The Gougane Barra Forest Park

Gougane Barra is best known for the picturesque view of a small church that lies on an island of its own, reflecting like a mirror in the lake. It must be the most photographed church in Ireland, yet a magical place surrounds it.

Situated in the beautiful county of Southwest Cork, the Gougane Barra Forest Park is a must-visit for anyone visiting the county. Covering over 137 acres of luscious green landscape, Gougane Barra is a nature-lovers delight making it Ireland’s first national park.

Home to countless beautiful walkways, extraordinary scenery, and immense natural beauty, Gougane Barra in Irish: Guagán Barra, meaning ‘the rock of Barra’. This idyllic piece of Cork is home to a wealth of history waiting to be discovered.

The name Gougane Barra comes from Saint Finbarr, who is said to have built a monastery on an island in the lake nearby during the 6th century. The present ruins date from around 1700 when a priest named Denis O’Mahony retreated to the island. During the times of the Penal Laws, Gougane Barra’s remoteness meant that it became a popular place for the celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass. The nineteenth-century oratory, which stands near the original monastery, is famous for its picturesque location and richly decorated interior and is a popular place for wedding photography. St Finbar’s Oratory is the final destination for one of the five Pilgrim Paths of Ireland, St. Finbar’s Pilgrim Path, which starts 35-kilometres away in Drimoleague.

So if you’re planning a getaway this springtime or summer or any time of the year, go and explore Gougane Barra Forest Park. Get those hiking boots ready, pack a picnic and have a day out walking the 142 hectares of forest floor(QT tip: There are many picnic tables throughout the forest, so perfect for a Sunday picnic with the kids). You can also bring your car in if your feet get tired (there is a €5 entrance fee for the vehicle). Drive-in and have a picnic with the family or friends and explore the forest. There are lots of walking trails, and each one is distinct and wonderful. You might even sight some of the wildlife in the woods – deer, badgers, foxes, stoats and even the shy pine marten can be seen occasionally.

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