The River Lee rises in the Derrynasaggart Mountains above Gougane Barra (Loch an Tuatáin, 525m) and flows eastwards for 80km where it meets the sea in Cork. The Lee is joined by many tributaries, including the Sullane at Macroom, and this area makes up the 1600sqkm Lee Valley.
The Lee rises in the high ground above Gougane Barra, as a trickling stream, and falls "in a thousand wild fountains" into the forest park and the corrie lake in Gougane Barra, Lough Irce, where you'll find the holy island of St Finbarr. Legend has it that St Finbarr fought with and expelled a great serpent known as Lú from this lake and the beast's departure is what formed the channel that is now the River Lee.
The Journey from Gougane Barra to Cork
The river flows quickly from here past the Gaeltacht village of Beal Átha an Ghaorthaidh (Ballingeary) andinto the lake of Lough Allua (where Lú sleeps). It gains its river form again at Inchigeelagh and flows steadily until it meets the ‘The Gearagh’ near Macroom. The Gearagh is the remains of the only post glacial Alluvial forest in Western Europe, and is now a rich wildlife preserve.
The Lee valley has two hydro electric schemes and the man-made lakes formed as a result are wildlife sanctuaries and popular with water sports and fishing enthusiasts.
The river regains its normal size after the dam in Inniscarra, and lazily flows past Ballincollig and into Cork city where it divides into two channels for a short time before meeting the sea at Cork Harbour.
“I have swam in the holy waters of the River Lee and I have been set free.”
John Spillane, songwriter and singer, 2009
- - Gougane Barra in the rain is ‘a must’, when waterfalls appear all over the mountainsides and come crashing down to the lake. See J.J. Callanan in the "Literary" section.
- - Go fishing in Lough Allua and the reservoirs of Carrigadrohid and Inniscarra; perfect for coarse fishing, especially for pike and bream.
- - Cycle the Lee Valley from Cork to Gougane Barra on a marked cycle route.
- - Go Horse riding at the Lee Valley Equestrian Centre
- - Visit the market town of Macroom (situated half way between Cork and Killarney) and see Macroom Castle once owned by Sir William Penn, founder of the State of Pennsylvania! Tuesday is market day, so particularly recommended.
- - Make toy soldiers in the Factory in Killnamartyra, a great day out. Prince August is Ireland’s only Toy Soldier Factory and has an impressive display of pewter pieces, including toy soldiers, chess sets, Irish historical miniatures and Lord of the Rings figurines. One-to-one, private painting workshops (minimum 3 children/adults per working class) can be arranged.Prince August Toy Soldier
- - Do a day trip to Blarney Castle, near Cork city and kiss the Blarney stone to get the ‘gift of the gab’- we did...!
- - Walk around Cork city and visit St Finbarr’s Cathedral, the Glucksman Gallery in UCC and the Crawford Gallery; ring the bells in Shandon or explore Cobh and visit the Titanic exhibition - all in a day's trip from Gougane.
- - Go waterskiing in Carrigadrohid, kayak in the city, birdwatch in the Gearagh, sail in the harbour, go bowling in the city. The list of options is endless...
- - Shop till you drop in the friendly city of Cork with all the top brands available.
- - Sample some of the many speciality foods this valley has to offer in great locations like the English Market and many great restaurants and cafés around Cork city..