Valentia Island is a great addition to the Skellig Ring, and I highly recommend adding it to your drive. There are two ways to get to the island, a seasonal ferry (April to October) from Cahersiveen, and a bridge from Portmagee. In my post about driving the Skellig Ring, I ended the drive at The Skellig Experience Visitor Centre, which is the first stop you’ll see after crossing the bridge. If you haven’t already stopped here, I highly recommend it, as the exhibits cover the monastery, Viking raids, the lighthouses, and there is a short film and a cafe. It is also a great way to figure out if the landing boat tour to the ancient monastery on Skellig Michael is right for you and your family.
Some of the reasons you’ll want to add Valentia Island to your drive is fantastic scenic vistas, a historic lighthouse with a fort and a Megalithic standing stone, a slate grotto, and you can see the footsteps tetrapods. If you have time, give yourself a good portion of the day as there are lots of hiking options on this drive.
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Driving Ireland’s Skellig Ring on Valentia Island
Foilhommerum Bay and Telegraph Field
The Skellig Coast is known for being the connection for the Transatlantic cable. On this drive is a historical marker that notes the landing of the telegraph cable. It also is a great place to get a view of Foilhommerum Bay.
Bray Head Tower
I did not make it to Bray Head Tower, but I did see it from the Kerry Cliffs. The 1815 Tower is one of many signal towers that were built along the coast to served as a warning system of a French invasion. You cannot drive to the tower, but you can hike there. Park the car park, the cost is €2, and take the 4-.4mile loop trail to the tower. You can find more information on the trail here.
Travel Tip: Have cash handy to pay for the parking €2.
Travel Tip: The hike takes around 3 hours, so be sure to bring water and maybe a snack.
St Brendan’s Well
I tried to find St. Brendan’s Well, but ended up turning around as the road became very muddy and I was worried my car would get stuck in the middle of nowhere. The story goes that St. Brendan sailed here in the 5th century from Dingle. He scaled the cliffs and found a couple of dying pagans, which he anointed, making them the first converts to Christianity on the island. To find out more go here.
Cool East Wedge Tomb and Cook East Ogham Stone
Geokaun Mountain and Fogher Cliffs
The drive to Geokaun Mountain is one the highlights of the drive because you can drive to the top of the mountain and it has 360-degree views of Valentia Island, Dingle Peninsula, the Blasket Islands, the Skelligs, the mountains on the mainland and lots of rugged Atlantic coastline. If you are pressed for time and can only do one thing, choose this. Visitors pay before they enter the park and the cost is €5 per car or €2 per person if you plan to walk up.
As you drive up the road, you’ll pass three parking lots.
The first parking lot has a short trail that leads to Fogher Cliffs. The cliffs were in shadow so I didn’t get a good picture, but I did get a good picture looking the other direction toward Bray’s Head.
The second lot is a good spot to park if you want to do the loop walk around Geokaun Mountain.
At the top parking lot, the road to get up there is a little steep, so be prepared. From there, you can walk to the viewpoints and a short trail that overlooks a row of miners houses.
Travel Tip: The park is open seven days a week all year long.
Travel Tip: Have cash handy. The cost is €5 per car or €2 per person.
Valentia Lighthouse at Cromwell Point
The lighthouse is unusual as there is a fort as well as a megalithic standing stone on the lighthouse grounds. The website said there were guided tours, but when I asked when the next tour was, they told me just to walk around. It might have been because it was October, and they only do tours in the summer seasons. Still, I was bummed as I always learn so much more from guided tours.
Travel Tip: The lighthouse is open Easter to September, and sometimes in October.
Travel Tip: Hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 11 am to 8 pm. Price for adults is €5, €4.50 for students and seniors, €2.50 for a child, and €15 for a family.
I nerd out over stuff like dinosaurs, so the tetrapod footprints which date back to 350 to 370 million years ago were a must-see for me. It is a short drive to the lighthouse down a narrow road that leads to a parking lot. From the parking lot, you take a short downhill trail to the shoreline. Before you get there, there is an informative panel that talks about tetrapods and their significance in the turning point in the evolution of life from water to land. It also shows you what the footprints look like so you can pick them out when you go down to the viewing area. The viewing area is chained off and right in front of it are the footprints.
Grotto and Slate Quarry
Since I did the Skellig Ring and Valentia drive all in one day, I was pretty wiped out after the hike to the Tetrapods footprints. But, when I saw a sign for the grotto, I decided to check it out, and I’m glad I did as I’ve never seen anything like it. The slate quarry opened in 1816. Notable for its quality slate it has been used in the Paris Opera House, London’s Houses of Parliment, and a billiard table made for Queen Victoria. In 1910 a rock fell and closed the mine. Four decades later statues of Mary and Bernadette were placed above the entrance. Now, it has a yearly community mass.
If I had more time, I would have loved to explore and even stay in Knightstown, one of Ireland’s planned villages, laid out in 1830-1831. From here, you catch the seasonal ferry.
That wraps up the Valentia Island portion of the Skellig Ring drive. If you missed the Skellig Ring drive, catch up HERE.
Driving the Skellig Ring and Valentia Island
Travel tip: If you staying in Waterville, read my post about what to do and where to stay.
Getting Around: After spending ten days in Ireland on a solo trip, I have come to the conclusion that car is a must as there are so many off-the-beaten-path locations you’ll want to visit. Also, driving in Ireland is an art. If you want to experience the Skellig Ring and Valentia at your own pace, driving is the best way. On this trip, I partnered with Auto Europe and picked up my car at their Shannon Airport Location. They work with all major car rental companies to get the best deal. Plus, they always find automatics which I needed as I don’t drive a manual. They have lots of great Ireland road trip ideas here.