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National Pilgrim Paths Day 19-20th April 2014 in Gougane Barra.

National Pilgrim Paths Day 19-20th April 2014 in Gougane Barra.

National Pilgrim Paths Day 19/20th April 2014

St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Walk from the Top of the Rock,Drimoleague to Gougane Barra.In West Cork and South Kerry the practise of walking pilgrim paths to St Finbarr’s hermitage in Gougane Barra has been in place  for many centuries. In one such place,Drimoleague, local tradition recalls that St Finbarr arrived at the Top of the Rock in the sixth century and admonished the people to return to Christ, afterwhich he made his way to Gougane Barra. The practise of walking this ancient route has been revived since 2008 and groups as large as fifty and as small as three or four are regularly found walking the 22 mile (35km) route. The route itself has been opened up to the public with the goodwill of landowners along the route, who maintain the walks under the Walks Scheme.

 Leaving aside the spiritual benefits for a moment, this walk is a truly magnificient  journey which goes “up and over” three mountain systems and four valleys, namely the Ilen, Mealagh, Ouvane and Leevalley basins. There are spectacular views over Bantry Bay and stretches of the West Cork coastline. A rich archaeological landscape combined with interesting folklore and the characters one might meet along the way make this an experience that draws people back again and again. But it is the spiritual aspect that attracts many people; the questions raised as you walk: “What motivated Finbarr to bring the good news of Christ to these places?  What message did he bring that eclipsed the prevailing darkness which he challenged? And why is there an unusual sense of peace and restfulness in the beautiful island where he held retreat?”   The contemplation, the seeking  and the finding, the camarderie of other“pilgrims” and the pains and aches at day’s end…all these make St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Way a special experience to  be anticipated and experienced to the full.

 Pilgrim Paths Day 2014 makes this entirely possible. For the first time in Ireland all fifteen of its accessible pilgrim paths will be walked on the 19th-20th of April which fittingly is the Easter weekend.  The order of events is as follows:

Good Friday 18th April : 8pm onwards  Complimentary light supper  at the Top of the Rock Pod Páirc &Walking Centre  with time to meet,prepare and  orientate to the Pilgrim Walk.  A short reflection will be given on the challenge ahead.

Saturday 19th April:  9am Depart from the Top of the Rock, headingfor Castledonovan, Mullaghmesha and the Mealagh Valley.

 (See map

2pm Lunch will be served by the Mealagh Valley community group in their new community hall.

5pm Arrival in Kealkil having completed the first 12.5 miles of the walk.

At this point those staying in Gougane Barra will be taken by bus to the Gougane Barra Hotel for dinner.

Those staying in Drimoleague will have a Bus transfer to Drimoleague via Bantry where walkers will have one and a half hours to go to the restaurant of their choice. Then return to the Pod Páirc by bus.

Sunday: It is likely there will be a Sunrise Easter vigil overlooking Drimoleague followed by breakfast

Bus transfers from Gougane  and Drimoleague will enable a 10am start from Carriganass Castle in Kealkil for the 9.5 mile walkover the mountain  to Gougane Barra.

Sandwich lunch at a stop near Lackavaun before the steep ascent. A bus will be available for those who wish to take a less strenuous route to walk into Gougane by road.

Arrival in Gougane at approx. 4pm with a short time of reflection and prayer.

The Gougane Barra hotel will host tea and sandwiches for the walkers.