Valentia Island

Oileán Dairbhre

Valentia Island is located in the Southwest of County Kerry and is one of Ireland’s most westerly points. It is connected to the mainland from Portmagee by Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge. There is also a car ferry that connects Knightstown (the island’s main settlement) with Reenard Point from April to October. The island is approximately 11 kilometres (7 miles) long and almost 3 kilometres (2 miles) wide. Sitting on the Edge of Europe, the island has witnessed dramatic changes that can be traced back hundreds of millions of years. Here are a few hidden gems that are definitely worth visiting.

Tetrapod Trackway

These fossilized footprints date back to the geologic period of time called Devonian (419.2 to 358.9 Mya). Take a look at these prehistoric footprints that were preserved by silt and turned to rock over millions of years. The Tetrapod Trackway is among the oldest evidence in the world of four-legged vertebrates walking on land. These early amphibians, of course, eventually evolved into mammals, and ultimately into humans.

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St Brendan's Well

The legend says that St Brendan, when sailing from one of his oratories in Dingle was hailed by a man standing on the clifftop to come ashore. Brendan ascended the sheer cliff by steps that were miraculously formed, just in time to baptise and anoint two dying pagans. Telling a story from the 5th Century, this site known as “The Well of St Brendan’s anointing” links the island to the Early Christianity times.

Cooil East Wedge Tomb

This well-preserved wedge-tomb is situated on an elevated ridge Southwest from Feaghmaan West, Valentia Island. The tomb consists of a roof stone which slopes south, 3.1m in length, 2.4m in width and 0.40m in depth. The chamber is 2.9m in length, 1.5m in width and 1m in max height. Local stories say that the monument was modified to be used as a shelter by an evicted family, during the famine in the 19th century.

Glanleam House and Gardens

Glanleam was built as a linen mill in 1775 and later converted into a house by the Knights of Kerry who, for five generations made Glanleam their home, each extending the original building and turning Glanleam into the country manor it is today. Recognising the unique potential of the island’s microclimate for subtropical plants, they laid out a fifty-acre garden, using species introduced from South America and the southern hemisphere.

Valentia Slate Quarry

The quarry was opened in 1816 by the Knight of Kerry. Demand for Valentia slate spread internationally and it has been used to roof and floor many famous public buildings including the House of Parliament at Westminster and Paris Opera House. Examples of Valentia slate can also be found at the Knight of Kerry’s home at Glanleam Estate in Valentia. Islanders became skilled in crafting the slate and examples of their work can be still seen across the island and further afield.

White Street Houses

Below the slate quarry, on the road to the radio station, is a row of cottages built in the early 1820’s for the workers in the quarry. The settlement is known as Dohilla and the street was known as ‘White Street’ from the whitewash on the houses. The men who worked in the quarry had to climb up to work each day by the ‘Airy Path’ and worked each day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for 2 shillings and 6 pence per day. Today, all of these cottages are privately owned as holiday homes.

Valentia Heritage Centre

The Centre is housed in the former Knightstown National School, which was built in 1861, extended in 1911, and closed in 1976. The Exhibitions inside the museum include various displays and interpretive areas such as the old school, the tetrapod trackway, marine life, Knights of Kerry, the slate quarry and much more. A visit to Valentia Island Heritage centre is an excellent place to start your Valentia Island adventure.

Valentia Island has plenty more to offer – check out for places to visit, stay and eat !