Valentia Island: when to visit, what to see, & things to know

Off the coast of County Kerry, Valentia Island is one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets. Here is everything you need to know about this beautiful and magnificent island!

Adjacent to the infamous Ring of Kerry is the rugged Valentia Island, an island rich in culture, history, and beauty. Valentia Island is undoubtedly one of Ireland’s hidden gems that is unbeknownst to many.

Although just a short distance from the mainland, Valentia Island is a whole other world with some of the most extraordinary of coastlines and friendliest of people.

As it is connected to the mainland by a bridge, Valentia Island is the perfect place to explore that is easily accessible.

It is widely regarded that Valentia Island is the birthplace of global telecommunications. Valentia Island was home to the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable, it is with this technology that the technological revolution of which we are all a part of today happened.

Whether it is history, culture, adventure, or escape, Valentia Island has it all. If you have a day to kill in County Kerry or if you are looking for a week-long getaway, Valentia Island is the ultimate place to explore and discover.

When to visit – beat the crowds

Be sure to avoid the crowds when visiting this amazing off-shore paradise.

The island of Valentia is most frequented by visitors during the summer months. As such, all the attractions and restaurants are open.

As the tourism season is generally quieter during winter, some of these attractions and restaurants are closed or have limited opening hours.

We suggest heading to Valentia during the summer months as you will get to experience more of what the island has to offer!

However, the island is very tranquil during the winter, so it is perfect for a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Just do your research before arriving for what is open.

What to see – there’s a plethora of sights

Valentia Island is home to archaeological tetrapod tracks.
Credit: Fiona K / TripAdvisor

For history buffs, discover pre-historic footprints made by a creature called a tetrapod over 385 million years ago at the Tetrapod Trackway.

These trackways are the most extensive of Devonian trackways in the world. It is truly fascinating as they are ones of the oldest pieces of evidence of one of the first water-dwelling creatures which made the evolutionary step towards a land-dweller.

Hike to the top of Geokaun Mountain, Valentia Island’s highest point, to enjoy breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, the nearby Kerry Mountains, and the infamous Skelligs.

There are various viewing points as you ascend the mountain, or you can drive the whole way to the top to get beautiful panoramic views. The sunrise and sunset are particularly beautiful from the summit.

Spend a day exploring the tons of interesting and unique flora and fauna to see on the island, especially at Glanleam’s Subtropical Gardens.

The Geokaun Mountains is one of the top things to do and see on Valentia Island.
Credit: Instagram / @robert_ziegenfuss

Home to countless southern hemisphere and Asian plants, these gardens transport you into an exotic world that is unheard of in Ireland.

Valentia Lighthouse is a 17th-century structure that acts as a harbour light to guide passing ships. This stunning lighthouse looks out onto the wild Atlantic Ocean and is often battered by large waves.

You can go on a tour of the lighthouse tower and balcony (when the wind isn’t too strong) while hearing stories and learning the remarkable history of the lighthouse. 

Head to Glanleam Beach, a unique and secluded cove offering majestic views of the surrounding area. Go for a swim in the magical blue waters that are overlooked by a 250-year-old boathouse. 

Where to stay – the views are spectacular

Valentia Island is home to some Airbnbs with spectacular views.
Credit: airbnb.com

The Royal Valentia Hotel is a historic and warm family-run hotel. Having operated as a hotel and inn for over 180 years, there is nothing quite like the hospitality on offer here.

With sea-view rooms, you can enjoy watching the Atlantic Ocean swell from the comfort of your room!

One of the most spectacular Airbnbs in Ireland is on Valentia Island. It is an old converted boathouse over 250 years old!

The original stonework is visible throughout the house. Still, the most amazing quality about this unique Airbnb has to be the big window in the sitting room which overlooks the Glanlean Beach and Valentia Island.

It truly is a sight to behold!

Things to know – great all year round

Valentia Island is great to visit all year round.

The nearby Gulf Stream has caused the climate on Valentia to be relatively mild no matter the season.

While Valentia Island bears the brunt of the swells of the wild Atlantic Ocean, there are so many things to do here no matter the weather, so don’t let the rain spoil your plans.

We think that the best ways to explore and see the island is by walking or by bike, allowing you to stop and admire all the island has to offer. Be sure to bring a raincoat for those unexpected showers!  

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Aoife O'Mara is a travel-hungry 21-year-old from East Clare. Having returned from a gap year in Melbourne, she discovered a newfound appreciation for the place she calls home. Now studying communications and media production in Griffith College Dublin, she is also writing for the university's magazine. When not dreaming about future trips and adventures, she can be found petting dogs, exploring Ireland's lakes and rivers, and taking photos.