Gougane Barra was Ireland’s first National Park when it opened to the public in 1966. This contributes greatly to the reputation which Gougane Barra has as an area of wild and beautiful scenery. The magnificent Forest Park covers an area of over 400 hectares (1,000 acres).
The River Lee rises here in Gougane Barra and flows through beautiful scenery to reach Cork Harbour after a distance of approximately fifty kilometres. There is a tiny island in the lake at Gougane Barra connected to the shore by a causeway. It was here that St. Finbarr, patron saint of Cork, founded his early Christian monastery, before moving down the River Lee to establish a monastery at what is now St. Finbarrs Cathedral in Cork City. There is a small church on the island in this beautiful and serene location away from the hustle & bustle of daily life.
There are a number of walks in Gougane Barra forest park comprising some 350 acres. Nature lovers will revel in the extensive areas of natural and cultivated forestry which abounds in wildlife. You can drive along the ring road in the forest or take some of the very enjoyable walks. Sli Laoi a delightful walk along the floor of Cumrua follows the course of the infant Lee to the head of the valley.
For the more energetic there are interesting walks ascending the slopes, from which the panoramic view of mountain and crag, lake and forest, present a picture of unforgettable beauty. For the skilled walker the high hills surrounding Gougane Barra invite you to sample the joys of hill walking.
Other activities in Gougane Barra include cycling; the Cork City-Beara-Gougane Barra cycle route passes through Gougane Barra and finishes here. Gougane Barra is a favourite location for trout anglers and painters. In fact Eric Cross wrote the controversial book “The Tailor and Ansty”, a witty collection of sketches commemorating the talk of his friend Tim Buckley, the tailor of Gougane Barra.