The wonderful Valentia Island is one of our favourite places to visit in Kerry.
Valentia Island might just be one of the best kept secrets on Skellig Coast. It lies just off the south west coast of Kerry and is one of Ireland’s westernmost points.
It combines fascinating history, beautiful scenery and an interesting cultural scene, making it a great place to visit on the Iveragh Peninsula.
In our guide below, you’ll discover everything from things to do on Valentia Island (it’s home to one of the best views in Ireland) to where to stay!
Some quick need-to-knows about Valentia Island
Although a visit to Valentia Island in Kerry is nice and straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Arguably the most important decision to make before you head for Valentia is how you’ll access the island (by car from Portmagee or by ferry from Reenard)
Valentia Island is located off the Iveragh Peninsula on the south west coast of County Kerry. It’s relatively small in size at approximately 12km by 5km and has just a couple of main settlements, with Knightstown being the main village.
2. Accessing the island from Portmagee
There’s a bridge connecting Valentia Island to the mainland from the town of Portmagee. It’s a short, minute or so drive from the village to the island.
3. The ferry from near Cahersiveen
You can also grab a car ferry from over at Reenard near Cahersiveen. It only takes around 10 minutes to cross the water and it’ll leave you at the village of Knightstown on Valentia.
Things to do on Valentia Island in Kerry
There’s a surprising number of things to do on Valentia Island in Kerry, from historical sites and walking trails to the best view in Ireland.
Ok… what’s arguably the best view in Ireland. Below, you’ll find some places to visit along with where to eat and stay on the island.
1. Geokaun Mountain and Fogher Cliffs
Hands down one of the best things to do in Kerry is to soak up the views from Geokaun Mountain and the Fogher Cliffs.
The cliffs here are the highest point on the island and the perfect place to enjoy a 360-degree view.
You can access the mountain and cliffs by car or on foot (note: it’s insanely steep here, and good levels of fitness are needed if you plan on walking).
There are four car parks at various viewpoints, including the summit, or you can enjoy a few short walks to take in the views at a slower pace.
One of our favourite things to do on Valentia Island is to arrive here as the sun is starting to drop. The view is out of this world.
2. The Bray Head Loop
A great walk on the island, the Bray Head Loop is a moderate 7km loop trail to Bray Head along the coast at the south-western edge of the island.
It includes a steady climb to the Bray Tower, which offers incredible views of Skellig Michael.
The tower itself was built by English forces in 1815 during the Napoleonic wars and it was used as a signal station by the Navy during WWII.
The three-hour loop walk is perfect for the whole family, as long as you take care of the exposed cliffs.
3. Kick back with some Valentia ice cream
Who doesn’t love a good ice cream parlour? Valentia’s is built inside the original milking parlour of the Daly farmstead and overlooks the Portmagee channel.
If you’re looking for a sugar fix and a break from exploring, you’ll have to stop and select a couple of the handmade flavours to try.
4. Discover how the island helped shape the world at the Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station
Valentia Island played an interesting part in the history of communications. It was the site of the very first transatlantic telegraph cable over 150 years ago, which was laid between the island and Newfoundland in Canada.
It continued to operate up until 1966, when it closed its doors for the last time when satellites proved too superior.
Today, you can visit the original Transatlantic Cable Station to learn about the incredible role the island played in the history of cross-continent communication. It’s located on the Promenade in Knightstown.
5. Take a spin out to Valentia Lighthouse
The Valentia lighthouse is at Cromwell’s Point on the northern end of the island and a must visit during your trip. The lighthouse was first opened in 1841 with just a single keeper and his family on site.
Since 1947, the light has been automated with just a part-time attendant to look after it. The view from the lighthouse is spectacular overlooking the rough seas and is worth a visit.
6. Spend a rainy afternoon in the Skellig Experience Centre
If you’re in search of things to do on Valentia Island when it’s raining, get yourself to the Skellig Experience Centre.
The centre is dedicated to the Skellig monks with exhibitions on their life and times. It’s the perfect place to visit on a rainy afternoon.
Especially if you’d planned on doing one of the Skellig Boat Tours and it was cancelled. There’s also a craft shop and café with sea views at the centre to enjoy.
7. And an evening tucked away in a pub in Knightstown
Knightstown is the main town on Valentia Island and one of the few “planned” villages in the country. It was built in the 1840s, with some of the original buildings from the time adding to the character of the town.
Of course, an evening tucked away in a pub is never a bad idea and The Royal Hotel in Knightstown is just the place you want to be. It has a great pub atmosphere and fantastic food and drinks.
8. Step back in time at the Heritage Centre
For just a few euros each, you can step back in time at the island’s Heritage Centre in Knightstown.
This village museum is housed inside an old schoolhouse and includes exhibitions on the evolution of the island through time.
It specifically includes exhibitions on marine life and the Transatlantic Cable built on the island. It’s the perfect place to start your trip on the island.
This is another good option for those of you looking for things to do on Valentia Island when the weather is acting up.
9. Then learn about the island’s historic slate
The Slate Quarry has been a working quarry since it first opened in 1816. It’s most well-known for its quality slate that has found its way into the Paris Opera House, London’s House of Parliament and billiard tables for the royal family.
The quarry is also home to a beautiful grotto that has been built into the face of the quarry. It’s since become a popular stop on the tourist trail on the island.
10. Head for a ramble around Glanleam Subtropical Garden
Glanleam was the home of the Knights of Kerry. The 19th knight, Sir Peter Fitzgerald, decided to lay out 16 hectares of a subtropical garden around the house with natural habitats interplanted with exotics.
The result is an incredible combination of a garden, rainforest and jungle all in one with trails to take you through the estate. It’s great for children especially with lambs, chickens, geese and ducks to explore as well.
11. Take a stroll out to St Brendan’s Well
If you take a stroll out to the boggy west of the island, you’ll discover signs of ancient religious sites that still attract a number of pilgrims every year.
A local legend says that St Brendan sailed from Dingle to the island and anointed dying pagans who became the first Christian converts.
You might need some Wellington boots to access the site, but you can explore the area and it’s remains.
12. And then try the Altazamuth Walk
The Altazamuth walk takes you from the replica Altazamuth Stone on Jane Street in Knightstown to Cracow park and down to the coast adjacent to the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
The story around the stone is that the original version was placed there to mark the spot where a ground-breaking experiment took place in 1862 to confirm the lines of longitude that had been measured in 1844.
While the original was battered by weather, the town created the replica so everyone could visit and learn about the important role the island played in history.
13. Try your hand at water sports
If you’re in search of things to do on Valentia Island with friends, this should tickle your fancy!
No matter what kind of water sport you want to try, Valentia Island has options for everyone.
During summer, Valentia Island Sea Sports in Knightstown have summer camps, sailing courses, teen adventures, kayaking, rock climbing and water trampolines to try for people of all ages.
14. Learn about the island’s evolution
Along with Valentia’s other historical sites, the Tetrapod imprints are by far the oldest. The imprints are thought to date back as far as 350 million years ago and are renowned internationally for their significance.
They are the oldest reliably dated evidence of four legged amphibians moving over land and transitioning from water to earth. You can visit the imprints at the northern edge of the island via a pathway down to the rocks.
Valentia Island Hotels and Accommodation
Despite its size, Valentia Island has a range of accommodation options available. From the hotel to guesthouses and even a camping park, there’s something to suit everyone who wants to stay for the night.
Note: if you book a hotel through one of the links below we’ll make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.
There’s only one hotel on the island, the Royal Valentia Hotel. It’s a good one though, with a great pub atmosphere and polished rooms. It’s perfectly located right in the middle of Knightstown and a three-minute walk from the ferry.
2. Guesthouses and B&Bs
There’s plenty of guesthouses and B&Bs which are great alternatives to the hotel. From cosy cabins to larger homes, there’s options for different people. If you want some suggestions, try:
You can even enjoy camping on the island. The Valentia Island Caravan and Camping Park has pitches for tents, motorhomes and caravans. They have excellent facilities with toilets and showers, laundry facilities, a kitchen area, play areas for the kids and dog-friendly policies.
Valentia Island pubs and restaurants
If you fancy a post-adventure pint or if you just want a quick meal before hitting the nest after a long day exploring, you’re in luck.
While Valentia Island is small, it packs a punch pub wise. Below, you’ll find our favourite places to eat and drink.
1. Boston’s Bar
This is a traditional Irish pub in Knightstown and one of the best places to grab a meal and a pint. From pizza to seafood, the menu has some great options and they’re known to serve one of the best pints on the island.
2. The Coffee Dock
If you’re after some coffee and a cake, you can head to this little spot on the seafront in Knightstown. You can watch as the ferry passes by and people try their hand at water sports while you sip on your morning cup. They’re open from June until to September each year.
3. The Ring Lyne
In Chapeltown, this family-run bar and restaurant is a popular place with both locals and visitors alike. You can grab a traditional Irish meal and a pint from the welcoming staff at this great spot in the middle of the island.
FAQs about visiting Valentia Island In Kerry
Since mentioning the town in a guide to Kerry that we published several years ago, we’ve had hundreds of emails asking various things about Portmagee in Kerry.
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.
Where is Valentia Island in Ireland?
You’ll find Valentia Island in Kerry on the Skellig Ring, a stone’s throw from the little village of Portmagee and across the water from Cahersiveen.
How do you get onto Valentia Island in Kerry?
You can drive onto Valentia Island from Portmagee (there’s a bridge) or you can take the car ferry from Reenard (it takes around 10 minutes).
Are there many things to do on Valentia Island?
Yes, there are plenty of things to do on Valentia Island in Kerry. Here’s a few of our favourites:
- Grab one of the best views in Ireland at Geokaun Mountain
- Ramble along the Bray Head Loop
- Soak up some history at the Skellig Experience