The Easter hare (or the more colloquial Easter bunny) and the Easter egg are both emblematic of this spring festival, and the Great Blasket Island is a great place to see the real deal, the Irish hare (Lepus timidus Hibernicus).
About ten years ago hares were introduced to the island. While it is very questionable to introduce a new species to a protected habitat, they look as if they're here to stay and so far do not seem to have had any adverse effects on the ecology of the island. With a dwindling sheep population the hares may even help to keep the grass short which in turn suits birds such the chough (a rare member of the crow family) who prefer short-cropped pastures when digging for grubs.
No count so far appears to have been done on the hare population but our guess is that there about 30-40 presently on the island. The hare has always been closely associated with Easter and one explanation may be that the hare was the favourite animal and attendant spirit of Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess after whom the spring festival is named. The name Eastre and all its variant spellings have their origin in the Sanskrit term for dawn and denote the renewal of the earth in spring.
Whereas the egg and its association with fertility seems an obvious symbol for Easter and the earth's springing back to life, the traditional belief that the hare brings the eggs may well have its origin in early nature observation. Hares do not dig and give birth to their young in burrows as rabbits do but use little shallows in the ground called forms. Some ground-breeding birds such as the plover and the skylark lay their eggs in close proximity to the hares' forms and some even use abandoned forms, hence watching a hare spring from its form and finding a nest of eggs nearby may have led to the assumption that it was in fact the hare that laid the eggs there.
So this Easter, why not take our all-day trip, combining a visit to the island with the marine tour and see if you can find a hare - the south side of the island is the best place to spot them. You could even bring some delicious reproductions of the real thing along for your island picnic!