Heaven for hillwalkers

A deserted island, an adventurous boat trip and great views make the Great Blasket hard to beat, writes TONY DOHERTY

A deserted island, an adventurous boat trip and great views make the Great Blasket hard to beat, writes TONY DOHERTY

EVERY HILLWALKER I know loves walking above the sea. Great Blasket Island, at the end of the Dingle Peninsula in Co Kerry, gives you double the pleasure, as its central spine drops steeply to the sea on both sides. Add the romance of a deserted island, an adventurous boat trip, great views of other islands and the mainland and you have a hiker’s nirvana.

Try and catch the first ferry, which, depending on the weather, leaves Dunquin Pier at 9.55am every day until October, at the end of the extended summer season.

Watching the skipper manoeuvre An Blascaod Móras the sea surges through the tiny rock-bound inlet gets the adrenalin going for the day. A 20-minute trip across Blasket Sound brings you to the island.


The path from the slipway leads up to the deserted village. Now mostly in ruins, the famous settlement, decimated by emigration and poverty, was finally abandoned in 1953.

If you want to tackle the full ridge, head straight up the hill behind the village. The going is steep, but only for a few hundred metres or so; then the gradient gets progressively easier as you come up to spot height 191m and, then, spot height 231m, the first high point on the ridge, dominated by the ruins of a signal tower.

From here the going underfoot is a dream. Apart from one or two wet areas it is mainly dry, springy turf. From the tower the track drops down to a crossroads of tracks that lead back to the village.

You are not opting out now, however, as the best is yet to come. The path up to Slievedonagh (281m) runs along the top of cliffs that drop 250m to the sea on your right, and somewhat less precipitously so on your left. If you suffer from vertigo you might have a problem here, but the ridge path is quite safe; just keep an eye out for the occasional rabbit hole.

The path drops 60m down to a col and then climbs back up on to Croaghmore (292m), which is a good spot to have lunch. Remember to bring your supplies, as there are none on the island.

Now you can take in the seascape, dotted with the other Blasket islands: Inishnabro and Inishvickillane to the southwest, the dramatic triangular mass of Inishtearaght, the most westerly island in Europe, to the west, and, away to the north, Inishtooskert, also known as the Fear Marbh or Dead Man, because of its profile as seen from the mainland. And, of course, a view of the mainland, from Sybil Head around to the Mount Brandon range and across Dingle Bay to the Iveragh Peninsula and the Skelligs.

Croaghmore is the spot where you will have to decide whether it is time to head back for the final ferry of the day – normally between 5pm and 6pm – or whether you have will have time to complete the full walk.

Allow for an hour or so to finish the route. Continue down the slopes of Croaghmore to spot height 163m. A short bit beyond this is a narrow arete-like feature that brings you to a small patch of land directly over the headland.

This is a spot where you could linger for hours as the sea roils below you and Inishtearaght looks even more entrancing, but time and ferryman wait for no one, and so it’s time to go.

Retrace your steps until you come to the track crossroads; go left here on a track that brings you back to the village to meet the ferry for the trip back to the mainland.

Great Blasket Island, Co Kerry

Start and finishThe landing slipway on the island, having caught a ferry from Dunquin.

How to get thereTake the R559 west from Dingle. Turn right at Ventry church and follow the third-class road over the mountain to rejoin the R559. Turn left here, then take the first right to get to Dunquin Pier, where you can catch a ferry.

FerryBlasket Islands Ferry, 086-3353805, blasket islands.ie.

MapOrdnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series sheet 70.

TimeFour or five hours.


Total ascent650m.

SuitabilityThe route is easy, but a compass, map and raingear are essential.

Food and accommodationPlenty of choice in local villages and in Dingle.