Valentia Island

On Valentia Island, in Co. Kerry, a fossil trackway was discovered in 1993. It has enormous potential for interest and education through the communication of simple geological concepts to a wide audience.

This particular site was of special interest to GSI's
Irish Geological Heritage Programme , and specifically its Palaeontology theme (from the Precambrian to Devonian). In conjunction with the Valentia Heritage Society, GSI drew up a plan, adopted by Dúchas, for the site to be purchased by the State. Purchase of the site from the landowner has now been completed and the site is in the ownership of the State on behalf of the nation.

The site is of international importance, being well dated at older than 385 million years; the oldest in situ tetrapod trackway in the world. About 200 prints represent the passage of one or more tetrapods, primitive four legged vertebrates, across the soft sediment of a large river floodplain in Devonian times. It is a key record of the important evolutionary step of vertebrates leaving aquatic environments and breathing air on land. This site has the scope to fire people's understanding and appreciation of geology that ranks with the best the world has to offer.

Tetrapod trackway
trackway detail A GSI publication was produced to describe and explain this geological and palaeontological wonder.

A hard copy can be purchased from the GSI customer centre.

Translations of the booklet text were also done in French, German and Spanish. (Click on the language word to download PDF file)

Current Status

Due to safety considerations, access to the Trackway site has recently been upgraded. Safety fencing and interpretation panels are in place and a booklet guide has been published. The site is open to the public, but visitors are requested not to go beyond the fencing. The site and carpark are open all year, but we would remind visitors of the risk of tidal backwash, particularly in the winter months, and would recommend visiting in the summer. Viewing is best in the morning or evening of sunny days.

The works are under the control of the National Parks and Wildlife Service for the South West, based at Muckross House, Killarney (Tel: 00-353-(0)64-70145), or make enquiries locally at the Heritage Centre in Knightstown, Valentia, where publications about the site are also available.