Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station

Knightstown, County Kerry, Ireland

Sarah Roller

24 Nov 2020

About Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station

Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station is the world’s oldest Atlantic cable station. It was on Valentia Island that the first cables were laid by the Anglo American Cable Company in 1857 and, despite this initial attempt being unsuccessful, the concept later took hold.

History of the Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station

Transatlantic telegraph cables had been discussed as a prospect for several years, but Valentia was the eastern terminus of the first commercially viable cable. Alternative locations (Ballycarbery Strand, Knightstown and Foilhommerum Bay) all failed. It took three attempts, but Valentia’s Transatlantic Cable Station was operational from 1866, one of several in the area along with Waterville and Ballinskelligs. The first message sent was one of congratulations from Queen Victoria to President Andrew Johnson. It cost around $1 a message to send via cable – expensive

At its peak at the turn of the century, the station was the workplace of some forty telegraphers plus support staff and was a community unto itself. Western Union International terminated operations at Valentia in 1966 as satellite data had become a viable alternative. Prior to transatlantic cables, communications were entirely sent by boat, taking at least  2 weeks to arrive.

In May 1927, the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh made his first landfall in Europe over Valentia Island on a solo flight from New York to Paris.

Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station today

Today, some of the white painted buildings of the station can still be viewed from the outside along the main street of Knightstown, with a plaque commemorating their history. Those who want to see original items from the cable station can visit the modest display at the Valentia Heritage Centre, which has a room containing items such as cable and telegraph equipment.

The Telegraph Field itself is commemorated in the southwest of the island, down towards Bray Head – you can park in the car park there.

Getting to Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station

Valentia Island is in County Kerry, and easily accessed via car from the Ring of Kerry (N70). You can cross to the island via car ferry at Reenard Point (to Knightstown) or via the bridge at Portmagee. The Heritage Centre is in Knightstown, whereas the Telegraph Field Memorial is further south, and better accessed from Portmagee.

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