Gougane Barra is an enchanting forest park hidden deep in a glacial glen. Surrounded on three sides by the rugged, heather-clad Shehy Mountains, its tranquil lake is the source of the River Lee. Like many spots of outstanding beauty in Ireland it was selected as a monastic site by one of Ireland’s saints. In the 6th century St. Finbar – patron saint of Cork – chose a tiny island in the lake for his hermitage but no original ruins remain. Today there is a causeway to the island where vestiges of Fr. Denis O’Mahony’s 18th century retreat can be explored. There is a courtyard with eight cells and some interesting stones. Also on the island is a small Romanesque-style oratory that was built late in the 19th century. It has beautiful stained glass windows depicting County Cork saints. The romantic setting is very popular today for Irish weddings.
Gougane Barra was Ireland’s first forest park and contains over 1,000 acres of mossy woods and dramatic mountains. They can be explored by six different walking trails and also on a driving trail. A pilgrimage to the lake takes place every year on the Sunday closest to September 25th, the feast of St. Finbar. Picnic tables and public toilets are available near the parking area. Open daily.
There is a green island in lone Gougane Barra,
Where Allua of songs rushes forth as an arrow;
In deep-valley’d Desmond – a thousand wild fountains
Come down to that lake from their homes in the mountains.
There grows the wild ash, and a time stricken willow
Looks chidingly down on the mirth of the billow;
As, like some gay child, that sad monitor scorning,
It lightly laughs back to the laugh of the morning.
– J.J. Callanan
© 2011 Michele Erdvig
“Ireland Travel Expert”
Book: Ireland Dream Trip
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