blasket are Beiginis and Oilan na ng. The Great Blasket, or An Blascaod Mr, is across the Blasket Sound from Slea Head and is a narrow island about five kilometres long by one kilometre wide. It is the largest of the islands with the remnants of a village behind the beach known as the White Strand or Tr Bn at the east end closest to the mainland. Although the island, at its closest point to the mainland, is only just more than one kilometre off Dun Mr Head, it is a sea journey of about five kilometres from the harbour at Dun Chaoin to the small breakwater below the village. The seas in the Blasket Sound can be treacherous. Access on to the cliff girt Blasket Islands, with the exception of Beiginis, is difficult. 2. In the 19th century, the population of the islands seems to have varied between about 100 in 1861 and 150 in 1901. In 1916, Toms Criomhthain, in a letter to Robin Flower, wrote that there were 176 people in the islands. The islanders used currachs called naomhg. They lived by fishing and by hunting seals, birds and rabbits and by collecting birds' eggs. By 1939, the population had dropped to under 100 and, by 1947, there were only 50 people. The salt laden gales prevented trees growing on the islands, but the community on the Great Blasket produced an extraordinary literary legacy. Their books about their island life have been recognised as an unique and vibrant literary flowering. This included three famous autobiographies: Twenty Years A-growing by Muirs Sullivan, An Old Woman's Reflections by Peig Sayers, and The Island Man by Toms Criomhthain. These writers of international renown inspired others of the islanders to write.

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