Above Image: Old mining tower
Above Image: Part of the road to the quarry.
Above 3 pictures: Quarry cavern with grotto visible in lower two.
While touring the back roads of Valentia Island our attention was drawn to a sign for the Valentia slate quarry. So we drove off the beaten track to be eventually greeted by the sight of a huge cavern.
The slate quarry was originally founded in 1816 by the 18th Knight of Kerry, Maurice Fitzgerald (1772 - 1849). Its purpose was to supply materials for roofing and flooring. The excellent quality of the slate quickly gained a reputation becoming much sought after and word of it soon reached far and wide. A dedicated pier was constructed in 1835 for the purpose of exporting the product and subsequently led to the founding of the small village of Knightstown. Both were designed by Alexander Nimmo, the Scottish born surveyor and engineer.
The slate has been utilized by among others the great London cathedrals and in stations on its underground system but also notably in the Paris opera house.
In 1858 one of the quarry buildings was involved with the transatlantic cable project.
Between the years 1880 and 1900 the quarry closed but reopened for a few years until disaster struck in 1911 when a huge rockfall ceased all operations. In 1991 a group of entrepreneurs reopened the operation and hired some Ukranian workers to work the mine so that modern generations could once again avail of this excellent slate.
When we visited there were one or two hard hats walking around but it was generally quiet. I believe that in season a tour can be made to some extent of the mine interior but this was not available on our visit which was unfortunately just out of season.
The huge cavern excavated from the North-Eastern slope of Geokaun mountain is a terrific sight and in the Marian year of 1954, on an upper crevice, two statues were placed to form a grotto. You can see them clearly in the above photos. They were reached by a ladder which now lies on the ground underneath the grotto. On the approach to the cavern is the lonely ruin of a tower which as it turned out was the only remnant remaining of the long gone machine house.
To reach the quarry, leave from the pier at Knightstown turning left at the Royal Hotel and then driving approx. 250m until you reach a fork in the road at the newer church gate. Take the right hand fork (which is School Road) and drive approx. 1KM where you will see the ruined tower of old Kilmore church on your left (see previous post here) Continue driving on this road for approx 1.6KM (be careful as at times this road is very narrow) until you reach a staggered crossroads. Follow the sign for the quarry which is straight ahead and drive approx 1KM and you will then reach the quarry. There is parking in front of the barrier at the cavern.