If you visit the Valentia Island website (www.valentiaisland.ie) you will read “Sometimes when we visit a place the first thing we realise is that we should have planned to stay a while. You will get that feeling here on arrival – don’t fight that feeling …” and on my first visit to Valentia, this happened me! Now, on any trip to the Iveragh peninsula, I will do my best to get on to Valentia, and when I leave, either across the bridge or from the ferry at Knightstown, I make plans for the “must-do’s” for the next trip.
Familiar with the name Valentia from sea area forecasts, I initially had wanted to visit with a curiosity for the meteorological observatory, and then I found out that had been moved to Caherciveen in the late 1800s!! I soon learned there was an awful lot more to the island…
As a first time visitor in the summer months, you cannot but remark on the colours that the island are decked out in thanks to the overflowing road side wildflowers. The vibrant colours of the fuschia, heathers and willowflower throw such a strong splash of colour against the rich green fields, blue sea & occasional grey sky – or roads!
At the eastern end of the island, Knightstown was planned and developed in the 1830’s and reflects the English culture that has contributed to the history of Valentia, with the Royal Hotel on the seafront and staff cottages from the slate quarry and the cable office. Today Knightstown enjoys a sheltered aspect with a modern marina and a sea sports centre with ideal ground for sailing lessons and most fun of all, the water trampoline!
As you leave Knightstown, look for signs for Geokaun (YO-KAWN) mountain and be sure not to miss this look out spot! There is the option to park at the entrance and walk up, but we took the easy route and drove as far as we could go. On the drive up, park at the first parking area and walk out to see the Fogher Cliffs. Its a little stomach churning to look down at the heaving white wash of the Atlantic below but, this attraction is well maintained with a railed off viewing platform to keep visitors safe.
Just to mention the Wild Atlantic weather…on the day I visited here, when in Knightstown there was a gentle welcome breeze to keep cool on a magnificently sunny August day… When we visited the cliffs, we needed our jackets as the wind had picked up and when we continued to the top of Geokaun – wowsers!!! – we could hardly open the doors of the car the wind was so strong! So, be prepared and wrap up, even if the sun is shining!
Further west, is Valentia Lighthouse, still in use today, albeit automated now! The site of the lighthouse dates back to the 16th century where it was a Cromwell Fort but has only been in use as a lighthouse since 1841, after the application of the Knight of Kerry for this use. Tours are offered in the summer and give a good insight to what life was like for the single light keeper and his family in residence on site.
While my time on Valentia has come to an end for another summer, for my next visit, I hope to return to Geokaun when there is less wind so I can complete the looped walk, then to find the beach at Glanleam, if possible!
And 2 last things… a really good session on the water trampoline! And to sit outside the Royal for some lunch, looking across to the big island and think how great it is to be back on Valentia again!
When it’s time to (reluctantly) leave, if you are planning to drive over the bridge, stop off in Portmagee…