Blasket Islands reboot: €300,000 cottage restoration brings past to life for tourists
Two island cottages have been restored to give an insight into another age, writes Pól Ó Conghaile
Visitors expecting a stony spread of derelict cottage husks on Great Blasket Island are in for a surprise this summer.
The €300,000 restoration of two island houses, one the former home of writer Tomás Ó Criomthain, has been completed by the Office of Public Works (OPW).
The last 22 permanent residents of the Great Blasket Island departed their homes in 1953, leaving their cottages to the elements - most of the buildings are now crumbling, having lost their roofs and long since become overgrown.
The newly restored houses, by contrast, are painted white and simply furnished to evoke the time, space and harsh conditions in which those islanders lived.
While there are no interpretive panels, OPW guides are present to greet visitors on the island from April to September, and they will use the second restored cottage as a reception point, its press office told Independent.ie Travel.
Great Blasket Island is accessible via private boat trips from the Dingle Peninsula in the summer period, weather permitting.
Up to 10,000 visitors a year make the trip.
The restored cottages are free to visit, and their redevelopment - funded by the OPW and a Fáilte Ireland grant under its Wild Atlantic Way Tourism Development Programme - is designed to grow and sustain tourism on the peninsula.
Visitors interested in learning more about the life of Ó Criomthain and his community can also visit the Blasket Centre on the mainland at Dún Chaoin.
Despite the daily challenges of the environment, the once thriving community produced many works of literature, including Ó Criomhthain's An tOileánach (The Islandman) and of course, Peig, an autobiography by Peig Sayers.
The Blasket Centre opens daily until November 4 (heritageireland.ie).
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