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West Cork travel guide, Gougane Barra Ireland

Gougane Barra

  Pleasant scenic inland drive to the monastery of     St Finbarr the patron saint of Cork.

     Route Details : 88Km (55miles)

      Road Type : Normal

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  • At the outskirts of Dunmanway, take the R587 towards Macroom.

  • About 5 kilometers from Dunmanway the road curves to the right and a smaller road goes straight ahead.  choose this one; it is signposted to Inchigeela.

  • When this road joins the R585, go left.

  • Then take the first road on your right - signpost says "Grotto" and "Togher".  These roads are through rough countryside.

  • At the edge of Inchigeela Village go left on road signposted "South Lake Road".

West Cork travel guide, Gougane Barra Ireland
West Cork travel guide, Gougane Barra Ireland
  • When you have traveled a mile on that road, you will come to a Mass Rock on your left.  Mass was secretly celebrated here, whenever possible during the era of the Penal Laws, which outlawed the Catholic religion (latter half of 17th and most of the 18th centuries).

  • A little further on is Cooregrenane Wood.  There is a pleasant path through the woods to a vista point, but it is not for the faint-hearted, as it becomes very steep as it climbs

  • The road continues along the southern shore of Lough Allua, beneath the foothills of the Sheehy Mountains.  This lake is noted for pike fishing.

  • As you drive on you are entering a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area. 

  • When this lake road rejoins the main road (R584) go left.  A few miles further on you come to a junction where a sign-post indicates the road to Gougane Barra on your right.

  • There is an air of peace and tranquility about Gougane Barra.  Against a backdrop of rugged hills, on a little island in the lake is the site of the sixth century hermitage of St. Finbarr (Barra in Irish) founder, and first Bishop of Cork.

West Cork travel guide, Gougane Barra Ireland
West Cork travel guide, Gougane Barra Ireland
  • This island is linked to the mainland by a causeway.  The little chapel on the island was built at the end of the nineteenth century.  Its design is said to have been influenced Cormac's chapel in Cashel, Co. Tipperary, which dated from the eleventh century.

  • About the end of the seventeenth century a Fr. Denis O'Mahony became a hermit on the island and Gougane Barra became a place of pilgrimage. 

  • The ruins on the island are from that period.  The cross in the centre is said to stand where St. Finbarr's cell was, in the sixth century. 

  • As you come back to the mainland, the tomb you see to your left is the resting place of Fr. O'Mahony. 

  • In the little graveyard beside it is the grave of Timothy O'Leary, the Tailor who was the subject of Eric Cross's book "The Tailor and Ansty" - a book which caused a minor furore on its publication.  His headstone has the inscription " A star danced and under that I was born".

West Cork travel guide, Gougane Barra Ireland

  • As you drive towards the National Park is an unusual, prize-winning structure - a toilet.

  • The National Park covers several hundred acres stretching from the lake-side into the mountain.  There is a nice circular drive through the Park; there are numerous picnic tables, several well-marked nature trails.  As you begin your descent note the little sign "An Loai" on your left.  That little stream is the River Lee which enters the sea in Cork Habour.  Its source is a little bit further up the mountain.

  • When you rejoin the main road (R584), go left.  The village of Beal Atha 'n ghaorthaigh (Ballingeary) is a centre where students come in large numbers during the Summer to perfect the knowledge of Irish. 

  • At Inchigeela take a right to return to Dunmanway.

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