Sitting off the coast of Kerry is Valentia Island: a sleepy setting that offers great insight into remote island life in Ireland.
Although 80 islands surround Ireland, only twenty of these are inhabited. Valentia Island is one of the latter and is a must-visit on the Ring of Kerry route and is one of the best things to do in Kerry.
Easily accessible from the mainland, off the Iveragh Penninsula in County Kerry, this island is popular with local tourists and travellers looking to get on island time when in Ireland. A visit to this location is one of the most unique things to do in Ireland.
Overview – experience island life
Valentia Island is home to a small population. Situated not far from the mainland, it is a great portal to traditional island life while keeping closely connected with Ireland en masse.
At 11 kilometres (7 miles) long by almost 3 kilometres (2 miles) wide, it is a small island and one of Ireland’s most westerly points.
There are two main villages on the island: Knightstown, the island’s main settlement, and Chapeltown, a smaller village.
When to visit – summer is the busiest
As with most things travel-wise, summer sees the most significant portion of visitors out exploring.
Given this, if you’re looking for a more laid-back, local experience, we would advise visiting Valentia Island during spring or autumn.
During these seasons, the weather can still be somewhat balmy, and you’ll have less competition for accommodation and table reservations.
What to see – beautiful sights and historical attractions
Make sure to stop by Glanleam House and the sub-tropical gardens when visiting Valentia Island. Interestingly, this is Ireland’s mildest microclimate, and flora from New Zealand, Chile, and Japan can be found here.
A heritage centre is also open on Valentia Island and is great to get inside knowledge of the island’s history from a local perspective.
If time allows, stop by the Telegraph Field; this is the site of the first-ever permanent communications link between Ireland and North America Transatlantic telegraph cables, which dates back to 1866.
Directions – how to get there
Valentia Island is located off the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. It is easily accessible from the mainland from two points.
There is a car ferry that departs from Reenard Point and the Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge connecting Portmagee with the island.
How long is the experience – how much time you will need
A visit to Valentia Island could be an add-on to a Ring of Kerry or Iveragh Peninsula road trip, completed in just a few hours.
However, if you’re looking to brush shoulders with the locals and get a true taste of island life, we recommend at least an overnight on Valentia Island.
What to bring – come prepared for all weathers
Valentia Island is a rugged, Atlantic-facing island, meaning weather conditions can be rough. Wildly undeveloped in places with an authentic Irish landscape, you can expect to put your walking boots to good use.
Make sure to pack a rain jacket, given the unpredictability of the Irish climate, and always throw in a hat and some gloves for good measure.
During the warmer months, make sure to include some sunscreen in your backpack as you never know when you’ll catch some rays.
What’s nearby – other points of interest
Many of Ireland’s most famous sights are a short drive distance from Valentia Island. If time allows, swing by Killarney National Park and the towns of Sneem and Kenmare.
Where to eat – for delicious food
There are a few places to grab a bite to eat when on Valentia Island. Most of these places are clustered around the main township, Knightstown.
Here you will find a handful of local cafes and traditional pubs. For brunch or lunch, check out The Watch House. With a cute little terrace overlooking the water, and a menu of homemade, no-frills fare, this is the perfect place to watch the world go by.
For pub grub, it has to be Boston’s Bar. And, if you’re craving a sweet treat, there is always Valentia Ice Cream Parlour and Farmhouse Dairy.
If you’re looking for a decadent dinner, look no further than The Royal Hotel Valentia’s restaurant.
Where to stay – cosy accommodation
Leading on from our last point, island luxury is found at The Royal Hotel Valentia. Its old-school hotel vibe perfectly fits the island in question, and it has been in operation since 1833.
Those looking for something a little more laid back should head over to the A New U Country Cottage B&B. If an alternative stay sounds more to your liking, we recommend the Valentia Island Caravan & Camping.