Next parish America

The Blaskets are a mesmeric group of islands off the Kerry coast which, among other things, spawned a remarkable set of writers. The islands were eventually abandoned in the 1950s, after a prolonged storm prevented a doctor being brought from the mainland to the aid of a dying young man. But they retain an elusive, romantic fascination. Some years ago, the Irish government built a cultural centre on the mainland to celebrate the culture and literary heritage of the islands. There was a great deal of controversy about the building, which many people felt was too intrusive. It does indeed look strange from a distance, but once inside it one immediately sees that it has great architectural integrity. It’s built around a long, slate-floored spine which points towards the abandoned village on the Great Blasket. We went there in the late afternoon and had the place more or less to ourselves. It was a beautifully peaceful and evocative experience.