Gougane Barra (Irish: Guagán Barra, meaning 'the rock-cleft of Barra') is a scenic valley and heritage site in the Shehy Mountains of County Cork, Ireland. It is near Ballingeary in the Muskerry Gaeltacht. Gougane Barra is at the source of the River Lee and includes a lake with an oratory built on a small island. It also includes a forest park.
The name Guagán Barra comes from Saint Finnbarr (or Barra), who is said to have built a monastery on the island in the lake during the sixth century. The present ruins of a hermitage date from around 1700 when a priest called 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 hermitage 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.
Reforestation of Gougane Barra began in 1938 and it is now home to a 1.42 square kilometre (or 138 hectare) forest park with twenty tree species, mainly non-native Sitka spruce, Japanese larch and Lodgepole pine, but also Scots pine and other native species of flora and fauna. The source of the River Lee rises in the hills above the park and flows into Gougane lake. The forest park has 5 km of motor trail and 10 km of hill walks, nature points and vista trails. The Coillte-owned forest at Gougane Barra was temporarily closed in 2014 to allow felling of 16,000 trees, mostly larches, infected with or susceptible to Phytophthora ramorum, a pathogen responsible for Sudden Oak Death. These trees were to be replaced with native species such as oak and Scots pine.
Since 2021 the company Wingleaf Ltd plans to erect a wind farm of seven turbines in the area, which would be among the tallest in Ireland. Their application was refused by Cork County Council, who voted unanimously against it. The company appealed to An Bord Pleanála. Their inspector also rejected it, stating that it "would have significant adverse environmental and visual impacts and is not sustainable at this highly sensitive location". Despite this, An Bord Pleanála granted permission, on the grounds that the wind farm would contribute "to the implementation of Ireland's national strategic policy on renewable energy". Tim Lucey, spokesman of the campaigners against the wind farm, said the decision was undemocratic as the local people and council opposed it.
Lake and surrounding hills
19th century oratory
17th century hermitage
- "Guagán Barra / Gougane Barra". logainm.ie. Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
- Evelyn Bolster (1972). A History of the Diocese of Cork: From the earliest times to the Reformation. Irish University Press. p. 13. ISBN 9780064905725.
Gougane did not become a popular pilgrim venue until about the year 1700 when Father Denis O'Mahony [came to the area]
- "Uibh Laoire Website". Uibhlaoireparish.com. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
- "Gougane Barra". Cork Guide Web site. Archived from the original on 15 November 2017. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
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In West Cork and South Kerry the practice of walking pilgrim paths to St Finbarr's hermitage in Gougane Barra has been in place for many centuries. One such path leads from Drimoleague, where – local tradition has it – St Finbarr arrived at the Top of the Rock in the sixth century and admonished the people to return to Christ, before making his way to Gougane Barra.
- "National and Forest Parks - Gougane Barra Forest Park". DiscoverIreland.ie. Archived from the original on 7 January 2014.
- Roche, Barry (4 January 2014). "Cork's Gougane Barra Forest Park closing due to tree fungus". Irish Times. Archived from the original on 9 October 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
- "Row over planned wind farm at Cork beauty spot Gougane Barra". The Irish Times. 26 April 2022.