©Paul McCambridge Quiet swim at Glanleam with view of Valentia Lighthouse, County Kerry.

Valentia Island’s own tourism website states that it is easy to find and that ‘the small island known as Ireland lies to the east’. This quirkiness and sense of fun draws one to Valentia. Many visitors will take the main route and arrive in the bustling centre of Knight’s Town where swimming in the harbour is popular but for a quiet and more secluded swim, take the road north-west towards Glanleam House and Gardens. From this tiny private beach you can swim between Valentia and Beginish Island or follow the coast west towards the lighthouse.

This spot is a local secret and you might meet one of the locals taking to the waters for its reputed health benefits, a tradition that has been passed down through the generations.Some swear that a regular dip keeps colds and injury at bay. 

The small beach is at the bottom of a narrow lane from the road, just metres from the entrance to Glanleam House and Gardens, an old estate dating back to the 1770s which was home to five generations of the Knights of Kerry who each extended the house. The subtropical gardens are a major draw. At the beach there are two old boathouses (one of which is refurbished and available to rent out: a summer idyll, with blue flowering shrubs curling around the pathway and just a few steps from the door into the water). The small beach of grey sand melts into the water. Beginish Island lies directly in front of the bay and to the left along the shore is Valentia’s lighthouse.

The swim to the lighthouse is approximately 1.25km and it is almost the same distance across to Beginish at its closest point. If you plan to swim to Beginish, have an accompanying kayak as the boats from Knight’s Town use the channel between the two islands.

Nearing the north-west corner of the Iveragh peninsula, Valentia Island is a step back in time. At only 11km long by 5km wide it is perfect for cycling trips and the pretty and vibrant Knight’s Town has plenty to offer by way of food and entertainment. The harbour area plays host to a half marathon event at the beginning of autumn, and, with pontoons alongside the main jetty, is also popular for swimming in the summer.

At a glance 

Glanleam Beach – bathe at this tiny bay hidden away beneath Glanleam House and Gardens, take a longer, scenic swim along the coast to the lighthouse, rent a refurbished boathouse for a weekend to get away from it all.

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