Valentia Island – The island of the Oak Forest

A superbly accessible island, Valentia is joined to the mainland by bridge at Portmagee, near Cahirciveen. Though joined to the mainland, however, it is far from an extension to it – Valentia, a haven to seafarers marked on the earliest maps of Europe, has one of the strongest identities of all Irish islands.

Originally known as ‘Oileán Dairbhre’ (Island of the Oaks), Valentia boasts both dramatic cliffs and lush vegetation (coaxed along by the mild Gulf Stream). It offers an Anglo-Irish feel in the stately buildings and cultured restaurants of Knightstown, but tempers that with an unadulterated wildness, a tattered coast, mouth-watering views of the Skelligs and a myriad of adventure sports.

Valentia is synonymous with communication. It was here, in 1858, that the first terminal for the Atlantic Telegraph was stationed. It is known the world over for its slate – which has been used in the Paris Opera House, Westminster Abbey and as railway sleepers in the San Salvador Railway.

There’s also lots to do. The Skellig Experience interprets the monastery, seabirds, lighthouses and underwater life of those islands 13km offshore. Glanleam Estate, built in 1775 as a linen mill, boasts 50-acres of sub-tropical gardens that thrive in the relatively balmy climate. Diving, cycling, and rock-climbing are just some of the activities based out of the local adventure centre.

Perhaps the island’s heritage centre says it best. Like Valentia itself, it describes itself as “not so much a museum as a meeting place of Today and Yesterday, of You and Us.”

Fact File

Location:
Off the Iveragh Peninsula, Co. Kerry.
Valentia is roughly 70km (1hr 20mins) by road from Killarney, and 9km (15 mins) from Cahirciveen.

Size:
11km x 3km.
By driving, most of Valentia is easily done in a day, but a longer stay is recommended for an in-depth experience – particularly if you plan to visit the Skelligs.

Facilities:
B&Bs, holiday homes, hostel, shops, restaurants, pubs, heritage centre.

Top 3 Activities:
The Skellig Experience, heritage, adventure

Getting there:
Valentia is linked to the mainland by bridge at Portmagee.
Valentia Island Ferries also leaves Renard Point, two miles from Cahirciveen (353 66 947 6141,email: rforan@indigo.ie) daily, year-round.

Getting around:
Valentia can be seen on foot, bike, by car or on bus or boat tours.

Did you know?
Tetrapod footprints in north Valentia date from c.350 million years ago, when a primitive vertebrate passed along a muddy shoreline, leaving prints as if in wet concrete.

[Content provided by Fáilte Ireland]