Gougane Barra is located in a beautiful part of the South
West of Ireland, ideal if you are looking for some of Irelands
scenic countryside to visit. The area of Gougane Barra can be
visited at any time of the year but it is especially beautiful in
the Summer months. An ideal area in West Cork for cycling
or walking with many walking and nature trails in the Gougane Barra
Forest Park, and there is also a little section which you can drive
around, a nice feature.
On entering Gougane Barra you are met with the natural beauty of the
hills which tower over Gougane Barra Lake and then the well
known St Finbarr's Oratory or Small Church out in the Lake on the little island
all on its own. Just behind the Oratory are the remains of St Finbarr's monastery from the 6th century, with beautiful old
stations of the cross above the ancient prayer cells. It was here
that St Finbarr spent time, before making his way to Cork. The Oratory has some
lovely stained glass windows. Pilgrims still visit this holy site
and the 25th of September is the feast of St Finbarr with a mass
being held on the Sunday closest to this date. During the Penal
times people made their way to Gougane Barra for Mass and hence the
many Mass Rocks around the West Cork area.
The scenery in this area is breath
taking and it offers the visitor a little time out in this peaceful
valley. Cork's River Lee has its source in Gougane Barra's Lake,
where it flows through Ballingeary and onwards towards Cork City.
It must be the most photographed Church in this part of Ireland and
many a happy wedding have enjoyed this wonderful setting for their
photographs. Truly magical, peaceful in a stunning location.
Take some time out and enjoy a coffee or some great food at the
nearby Gougane Barra Hotel and just enjoy the tranquil views of the
lake and mountains.
Gougane Barra is just a 1 hr 30 minutes drive from Cork
driving via Ballingeary, a popular Irish college area, and on
through Inchigeela. Gougane Barra is also the same distance from
Kenmare, County Kerry. Just 50 minutes to Glengarriff
Guágan Barra Forest Park is located 5km west of Ballingeary on
R584 to Bantry, at the Pass of Keimaneigh.
The name Guágan Barra derives from St. Finbar, who according to
tradition, built his monastery on the island here in the 6th
century. Guágan was at one time part of the territories of the
O'Leary's who lost possession of the land in the plantation that
followed the Cromwellian wars. Subsequently it passed to the
Townsend family and ultimately the farming tenants under the Land
Acts in the early part of this century. The ruins on the island
are not part of St. Finbar's original settlement but were erected
around 1700 by Rev. Denis O'Mahony who, following the footsteps of
St. Finbar, retired to a life of asceticism here. Because of its
isolation, in the days of the Penal Laws people travelled from
areas far beyond the bounds of the valley to hear Mass in Guágan
Barra. One of the most famous 'Mass Path' was that which led from
the Borlin Valley to the west via Gowlane Stream and down into Com
Rua by way of the savage cleft of Poll.
The Guágan Barra area, and indeed the whole of south Cork, south
Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula, is composed of old red sandstone.
The characteristic layering or bedding of the sedimentary rocks
can be clearly seen in the high cliffs around Com Rua at the head
of the Guágan Barra valley. Guágan Barra Lake lies in a rock
basin carved out by the ice but nowhere does it reach depths
greater than 12 meters.
Walks: Guágan Barra is unusual among forest parks in that it
provides drive around facilities for the motorist and a motor
trail can be followed right along the ring road. There are also a
number of signposted paths.
Species: The Forest Park comprises some 142 hectares. The area
was virtually treeless until 1938 when the afforestation programme
began. Plantings were largely of lodgepole pine, Sitka spruce and
Japanese larch - three species that thrive in poorer soils and
stand up well to exposure. Sitka spruce, which is particularly
resistant to constant winds and suits a wide variety of soils,
accounts for 40% of the area.
Flora - In the Park natural vegetation occasionally reaches
down to the roadside on rock outcrops and on stream banks but it
is to be seen to better advantage as one approaches the upper
fringes of the forest. On drier slopes fringe grasses such as
brents and fescues, with heather and ling are abundant. Moist
slopes have a large collection of purple moor grass while wet
hollows harbour bog mosses and cotton grasses. Sedges and rushes
flourish well here as do fox's cabbage, butterworths and sundews.
Rock faces are covered with lichens.
Fauna - The otter hunts and fishes in secluded spots by
night and day as does the stoat. The nocturnal badger, the brown
rat, the fox and rabbit are all present in the park. Very
occasionally the shy field mouse, pigmy shew and the pine marten
can be spotted. Other common species to be found are the coal tit,
wren, robin, wood pigeon, blackbird and chiffchaff. Other birds
include the willow warbler, pied and grey wagtail, dock dove,
cuckoo, thrush and starlings. Red buntings, cormorants and herons,
moorhens and one or two mute swans may be seen by the lake.
Slí Loai - the Lee Walk, follows the course of the infant Lee from the lower car
park to the head of the great coum - a distance of about 1.5km.
From the lower car park there is a choice of several other walks,
including the ever-popular Nature Trail which is quite short -
under 1km. For the more energetic there is a very fine walk called
Slí Easa - the Waterfalls Walk which commands magnificent views of the whole glen and
the great mountain wall that encloses it. Other walking trails in
Gougane Barra include the Mountain Walk and the Little Red Valley
If you are looking for Gougane Barra accommodation why not try
Gougane Barra Hotel in this beautiful setting.