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Valentia Island Lighthouse: History, Tour + Visitor Info

Valentia Island Lighthouse: History, Tour + Visitor Info

Valentia Island lighthouse has been keeping ships safe for 180 years.

Now automated, the lighthouse attracts around 15,000 visitors every year especially for the stunning views and National Shine a Light on Summer Festival.

Below, you’ll discover everything from the history of the Valentia Lighthouse to what to expect from a visit.

Some quick need-to-knows about Valentia Island Lighthouse

Although a visit to the lighthouse on Valentia Island is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location     

Located on the northern tip of Valentia Island, this remote lighthouse landmark is off the Iveragh Peninsula in southwest County Kerry. You can reach the island via a bridge from Portmagee or via the Valentia Island Ferry.

2. Opening hours    

Valentia Island Lighthouse is open daily from 10:30 to 17:45. Last admittance is 17:00 (you can grab tickets here – times may change).

3. Admission  

Admission to the lighthouse for a 45-minute tour is €7.50 for adults and €4 for children. There are concessions for seniors and families. Prices may change.

4. Part of the Ring of Skellig   

The Ring of Skellig offers one of the most scenic drives in Ireland. It’s an extension of the famous Ring of Kerry and treats you to stunning scenery that many tend to miss.

The history of Valentia Island Lighthouse

Valentia Lighthouse

Photos via Shutterstock

Valentia Island Lighthouse is perched on rocks and surrounded by crashing Atlantic waves – and that’s on a calm summer’s day!

It has been keeping ships off the rocks at Cromwell Point, guiding them safely into Valentia Harbour for over 180 years.

Where it all began

The lighthouse is on the site of a military fort built by Oliver Cromwell in the 16th century. Fleetwood Fort had bastions and barracks but was partially destroyed.

The application for a lighthouse on Valentia was put through in March of 1828. It wasn’t until 9 years later, in 1837, that work actually began.

The light first shone bright on February 1st, 1841, from within the 15-metre-high stone lighthouse.

Lighthouse keepers and later years

Valentia Island Lighthouse was operated by a lighthouse keeper who lived with his family in an neighbouring outbuilding. The lighthouse was automated in 1946 and opened to visitors in 2013. 

Visitors can enjoy an informative exhibition about the history of the lighthouse and the automated lens.

From the lighthouse, the views are outstanding, looking across the wild surroundings of this remote island peninsula. 

What you’ll see at Valentia Lighthouse

There’s plenty to see and do in and around the Valentia Lighthouse. Here’s some suggestions:

1. Glanleam Standing Stone   

Sharing the historic site at Cromwell Point is Glanleam Standing Stone. This ancient menhir stands 3.43m tall, is roughly trapezoidal and is 0.4m thick. Around the base are packing stones and a leaning slab 1.5 metres long, probably used to support it. 

2. 17th Century Military Fort

The Cromwell Fleetwood Fort was a 17th century artillery fort and military base with barracks. It was built by Oliver Cromwell to guard this strategic point overlooking the entrance to Valentia Harbour. Built in 1653, it included an enclosed site and barracks. 

3. Lightkeeper’s Dwelling House

A visit to Valentia Island Lighthouse provides an insight into the harsh and lonely life that lighthouse keepers had to endure. The original square-built dwelling was erected from concrete and stone in 1910.

The last residents were lightkeeper Harry Staniforth, his wife Margaret and two daughters. They left in 1947. The building now houses a fascinating museum about the history of the lighthouse. The kitchen houses tearooms.

4. The Lighthouse

The Valentia Island Lighthouse is also known as Cromwell Point. It is a working lighthouse managed by the Irish Lighthouse Commissioners. Visitors can scale the lighthouse and admire the incredible panoramic views of the wild surroundings. The complex includes the house which is now a museum and tea rooms.

Things to do near Valentia Island Lighthouse

One of the beauties of the lighthouse is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do on Valentia Island.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the lighthouse (see our Valentia Island accommodation guide if you’re thinking about staying here).

1. Geokaun Mountain & Cliffs (10-minute drive)

Geokaun Mountain

Photos via Shutterstock

Geokaun Mountain is a glorious lookout with 360 degree views of Dingle Bay and the Kerry Mountains. Walk or drive to the summit and learn more about the area’s history, wildlife, birds and the Skellig Islands on a series of information panels.

2. Bray Head Walk (15-minute drive)

bray head valentia

Photos via Shutterstock

Previously a looped trail, the Bray Head Walk is now a 1.5-hour liner walk that treats you to stunning views throughout. It’s tough, but worth doing! If this sounds too strenuous, you could always head down to Glanleam Beach.

3. Ferry to the Skelligs (10-minute drive)

the views when you get the boat to skellig michael

Photos via Shutterstock

Several ferries to the remote Skellig Islands depart from Portmagee village. There are two tour types – an eco tour (sails around the islands) and a landing tour (allows you to get onto Skellig Michael). You need to book a place on one of the tours well in advance. 

FAQs about the Valentia Lighthouse

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is it worth visiting?’ to ‘When are the tours?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

When was Valentia lighthouse built?

Work on Valentia Island Lighthouse began in 1837. The light first shone bright on February 1st, 1841.

Is the Valentia Lighthouse worth visiting?

If you’re nearby and you’ve visited the Geokaun Cliffs, then yes. Just make sure to check the opening hours.

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