26 April 2024

Our Home At Renard Point: From Steam Trains & Emigration To Smoked Salmon & Eco Tourism

Valentia Harbour Railway Station, Renard Point

Our famous Smokehouse is located right at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and is a part of the world that is steeped in the history & traditions of the local area. The location where we now produce our famous Irish smoked salmon (since 1963) that we supply to all corners of the world was at one time a railway station, known as Valentia Harbour Rail Station.

The station itself was opened on 12th September, 1893 by Great Southern & Western Railway (GSWR) and was a huge benefit to the area by establishing rail links with one of the most southern parts of the country, linking it into the rest of the then extensive rail network of Ireland.

Valentia Harbour Railway Station acted as hub for not only transporting people but by transporting the freshest fish which has been landed at here Renard Point harbour for centuries. In fact, it was said that fresh fish that was loaded onto the morning train at Renard Point would arrive into the fish markets of London the following day, all within a 24 hour period – an achievement that many modern courier companies would be more than happy with!

At the time of opening, this was regarded as the most westerly railway station in Europe and passengers arriving at the end of the line with the Atlantic Ocean right in front of them would most definately have known that it was a clear case of “Next stop America!”

Of course, it is important to remember that this would indeed have been the departure point for all too many people of the South Kerry area who would have boarded the train here, said their tearful farewells to their loved ones and in some cases never have been lucky enough to ever return. That an emigrants last view of “home” would’ve been as the train pulled away from Renard Point is something that remains hugely poignant & significant for us.

Valentia Harbour Railway Station, Renard Point

 

The lead image displayed on this article (courtesy of National Library of Ireland: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlireland/12115019935/in/photolist-wZJSv4-jsyDm4-tksE2m) was taken sometime between 1901 and 1908 and displays how this really was the end of the line with the unspoilt waters of the Atlantic being your next destination if you continued too far forward. For those who did need to take to the water to get to their final destination of Valentia Island, a ferry was available to bring passengers across the short stretch of water to Knightstown on Valentia Island – in fact, a small car & passenger ferry still operates from Renard Point to Knightstown in the present day running during the months of the tourist season.

The rail line was known as the Farranfore-Valentia Harbour Line and ran a full 40 miles (64km) all the way from Renard Point (Valentia Harbour) to the town of Cahersiveen, to Kells, on to Mountain Stage, to the village of Glenbeigh, to Dooks, on through Caragh Lake, into the town of Killorglin, to Miltown then Castlemaine before arrving to Farranfore where the line then joined to the Tralee-Mallow line branching to either go west towards Tralee or east towards Mallow and on to Dublin.

 

Valentia Harbour To Farranfore Railway Line at Drung Hill, Co. Kerry

(Valentia Harbour-Farranfore Line at Drung Hill, Co. Kerry taken in 1893 -image source: National Library of Ireland)https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlireland/5761855635/

Initially, there were three passengers trains each way between Valentia Harbour and Killorglin with two slower goods train also running with limited room for passengers for sections of the journey to Killorglin. In keeping with the overall reduction of numbers of rail passengers in Ireland, 1954 saw the implementation of just a single passenger train operating each way on the line before the entire line was closed in 1960. The early morning train was nicknamed “The Ghost Train” by locals and the unearthly hour departure was particularly popular for Kerry GAA fans who would make their way to Croke Park to cheer on The Kingdom down through the decades.

 

 

(Valentia Harbour Station at Renard Point taken on the day of it’s closure, 1960 – image source: National Library of Ireland – https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlireland/20344107901/in/photolist-wZJSv4-jsyDm4-tksE2m)

While it’s closure heralded a sad day for the people of the area, what was surely one of the most scenic rail lines in Europe is now very much making a comeback, not as part of Ireland’s rail network but as something that promises to be one of the most visited eco tourist trails in Europe!

In 2023, the section of the rail line route that runs from the village of Glenbeigh all the way to Renard Point began to be developed into a combined cycling & walking trail as part of the South Kerry Greenway. The “greenway” will span a total distance of 32km and where possible will utilise the abandoned rail corridor which will include crossing bridges, passing through tunnels and running over spectacular viaducts accompanied all of the way with the most spectacular of towering mountains and rugged coastlines which will showcase the beauty of our coastal home.

Gleensk Viaduct, Ring of Kerry, Ireland

( Gleensk Viaduct, Ring of Kerry, Ireland – image source: Graham Horn – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Kerry_Greenway#/media/File:Gleensk_Viaduct_-_geograph.org.uk_-_775765.jpg)

 

So while Renard Point and our Smokehouse have certainly seen plenty of changes down through the decades, we look forward to the arrival of the South Kerry Greenway passing right outside our door and we’ll be certain to inform any walkers or cyclists that we see that the next stop really is America!

 

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