Just off the west coast of Ireland lies the little island of Valentia, population 665. One of the country’s most westerly points, it is accessible by either car ferry from Reenard Point or via bridge from Portmagee. It is a stunning place, the kind that Irish dreams are made of: the smell of the Atlantic in the air, the wild beauty of the ever-changing sky, and the endless hills of green. Bray Head, found on the western tip of the island, was just named one of the twelve iconic spots of the Wild Atlantic Way, one of the longest defined coastal roads in the world, stretching from Donegal in the north to Cork in the south. And every summer, this little island is home to the Valentia Island Music Festival.
Getting to Valentia Island Festival
It is said that the people of Valentia Island are both relaxed and welcoming. Surely that sentiment extends to the festival, because it is one that boasts an open-door policy; groups of friends, families, and people of all ages and backgrounds are welcome. The festival lasts from Friday evening to Sunday evening, with many of its attendants choosing to camp on the grounds in tents or campervans. There are plenty of options for nearby accommodation, though, and if you have access to a car, you can even stay in Killarney (an hour and a half drive away) or a nearby town. There are a few shuttle buses that run on the weekend of the festival to and from Killarney, so getting to the island is relatively easy even if you don’t have a car. The closest airport is Kerry, though it’s possible to fly into Dublin, Cork, or Shannon and make your way to the island, too.
So why should you attend the Valentia Island Festival?
While it’s not very well-known yet, it’s growing in popularity attracting both locals from the surrounding areas and travellers from even further afield.
“My friend told me about the festival,” Ryan, from Cork, said. “She said it was a great way to see Irish bands up close and personal, and on top of that, you’re in this crazy, unique location.” He stretched his arm out, pointing toward the ocean. “I had never even heard of it before but I’ll come back again, definitely.”
Marie, from France, echoed that statement. “This is my first time here,” she said, her face sparkling with glitter. “And it’s so cool! There are so many Irish bands I didn’t know before the festival, but they’re great.”
And that’s what makes the Valentia Island festival so interesting; just like its open-door policy with festival goers, a variety of bands and musical acts take the stage throughout the afternoons and evenings, ranging from acoustic sets, to reggae, to punk, to rock, to electronic. Well-known bands like The Frank and Walters play alongside relative newcomers like James Or. And with the variety of bands such as Cpnhgn, The Hot Sprockets, Norman Jay, Young Wonder, and The Vincents playing in 2015, there seems to be something for everyone.
In every tent, whether there is a live band or a DJ on stage, there is always a dedicated group of people singing and dancing along. There is a lovely, all-inclusive vibe to the festival, and it’s small enough that you’ll run into the same people during the day, so it’s easy to make fast friends.
Throughout the day, food and drinks are served at various stalls, including the infamous Eco Bus Café (which makes the festival rounds in Ireland all summer). As the location is quite isolated, there are no ATMs or credit card machines on site, so you must bring cash if you plan on purchasing anything. If you are camping at the festival, the campsite is just beside the action, so you won’t have to go too far if you decide to pop back to your tent.
Come prepared for all weather
As Irish weather, no matter what the season, can be unpredictable, it is best to bring clothing for any situation. There’s a strong possibility you’ll need both your sun cream and your wellies, so bring them both. Be prepared to be outdoors a lot, even if it rains. If you’re dressed appropriately, however, it can just add to the adventure. As the lead singer from Warehouse said, as rain fell on the tent roof above him,
“It’s only a little bit of rain. That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun.”
And rain or shine, you’ll find yourself surrounded by great music, jaw-dropping views of the Emerald Isle, and a group of people who want to do just that: have fun. If you’re looking for a down-to-earth, unique festival, one that shows you a different side of Ireland, the Valentia Island Festival is for you.
If you’re planning a trip to the Valentia Island Festival, be sure to check out all your accommodation options in Kerry. View the wide range of accommodation in Kerry here.