Riders to the Sea 1
Ventry Pier, Co. Kerry, an overcast and breezy morning with a distinct autumnal chill in the air. Twenty MVers were about to embark on a trip to the hauntingly beautiful Blaskets, an archipelago in the far western reaches of Europe, the peaks on Inis na Bró and Inis Tuaisceart, seldom visited. An Cro Mór on the famous An Blascoad Mór is the best known of the three. This island, the abandoned home-place of several acclaimed Gaelic writers, a place replete with history and memory, was perceived as untainted by modernisation and Anglicisation. Like an exotic flower, it attracted swarms of linguists and anthropologists, and, as in all end of the world places, those who eventually make peace with themselves when there is nowhere left to run. An Blascoad Mór, a place where the prosaic and the profound gently collide.
The glassy light of the rising sun streamed down in great shafts from behind a bank of cloud, framing the dusky grey silhouettes of the Reeks and illuminating the crests of waves. Our boat, the Blasket Princess, pitched and rolled her way through the swell towards Inis na Bró, the little dinghy that would transport us to each island bobbing behind in the foaming wake, attached as an infant on an umbilical cord. Passing up the narrow sound between Inishvickillane and Inis na Bró beneath the formidable buttresses of Cathedral Rocks, a tightly clustered mass of teeth-like pinnacles with mysterious sea caves, it looked impossible to land on this island. But it was through one such keyhole that we were transported ashore.
With barely enough room for the dinghy to squeeze through, we threaded our way through a sea cave with petrol blue waters into a secret cove, every ripple on the patterned sands etched in intricate detail through the crystal clear water. A clamber over boulders and a steep scramble up a slippery vegetated cliff face brought us onto the cliff top. Here, the undisturbed vegetation was an ankle breaking psychedelic spongy mat of lurid green cushions of sea pinks and moss interspersed with pink heather undermined by the countless burrows of Manx Shearwater and Atlantic puffins that had now migrated far out to sea. Progress to the summit was slow. Once conquered, the true majesty of ‘The Kingdom’ lay before us: myriad islands and spiny rocks floating amid sea and sky; an impossibly rugged and ragged coastline and, in the far distance, the inky blue peaks of the Reeks, huge patches of sunlight turning the rolling sea below to liquid mercury.
The keyhole carefully re-negotiated and safely aboard the Blasket Princess, we set course for Inis Tuaisceart past the pyramidal hulk of An Tearacht which rises from the Atlantic like a broken canine tooth, decayed and holed in its centre by the action of the relentless ocean. A thin thread of whitewashed buildings above treacherous vertical cliffs ringed by foaming rocks and a seething ocean betray signs of past human habitation in connection with its lighthouse.