Ireland is known for many things. Guinness, traditional music, the Cliffs of Moher but nothing more than its rugged green countryside. The nation is a haven for rural enthusiasts. It’s a huge garden floating in the Atlantic Ocean. In a land that is crammed with beauty and nature, it’s hard to choose what deserves to be labeled as the best. To just be in the conversation of what’s the best is a massive achievement in itself. And Gougane Barra is firmly in the conversation.
What is Gougane Barra National Park?
It is an area that is blessed with nature and scenery, spread across almost 400 acres. Gougane Barra was named Irelands first-ever National Park when it opened to the public in 1966. The park has a real sense of identity with the likes of its towering pine trees, the jagged terrain, the glistening lake, but no more so than its charming little chapel. Gougane Barra is a land of adventure wrapped up in stunning nature.
How to get there
There is no direct public transport service to Gougane Barra. From Cork City, you can take bus service 233 to Ballingeary (12 EUR one way). You then need to take a taxi from here to Gougane Barra (15-20 EUR one way). Or if you prefer you can walk around 7.5 km, which will take just under 2 hours.
This is by far the most convenient way for getting to Gougane Barra. Cork City Bus Tours provides a tour from Cork City to Ireland’s most southernly point, stopping off at Gougane Barra along the way. The price for an adult ticket is 35 EUR, a student 28 EUR, and a child is 19 EUR for the 8-hour day trip. The tour takes place from February – October on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. For more information, you can click on the link down below.
The drive from Cork City is around 73 km and takes around 1 hour 15 minutes. From Killarney, the drive is 58 km and takes just under an hour. You should note that although the journey to the park is an amazing spectacle, you will be driving on small country roads. Additionally, you must remember that people drive on the left-hand side of the road in Ireland. For directions, click on the link down below.
About Gougane Barra National Park
From the moment you enter, you’re greeted with the grandest of entrances. In the background, the trees clutch to the edge of the soaring mountains. In the foreground is a pretty lake that glimmers and sparkles once the sun rays beam down on it. The area is picture-perfect. Once you enter the cluster of trees, you’re met with the sound of birds chirping, the River Lee trickling its way through the park, and the beautiful smell of the Scot Pine trees.
There are plenty of maps dotted around the forest, so there is no need to worry about getting lost. This allows you to follow popular walking routes, or you can explore and create your own route. On the ground level, there is plenty of picnic benches where locals spend a lot of time during the warm summer months. As you climb upwards, under the trees and over small wooden bridges, you’re rewarded with breath-taking views across Cork & Kerry.
Things to do
WALKING: There are 6 official walking routes throughout the park. They range from relaxing 0.5km strolls to strenuous 2.5km hikes. Whatever way you choose to walk, you will not be disappointed.
GOUGANE BARRA LAKE: Not only can you sit and admire the wonderful lake, but you can also float along with it. Gougane Barra Hotel provides canoes for those who come to explore the area. And although the water is not the warmest, many dive in for a refreshing dip.
CYCLE: There are two official cycle routes here. The first is the 318 kilometer-long Cork City-Beara-Gougane Barra cycle route that finishes in Gougane Barra. The second is the scenic drive. This is a looped 3 km motor trail that has spectacular views of the valley and its walled sides.
ST. FINBARR’S ORATORY: This site has been documented all the way back to the 6th Century. The oratory is sitting pretty along the lake connected to the mainland through a narrow causeway. Today, the site is popular for pilgrims and weddings.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Whether you’re a professional or a hobbyist, this is a perfect location to snap up some top-class photographs.
TRADITIONAL IRISH PUB: Yes, there is no public transport to Gougane Barra, but you can still find a pub. This is Ireland! Cronin’s Bar & Café is as Irish as it comes. If you want to feel like a real local, order a pint of Murphy’s stout, not Guinness.
For more information on Gougane Barra National Forest Park, click on the link down below.