Out on the very edge of Europe, as far west as you can go in Ireland, lies a deserted village with a poignant past. These are the mystical Blasket Islands - an archipelago off the Dingle Peninsula - famous in Ireland for its storytellers. At the beginning of the 20th century, J M Synge was the first of many writers to visit in search of the undiluted traditional culture that could be found in this isolated, far-flung community, living simply and frugally off the land and sea. Their stories were transcribed,and the islanders themselves were encouraged to record their own lives. These became the first written works to be published from an oral Gaelic culture, revealing a lyrical, poetic style. After many years of hardship and emigration, the last inhabitants left the islands in 1953, when there were no longer enough strong arms left to row their traditional naomhoga (canoes) across the dangerous BlasketSound.
Today you can take a boat to visit the mountainous main island - Great Blasket - to wander among the ruined cottages, then climb An Blascard Mor, spy dolphins and whales, and look west to America, as so many have done before. It's a moving experience, and the natural beauty and poignant echoes of the past will stay with you. Back on the mainland, a visit to the Blasket Centre to meet with its director Micheal de Mordha - a former presenter and producer for RTE Raidio na Galetachta - provides moving insights in the islander's hard lives, the sorrows of emigration, and the literary heritage of the Blaskets.