These are thought to be the earliest footprints of a vertebrate (backboned) creature still in their original location anywhere in the world.
They are the footprints of one of the first Tetrapods (four footed creatures) and are estimated to be about 385 million years old. This figure is almost incomprehensible to the human mind. You would have to go back about 10 million (give or take a few million) human generations to reach the era of the Tetrapods. They existed about 150 million years before Dinosaurs first appears on earth.
The tracks are located on the edge of The Atlantic Ocean which did not exist when they were made.
So, to see and be in the presence of something so old is truly awesome.
The footprints themselves are a trail of small indentations in the rock which were made when the creature stepped on the mud which later solidified and became rock over time. As well as these first footprints, faint traces of ‘tail drag’ can be seen.
Nobody knows for sure what this creature looked like as no fossil of its skeleton has been found locally, but it is thought to have been about a metre in length and resembled a large lizard or big salamander.
Site of First Footprints Open to Visitors
The site of these Tetrapod tracks on Valentia Island is open to visitors. There is a good sized car park from which a pathway leads down to the site of the tracks.
The pathway is a few hundred metres in length and a little bit steep in places but it is worth the walk just to see something so old. And when you are there you can also enjoy some magnificent coastal views of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Entrance to the site is free of charge.