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Great Blasket Island

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Overview





Great Blasket Island lies approximately two miles from the mainland of Co. Kerry on the west coast of Ireland, located at Dunmore Head on the north side of the entrance to Dingle Bay. The uninhabited island is situated within a group of rocky islets that are Ireland’s, and continental Europe’s, most westerly. Great Blasket Island provides an anchorage and a white sand beach for landing.

The anchorage is tolerable with fair to good holding. Normal navigation is required as it is easy by day with a favourable tide. You are ideally looking for good conditions to visit Great Blasket Island.
Please note

Tides can be confused and unpredictable at times so a power driven craft is recommended. The aware is subject to local magnetic anomalies.




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Keyfacts for Great Blasket Island
Facilities
None listed


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
3 metres (9.84 feet).

Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
3 stars: Tolerable; in suitable conditions a vessel may be left unwatched and an overnight stay.



Last modified
August 22nd 2018

Summary

A tolerable location with attentive navigation required for access.

Facilities
None listed


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration



Position and approaches
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Haven position

52° 6.405' N, 010° 30.711' W

200 metres off the middle of the beach near the old island settlement.

What are the initial fixes?

The following waypoints will set up a final approach:

(i) An Tra Ban (beach anchorage approach) Initial Fix

52° 6.500' N, 010° 29.900' W



(ii) Middle Blasket Sound Initial Fix

52° 7.500' N, 010° 29.500' W

Safe middle point fix to Blasket Sound passage. This is upon the alignment 015° (or 195° heading south) upon the site of the old tower on Sybil Point and Clogher Rock, off Clogher Head. It is abeam of the north ends of the group of rocky islets.

(iii) South Blasket Sound Initial Fix

52° 6.000' N, 010° 30.000' W

Safe South point fix to Blasket Sound passage. This is upon the alignment 015° (or 195° heading south) upon the site of the old tower on Sybil Point and Clogher Rock, off Clogher Head.
Please note

Initial fixes only set up their listed targets. Do not plan to sail directly between initial fixes as a routing sequence.




What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Mizen Head to Loop Head Route location.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Great Blasket Island for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Ventry Harbour - 3.4 miles E
  2. Smerwick Harbour - 4.4 miles NE
  3. Dingle Harbour - 5.5 miles ENE
  4. Knightstown - 8.5 miles SE
  5. Cahersiveen Marina - 8.7 miles SE
  6. Portmagee - 8.8 miles SSE
  7. Brandon Bay - 10.1 miles NE
  8. Ballinskellig Bay - 12.3 miles SSE
  9. Great Skellig (Skellig Michael) - 12.5 miles S
  10. Castlegregory - 13 miles ENE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Ventry Harbour - 3.4 miles E
  2. Smerwick Harbour - 4.4 miles NE
  3. Dingle Harbour - 5.5 miles ENE
  4. Knightstown - 8.5 miles SE
  5. Cahersiveen Marina - 8.7 miles SE
  6. Portmagee - 8.8 miles SSE
  7. Brandon Bay - 10.1 miles NE
  8. Ballinskellig Bay - 12.3 miles SSE
  9. Great Skellig (Skellig Michael) - 12.5 miles S
  10. Castlegregory - 13 miles ENE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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How to get in?
Low clouds clinging to Great Blasket Island
Image: Tourism Ireland


The Blasket Islands are a group of seven steep and rocky islands situated on the north side of the entrance to Dingle Bay. Great Blasket Island is the largest, highest and principal island of the group. It lies approximately a mile from Dunmore Head, on the mainland, from which it extends 3¼ miles to the southwest. The island rises to 289 metres at its highest point, at An Cró Mór, and has the ruined ‘Eask Tower’ on a ridge 1½ miles northeastward of the summit at 229 metres. The nearest mainland town is Dunquin from where a ferry operates to the island during summer months.

An Trá Ban, Great Blasket Island
Photo: William Glasgow Howe



Initial fix location All three initial fixes are set on the well-charted alignment of 015° T (or 195° T southbound) of the site of the old tower on Sybil Point and Clogher Rock, off Clogher Head. This alignment leads through Blasket Sound and the ‘An Tra Ban’ initial fix provides a good point to break off for the anchorage off the beach. This approach is best described in the Navigating Blasket Sound Route location.


Dunmore Head extending out to The Lure with Great Blasket in the backdrop
Photo: Public Domain



Southern Approach Vessel approaching from the south should keep centre track on the alignment at all times as this is the narrowest point of the sound, between Great Blasket Island’s Garraun Point and Dunmore Head.

The navigational width is reduced to approximately 1,000 metres by a narrow strip of rock extending out from Dunmore Head with a conical 44 metres high rock island called ‘The Lure’ at the end. Beyond ‘The Lure’ several dangerous both covered and drying rocks, called ‘Scollage’ and ‘Stromboli’, extend a further six hundred metres plus to the west-southwest.




Once inside the sound, the passage becomes partially sheltered by a large number of rocks and islets to the west making for a much more comfortable sail. Continue to the ‘An Tra Ban (beach anchorage approach) initial fix’ and then turn westward for the beach passing to the south of Beginish.






Northern Approach Vessel approaching from the north should likewise stay on transit. The alinement passes at least 400 metres to the east of the rocky islet of Beginish, with Youngs Island close north, that form the eastern boundary of this group and the western side of Blasket Sound.





Haven location The beach is fairly steep so a vessel may get fairly close in at 3 metres and out of the run of the tide. Holding is fair to good in sand. It is advisable to be always a bit cautious as Blasket Sound cab be subject to a surge and the tide fairly sweeps through it. It is preferable to increase the amount of chain that would normally be let out here.


Anchoring area off An Trá Ban
Photo: Tourism Ireland



Land by dingy on An Trá Ban beach in settled conditions. There is a slip in the rocks under the settlement close southwest of An Trá Ban.



Locals tend to recommend landing on the slip rather than on the beach if there is any surf up as the beach can be subject to 'a pull' or 'a lop'. However, the island ferries have their moorings just off this slip and use it for landings. So if the slip is used please move the tender so the landing area is kept clear for their activities.


Why visit here?
The Blasket Islands comprise an archipelago of seven islands that represent the westernmost point of Ireland and Europe. Great Blasket extends five miles in a southwestward direction and rises to 292 metres at its highest point, An Cró Mór, making it the largest, highest and principal island of the group.


In fine weather Great Blasket Islands are astoundingly beautiful and a most rewarding cruising location. In bad weather, however, their appearance is most forbidding, and this is how they were seen by the Spanish Armada in the storms of September 1588. Then four escaping ships, including one of the largest ships of the fleet, were driven through the narrow unmarked passage close north of Great Blasket Island. The first ship the ‘Recalde’ executed an utterly remarkable feat of seamanship and got into shelter under Great Blasket Island, followed by a second ship the ‘Bautista’. Both of these vessels eventually got back to Spain. Two other compatriot vessels the ‘Ragusa’ and the ‘Rosa’ tried to join them but were wrecked. The Rosa drifted and then simply sank after striking what is believed to be the ‘Stromboli Rock’. The Ragusa was in distress and sank after it struck what is believed to have been the ‘Dunbinna Reef’.




This would have been a remarkable spectacle for the islanders of what would have been one of the most remote locations of Europe at the time. Though uninhabited today the island was recorded as having a population of 215 people in the first half of the twentieth century and it was only abandoned as late as 1954. In its time the island produced a remarkable number of gifted writers who vividly brought to life their harsh existence and who kept alive old Irish folk tales of the land.


View towards the mainland from Great Blasket
Photo: William Glasgow Howe


Two of the best known are the best-seller, translated as ‘20 Years A Growing’ by Maurice O' Sullivan, and ‘The Island Man’ by Tomás Ó Criomhtháin that is thought of as being a masterpiece. ‘An Old Woman's Reflections’ and ‘Peig, An Autobiography’ by Peig Sayers, is a book that most Irishmen studied at one time in school. In the twentieth century some 60 books, mostly in Irish, have been written in the immediate area and the inhabitants of the island were reputed to have the purest and most poetic form of Gaelic in all of Ireland.




Life however, was harsh in the historical village, huddled against the hillside for shelter on the east side of the island above the beach anchorage. All supplies had to be carried by boat, and in the days when the only means of transport was a canvas covered ‘curragh’ or ‘naomhóg’, the Islanders were sometimes marooned for weeks at a time, especially in the stormy winter months, where sea mists would make the island invisible from the land. Numbers dwindled over the years as emigration took its toll, but the final decision to evacuate the island came when the turf supply, the only source of fuel on the island, became scarce. The last inhabitants of the island were re-settled on the mainland, mostly in the parish of Dunquin where the mainland harbour that serves the island is located.




Dunquin now hosts ‘The Blasket Centre, Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir heritage centre where it is possible to learn about its people and history. Great Blasket Island today is a National Historic Park. It has some homes that receive summer visitors, and there is also a house on the smaller Inishvickillane Island. Apart from these few maintained houses, all the other structures have fallen into ruins that are slowly worn down by each passing year’s winter storms. Although there are plans to repopulate Great Blasket Island it is most likely that one day there may be nothing left but piles of stones and the traces of pathways.





What facilities are available?
The island is uninhabited apart for a few summer visitors. Apart from a good well at the top of the village, and the ferry service to the island which operates from the nearby Dunquin pier during summer months, there is nothing here but a few summer cottages and the ruins of the original inhabitants.


Any security concerns?
No security issues known to have occurred off Great Blasket Island.


With thanks to:
Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, Co. Wexford. Advice Kate Power. Photography with thanks to James Reidy, Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, Deanna Keahey, d_marino2001, Chris Brooks and Burke Corbett.


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The above plots are not precise and indicative only.
























Great Blasket Island




Views of Great Blasket Island



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