Gougane Barra is famous for many reasons. The source of the mighty river Lee is found here as you ascend the slopes of its impressive hills. The cool green calm forests here cocoon you in a gentle embrace as the grind of life falls away. It is here that Saint Patrick is said to have banished the snakes from Ireland, one so large it gouged the valley of Gougane itself.
One of the most beautiful, ancient churches in the land sits on the lake not far from where the sinister serpent was banished. It now has a far more benign function, purveying blessings on newlyweds and curious travellers from near and far. The forest here was originally farm land which was purchased by the State in the late 1930’s. It has since been reforested with over 20 different types of trees, predominantly coniferous.
A very famous couple lived in the area in the early to mid part of the 1900’s. The husband, Tim Buckley was known as a great storyteller and tailor. He was 9 years younger than his wife, Ansty. He had a crippled leg from childhood so as they aged, visitors became increasingly important to them. His vivid tales drew people from near and far, including a journalist called Eric Cross who regularly visited the couple in the 1930’s. Unbeknownst to them, Cross wrote a series of articles on their lives which later became a book and a play. The book was banned by the Censorship board in 1942 for supposed indecent subject matter. A huge furore played out over the book and was even brought to Senate!
Gougane Barra also has the auspicious honour of the loveliest latrine in Ireland, and with a thatched roof to boot!
It is no wonder that saints and scholars from all over the world have ventured to this magical place. Nowadays couples exchange vows in its natural splendour.
Allihies is a picturesque coastal village nestled in the hills of the Beara peninsula. It’s colourful cottages and characters along with its glorious scenery draws people in like bees to nectar.
Our walk took us from the village along the coast to explore the wild ruggedness of its coastline. We walked towards the hills, past the old copper mines which were very important for the community. The mines are still very much intact and have even heavily influenced the local beach. The spoils from the mine used to run dow the hill to the sea and the crushed remnants now make up the sand on the beach.
Our walk was moderate and will took us approximately 3 hours at a leisurely pace. There is so much stunning scenery, particularly when you reach higher ground. The combination of stark stone, and wild Atlantic below is quite the sight.
The more of Beara you see, the more it imprints itself upon your consciousness. It’s dark and troubled history from the mining times and famine, where people lived sometimes up to 25 in a house. Today it serves as a success story and testament to the enduring people who live here. We at MOPTOG, cannot get enough.
The Sheeps Head in West Cork is one of only a few locations in Ireland which has been designated the European Destination of Excellence. The lighthouse here is on the the tip of the peninsula and this gorgeous loop walk brought us past Lough, farmland and bog, to see stunning views from the lighthouse out onto the Atlantic ocean.
This location is drenched in history and we discovered some of this as we wended our way along. The walk took approx. 2.5 hours and terrain was uneven and a wee bit boggy in parts. The wild beauty and ruggedness was obvious was we ambled along in the glorious sunshine.
The lighthouse stood out like a beacon of hope on its rocky promonotory, overlooking the wild Atlantic ocean. It was built in 1986 to guide the tankers between Bantry and Whiddy Bay terminal. Due to its remote location, all of the equipment and supplies required to build the lighthouse had to be choppered in. It took 250 helicopter trips to bring all of the components necessary to build the lighthouse!
Walking through the valley we passed blanket bog which harbours the carnivorous plant, Sundew. This plant grows in nitrogen poor soils and it has devised a nifty solution to this conundrum. Its sticky leaves trap the unwitting flies that it seduces and as they struggle, the become more trapped in its sticky hair, which then digest the failing fly.
Sometimes the shy common lizard can be seen basking on the rocks here on a sunny day. We were unable to find it on this occasion, most probably due to the many tourists and hikers that were here today. It is the only reptile in Ireland and only reaches 4-6 inches in length. The chough which is a corvid could be seen sweeping above us. According to legend, when King Arthur died his soul migrated into this bird. Its red beak and legs are supposed to indicate the blood that covered the Kings body when he died in battle. Gannets could also be seen plunge diving offshore. They hurtle into the water at speeds of up to 125km per hour to spear their prey. Their heads are filled with air bubbles like a crash helmet to protect them on their aquatic impact.
A haven for man and beast, heaven on earth!
What better way to end the weekend then to go for a paddle under a summer sky as it fades to black? We are going night kayaking at Reen Pier, Union Hall. This trip has been voted by Trip Advisor as one of the worlds top ten trips!
Quoting from the company :
”One of our most magical and popular kayaking experiences, a moonlight / starlight paddle starts one hour before darkness. This gives you a little time to get used to the kayak. We use a mix of singles and doubles. This is a very atmospheric trip and we do not travel a great distance, so it is suitable for everyone.
There is always something to make you gasp on the moonlight / starlight kayak trip, whether it be the silhouette of the seabirds on the bank, the red sunset, the whole panoply of stars overhead, the moonlight reflected on the water, or, at certain times of year, the astonishing bio-luminescence. This is a light emitted by marine life, which, from the paddler’s point of view, causes the water to light up around your paddle in 1,000 tiny lights”
Trip duration: 2.5 hours. All equipment provided. Suitable for beginners.
Car pooling: Please post to event to let us know if you want a lift or can provide one.
What to bring: Warm clothes, camera (waterproof), hat, snacks and drinks.
Hiking in the verdant forests of Killarney always brings a lightness of step and joy even with soggy conditions. We headed up the Old Kenmare Road to do one of the beautiful trails and cocooned ourselves from the ever present rain.
We dropped down to a very swollen Torc waterfall before heading in search of vagrant sheep up along Molls Gap. One very accomodating sheep modelled patiently for us before we headed on to Sneem. A triple rainbow did its best to outshine our ruminant friend, momentarily dazzling us.
A trip through the Garden of Senses and a view of the Pyramids illustrated what a gorgeous spot this wee town is.
On to Derrynane to see the house of the famed Daniel O’ Connell. The house was closed but the gardens were open and the breaking waves of the nearby ocean beckoned us forth.
A typical day tour to Killarney National Park. Sneem and Derrynane :).
The storms of last Saturday left a much flooded Ireland and some surging seas. Our trip was booked for the following day and we were mad excited to get out there and see what was about.
We lucked out with calm descending on Sunday and giving us a much welcome reprieve from the maelstrom.
The sea had been amply churned out by torrential rains and was murky and foamy, yet incredibly beautiful. The sun was valiantly trying to show itself and kept on peering at us from behind the clouds.
Our charter for the day was the Holly Joe, skippered by the excellent Colin Barnes of Cork Whale Watch. He steered us through the waves with ease and grace and guided us towards the rocky promonotories to see the seals and ancient ruins.
A few porpoises snuck past us but they eluded most of us by the time we realised. On our way back to port a lone dolphin cruised by. We watched it as it sped through the water.