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Couple leave town for a dream job as caretakers on the remote island of Ireland

Couple leave town for a dream job as caretakers on the remote island of Ireland

Emily Campbell and Dan Regan. Emily Campbell A couple quit their jobs in London to become caretakers on a remote Irish island. Dan Regan and Emily Campbell run a coffee shop and cottages on Great Blasket Island. With no running water or electricity, and demanding wildlife, they’ve had a steep learning curve.

How far would you go to escape burnout? For one couple, the answer was about 450 miles west and into the Atlantic Ocean.

In early April, Emily Campbell and her husband Dan Regan became trustees of Great Blasket Island, an 1,100-acre island off the west coast of Ireland.

The pair beat thousands of other applicants to run the island for six months. With no running water or electricity, and sometimes troublesome visitors, they’ve had a steep learning curve.

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Thousands of applicants

Regan, a civil engineer, and Campbell, a nurse, applied for the janitor role when they were going through what Regan described as the “January blues.” The position offered the chance to manage three cottages and a cafe and, more importantly, a chance to escape the rat race.

They were told that about 150,000 had been there over the past five years to care for the island. So to stand out, Regan and Campbell did away with a written application and instead submitted a video montage.

They were shortlisted and had a phone call with Billy O’Connor and Alice Hayes, a couple who own the cottages on the island, for one last screening.

“It was just a rather casual conversation and basically they said, ‘Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?'” Campbell said.

Dan and Emily are given free food and shelter to manage the island and receive a salary from the owners.

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Shearing sheep and making coffee

The job is as versatile as you can imagine running an island. Shearing some of the 200 sheep on the island and providing vitamins is part of the job, as is looking after overnight guests and making coffee for day trippers.

Regan is in charge of the coffee shop, while Campbell handles overnight guest changes. They will still try to balance some of the more unpleasant chores, such as cleaning the toilet.

Regan drives the quad bike that helps transport various supplies sent to the island. The pair said they have also taken care of a lamb and are feeding it three times a day.

They do all these tasks on an island without hot running water or conventional electricity. The couple uses a car battery connected to a wind turbine to power essentials like their phones and headlamps for guests.

“We’re sleeping better than ever because we don’t have screens and artificial light for most of the day, which is nice,” Campbell said.

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Problems with tourists

Great Blasket is about 22 miles north of Skellig Michael, the island that was Luke Skywalker’s hideout in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” The film turned the island into a huge tourist attraction, causing damage.

Campbell and Regan have had a similar battle with Great Blasket: accommodating tourists while ensuring the island is respected.

Previous caretakers Brock Montgomery and Claire de Haas told the Irish Mirror that tourists behaved badly when they visited the island. The couple reported public urination, litter and even visitors throwing seals.

While Regan and Campbell have no issues with litter, they are also frustrated by visitors upsetting the island’s seals.

“There have been several times when people startled them and ran to the beach, jumped on the beach and made a lot of noise. And then it’s really sad because it’s their space to rest and they have their pups there,” Campbell said.

For now, the pair aren’t sure what they’ll do when their lease expires in October. But they find it difficult to imagine themselves in a big city again.

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