Information about Valentia Island
Valentia Island is one of Ireland's most westerly points. It lies off the Iveragh Peninsula in the southwest of County Kerry. It is linked to the mainland by the Maurice O'Neill Memorial Bridge at Portmagee. A car ferry also departs from Reenard Point to Knightstown, the island's main settlement, from April to October. A second, smaller village named Chapeltown is located at roughly the midpoint of the island, 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) from the bridge. The permanent population of the island is 665 (as of the 2011 CSO Census). It's approximately 11 kilometres (7 miles) long by almost 3 kilometres (2 miles) wide.
Image: Telegraph Field, Valentia Island
The English name Valentia Island (also spelled Valencia Island) doesn't come exactly from the Spanish city of Valencia, but from a settlement on the island called An Bhaile Inse or Beal Inse ("mouth of the island" or "island in the mouth of the sound"), which in turn could have been reinterpreted as similar to the Spanish town by Englishmen and Spaniards sailors and settlers alike (there is a grave marker to Spanish sailors lost at sea in the Catholic cemetery at Kylemore).
Valentia was the eastern terminus of the first commercially viable transatlantic telegraph cable. The first attempt in 1857 to land a cable from Ballycarbery Strand on the mainland just east of Valentia Island ended in disappointment. After subsequent failures of cables landed at Knightstown in 1858 and Foilhommerum Bay in 1865, the vast endeavor finally resulted in commercially viable transatlantic telegraph communications from Foilhommerum Bay to Heart's Content, Newfoundland in 1866. Transatlantic telegraph cables operated from Valentia Island for one hundred years, ending with Western Union International terminating its cable operations in 1966.
Prior to the transatlantic telegraph, American longitude measurements had a 2,800-foot (850 m) uncertainty with respect to European longitudes. Because of the importance of accurate longitudes to safe navigation, the U.S. Coast Survey mounted a longitude expedition in 1866 to link longitudes in the United States accurately to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Benjamin Gould and his partner A. T. Mosman reached Valentia on 2 October 1866. They built a temporary longitude observatory beside the Foilhommerum Cable Station to support synchronized longitude observations with Heart's Content, Newfoundland. After many rainy and cloudy days, the first transatlantic longitude signals were exchanged between Foilhommerum and Heart's Content on October 24, 1866.
In 1993, an undergraduate geology student discovered fossilised tetrapod footprints in mud preserved in Devonian rocks on the north coast of the island. About 385 million years ago, a primitive vertebrate passed along a muddy shoreline in the equatorial swampland that is now southwestern Ireland and left prints as if in wet concrete. The prints were preserved by silt overlying them, and were converted to rock over the ages. The Valentia Island trackways are among the oldest signs of vertebrate life on land.
Places of interest
The combined features and history of the island make it an attractive tourist destination, easily accessible from the popular Ring of Kerry route.
Geokaun Mountain and Fogher Cliffs - the highest mountain on Valentia Island and the sea cliffs of 600 feet (180 m) on its northern face.
On the northeast of the island stands Glanleam House amid sub-tropical gardens. Protected by windbreaks from Atlantic gales and never touched by frost, these gardens provide the mildest microclimate in Ireland. Starting in the 1830s, Sir Peter George Fitzgerald, the 19th Knight of Kerry (1808–1880), planted these gardens and stocked them with a unique collection of rare and tender plants from the southern hemisphere, normally grown under glass in Ireland. The gardens are laid out in a naturalistic style as a series of walks. There are plants from South America, Australia, New Zealand (the tallest tree ferns in Europe), Chile and Japan. The gardens are memorialized in a selected golden-variegated Luma apiculata "Glanleam Gold" that originated as a sport in the garden. The gardens are open to the public.
The slate quarry - which reopened in 1998 provided slates for the British Houses of Parliament.
The island also hosts a heritage centre which tells the story of the geology, human, natural and industrial history of the island, with exhibits on the Cable Station, the Marine Radio Station and the RNLI's Valentia Lifeboat Station.
The Telegraph Field - (or Longitude Field) is the site of the first permanent communications link between Europe and North America Transatlantic telegraph cables operated from Valentia Island from 1866.