Gougane Barra, as most of you know, is the place where St Finbarr, the Cork saint, had his refuge before heading for the big marsh where the city now stands. He perhaps followed the course of the River Lee which has its source in Gougane.
The first thing you will notice on the way it is the small chapel, popular for weddings, on a little island on your right. This dates from the 19th century and may be visited. Just close the door after you, as requested, as the birds get in and cause problems.
It is a remarkable forest with many walks and tracks and indeed, there is an oval drive right into the heart of it, something you don’t get in many forests in Ireland.
I drove all the way in and, unlike some drivers, stopped, got out and had a look. There are two walks from this upper car park, one marked strenuous, the other moderate. Of course, we picked the tough one, an hour and three quarters up to a point above the trees and back down again by a different path.
But it isn’t really all that tough, not if you have decent footwear, a walking stick and use commonsense. It is called The Mountain Trail or Slí Sléibhe. It is marked with little red feet and the pathway itself is obvious. It ascends through the trees and, via little wooden bridges, crosses back and forth over the infant Lee and eventually out on to the open mountain.
It travels along the tree line with magnificent views to the south before coming back down through mature larches and back to the internal road. It was a pretty good day and I worked up a decent sweat and enjoyed it very much indeed.
Got back to the car and then checked out the nearby moderate walk. This was just a ten minutes circular stroll over much the same kind of pathway and gave a good idea of the forest. Well worth having a go off this one if you don’t have time for the Mountain Trail.
Both trails have clearly defined walkways and there are many manmade steps to help you on your way. But be sensible. Don’t go up on your own. Get the weather forecast. Wear good shoes and bring that stick.
You can see the Mountain Path at the official Coillte site. You’ll also see that there are quite a few more tracks. Lots if info there and lots of signs in the forest itself. A friendly forest! Must go back myself soon and try another one.