Valentia Island is famous for watersports, amazing scenery and in more recent years Star Wars. As it was to this little part of the world that Hollywood landed to use the breath-taking Island of Skellig Michael as their backdrop to wow their audience. Valentia is one of Ireland’s most westerly points lying off the Iveragh Peninsula in the south of Kerry and can be accessed by ferry from Cahersiveen (€7 per car) or bridge from Portmagee (free) .
For a small island, Valentia certainly makes its historical and cultural mark, it was from Valentia Harbour in 1866 that the world’s first transatlantic cable was laid, stretching an incredible 1,686 nautical miles to Newfoundland, every few miles you will find places to explore, tranquil walkways and historical sites.
There is so much to do around this Island that you could not possibly do it all:
- Skellig Rock day trip (daily boats leave from Valentia from May to September)
- The Skellig Interpretive Centre
- Numerous walking trails including Bray Head- hike up to the Bray tower a ruined Napoleonic lookout tower
- Geokaun Mountain and Fogher Cliff Walk
- The Slate Quarry
- Glanleam House & Sub tropical Gardens
- Valentia Island Heritage Centre
- Valentia Lighthouse
- Tetrapod Trackway (prehistoric dinosaur footprints)
- Valentia Dairy & Ice Cream Parlour
- Watersports – Swimming (annual swimming Irish water safety lessons at Knightstown harbour July/ August), sailing, watersports, kayaking, rock climbing, abseiling, water trampoline and diving all organised by the Valentia Island Seasports and Adventure Activity Centre.
There is a gorgeous playground and local park with the most breathtaking views I have ever experienced for a playground. So no need to bring the book! Eating out on Valentia Island itself may be limited if you are a real foodie as The Boston Bar and The Royal Valentia are the only places to eat out. We had the pleasure of tasting an evening meal in both and enjoyed the laid back relaxed atmopshere that goes hand in hand with the Island. You could travel to Cahersiveen, just 15 minutes by road or shorter by ferry and there you will find more restuarants including QC’s Bar and Restuarant and The Oratory Pizza and Wine Bar, both of which will delight your taste buds!
Alot of the accommodation on site would be self catering houses but The Royal Valentia is a family friendly hotel and Valentia Caravan & Camping Park is definitely a 5 star option. Next year the Island hopes to host a number of new workshops and camps catering for families such as a marine and sealife workshop organised by Sea Synergy and more information can be found at the very helpful tourist office there.
The are watersport camps in the harbour which are very popular and book up early in the Summer. There is a water trampoline in the harbour and 20 minutes of fun costs €5 per person. Believe me 20 minutes is plenty! Valentia Island is located on The Ring of Skellig and you cannot travel to this part of the world without driving along this magnificent coastal route. We drove to Caherdaniel (40 minutes from Valentia) and tried a spot of horse riding with a beach trek in one of Ireland’s oldest equestrian centres. Eagle Rock has a great name for horse riding and their treks offer something for everyone.
It was a glorious day so in the way back we stopped at the gorgeous Ballinskelligs beach (30 minutes from Valentia) and took to the water in some kayaks that we rented on the beach for €20 an hour. This beach is sheltered from the atlantic as it is surrounded by amazing scenery. The beach itself had toilet facilities, an easy to access car park but best of all a shop and cafe for those essentials (namely coffee and cake)! This area is also a surfing hotspot and Skellig Watersports offer classes and camps for the adventurer in you. After all that beach fun we made a final pit stop to The Skellig Chocolate Factory for some scrumptious hot chocolate and we were pleasantly surprised with the free tour they offer and sampling session. The kids never had so much fun!
Even though we were right out on the Atlantic we were lucky with the weather but on the one or two bad days we got there was still plenty of fun to be had. We spent almost all the week outdoors ant the children tried so much that may normally be outside their comfort zone. What I enjoyed most was that it was a quaint yet picturesque spot full of old world charm that is still virtually undiscovered. This coupled with the relaxed and laid back feel of the place makes it one of those hidden gems that you would just like to keep a secret but can’t stop raving about!