The Ring of Skellig – Skellig Valentia

If we thought the roads to this point were small, Velentia’s only route was miniscule! We headed up the hill from its harbor while I held my breath in the back seat. Then down a gravel path and out onto the rocky shore we drove to the lighthouse. We were still in the parking lot when we were greeted by Johnny, a Velentia resident who volunteers as guide and lighthouse staff. Johnny started our tour right there on the shore. He pointed out the rough rectangular stones that scientists determined were cut and laid as a harbor in the Bronze Age. Later, a ring fort was built sometime in the 1600s. Then into the tiny lighthouse we went, down into the two 8 foot prison cells. These were located directly under the officers’ quarters which weren’t much larger or at all secure. Johnny told us that once the fort had imprisoned 14 men in a cell 8′ high and 8′ across! It was so dark and damp and during storms it flooded with seawater, Dismal! The lighthouse was built in 1901. There was ever only one keeper and his family that lived there from 1901 until 1947 when the light was decommissioned. He told us how proud the Islanders were of their rescue crews. In the 1920s, 31 men were stranded in the bay aboard a sinking Italian freighter. Velentia’s Rescue Crew attempted to save them by rowing out but the storm waves were too rough. They decided to shoot a harpoon with a rescue line attached onto the sinking ship’s deck. But the harpoons were all now in the local museum. So, they broke into their own museum and stole the harpoons! They managed to get all men safely back to shore but one! His name is inscribed at the local Grotto along with the names of other tragedy victims. After a quick picture with Johnny, then it was back on the road and uphill this time.

Our next stop was a sign pointing downhill that said “Terrapods”. Couldn’t miss that! So we parked and climbed down the gravel trail to see the Terrapod Rocks discovered in 1992. There we found drag marks and footprint fossils preserved in the red mud. Apparently, Terrapods were the first creatures on Earth believed to have crawled out of the sea onto dry land! Now, back uphill we trudged and drove following the road to the flagstone quarry. The local Lord brought Welsh miners over in the 1600s to mine the island’s flagstone for the English market. This turned out to be quite profitable for him. However, after the last cave-in in the 1920s, the quarry was permanently closed and the entrance was made into a Grotto dedicated to the Blessed Mother, in honor of all who had died there.

By now, all the climbing had made us hungry and thirsty. So we followed the road around the island to Port Magee. There in the Bridge Bar, we enjoyed a bowl of seafood chowder and a pint. Delicious! There is something to be said about seafood that just hours before was swimming in the nearby waters! Back on the road onto the ferry, we completed the Ring of Kerry in record time and ended our day in the village of Maccroom at the Castle Hotel. Yay, a hotel meant a normal sized shower!

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