Gougane Barra is less than a 30mins drive from Bantry and as we like to say in West Cork, it’s only ‘over the road’! Make sure to take advantage of any dry day this time of year to visit this magical place and take time out from busy lives filled with screens and hectic timetables.
Gougane Barra is an area of wild and beautiful scenery with a magnificent Forest Park which covers over 339 acres, so it’s pretty impressive! It is tucked away in a lush valley at the edge of the Sheehy mountains and it is the ideal place to hike, get in touch with nature, picnic and inhale the fresh air. During a recent visit, we passed all sorts of people, young and old, families, couples, people on their own just wanting to get back to nature and enjoy the panoramic views sweeping down to the lake.
It is in these hills where the majestic River Lee rises, flowing to Cork Harbour approximately 89km away. Steeped in history, there is a tiny island at the edge of the lake at the entrance to the Forest Park where St. Finbarr, patron saint of Cork, founded his early Christian monastery in the 6th century. This small church or oratory, is a beautiful West Cork gem on the edge of the lake and worth stopping by to appreciate it’s history or to say a prayer. It’s also a popular place for weddings so you might stumble across a wedding party when you visit the park.
There is plenty of parking (though you do need €5 in coins for the car park) and plenty of picnic spots to choose from. We saw families with younger children on scooters/trikes which are perfectly safe as very few cars drive around the park, they tend to park at the car park on entrance and walk from there. You could also stop off for some snacks at the shop or the Gougane Barra Hotel from some lunch or dinner – they do a fantastic Traditional Sunday Roast, but it can be busy so booking is advisable.
The Forest Park has six mapped walking trails which suit all levels of fitness to choose from and each one with its own unique story to tell:
- The Slí an Ghaorthaidh is 0.5kms in distance and will take approx. 30mins. There are several access points and it is more or less a nature trail with 10 stops throughout.
- Sli na Laoi is 1.3kms,takes about an 1hr and offers more moderate route. It is a delightful trek along the floor of Coomroe following the course of the infant Lee to the head of the valley.
- Slí Dhoire na Coise is 1.8kms taking approx. 45mins and is an easy gentle walk along the Lee to the lake and back.
- The more energetic can tackle the Slí an Easawhich is 1.8kms, 1.5hrs in duration and this it is a strenuous walk.
- The Slí na Sléibhe is alos strenuous and is 2.5kms taking about 2hrs. This is the most majestic of all the trails in the park as it goes high into the mountains with spectacular views.
- For those pressed for time, Slí an Choim Rua which is only 0.5kms and a moderate 30mins walk gives a glimpse into the wonder of the park at the back of the forest valley.
Gougane Barra is a beautiful place in West Cork and we are lucky to be so close, so make sure when you visit this part of the world that it’s on your list.
If you are local to Bantry, then make a note to visit it more often, it’s truly magical!
To find out more about Gougane Barra, click here. If you are visiting Gougane Barra and would like to stay in West Cork, our townhouse in Bantry is the perfect base, so please do take a look around here.