I love this stone and cement pier, situated in a precarious and treacherous harbor along an insanely steep cliff. The walk down the Dunquin pier is both a diabolical and a wondrous trek, putting constant stress and pressure on your knees but providing some spectacular scenery on a clear day – of the harbor with its jagged black volcanic rocks jutting upward out of icy waters that run from cerulean and azure to turquoise and deep sapphire – and the wild Blasket Sound that stretches perilously between the harbor and the Great Blasket Island. It is a place that I love, a place that I dream and wonder about. Students are enchanted – they love the steep, windy rock path and they take lots of photos on the way down, excited for the trip over to the island.
In fairly low tide, you can climb directly onto the boat. But in higher tide, you must climb onto a rubber dinghy and ferry out to the boat, then climb into the boat. When you get to the Blasket pier – a truly rough and precipitous pier – you must reverse this process, climbing out of the boat and into the dinghy, then, after a short ride to the pier, climbing out onto the Blasket pier and navigating the steep, huge black boulders that lead you to the top of the cliff. What awaits you there is a series of steep grassy paths leading to various parts of the village. It’s interesting to contemplate what these islanders undertook getting to the mainland (and back again) in order to attend church, get needed supplies, see the doctor, trade a cow or some sheep, sell lobsters, or get a coffin (which then needed to be put back on the naomhóg and rowed back to the island, walked up that treacherous Dunquin pier, loaded with the body of the deceased, walked back down the pier, loaded onto the naomhóg, rowed back across the Sound and into the Blasket slip, and walked up the pier and steep walking paths). It boggles the mind and the body is loath to truly understand the physical toll this must have taken.
Once you’ve arrived back to the Dunquin pier from the island, the climb back up is gruesome – steep and precipitous. You have to stop several times to catch your breath and give your aching calves and screaming quads a break. You admire the beautiful scenery and curse the pier. But, in the end, you love the whole of the experience – and you develop a deep appreciation for everything these amazing islanders did to survive.
Motto: “Ní bheidh ár leithéidí aríst ann”
(“There will never be the like of us again”)
Take a look at this small section from a fascinating 1973 TG4 feature on the island, The Daly brothers and the Dunquin Pier.