In addition to plentiful walks in the Coillte Forest Park, Gougane Barra and its surrounding areas are a walker's paradise. The area is rich in terms of both landscape and history. Whilst there are routes for all ability levels, certain recommended walks require experience, equipment and navigational skills. Be sure to check on the difficulty level of any hike you attempt. Below is a selection of recommended local trails and routes.
The Horseshoe at Gougane Barra
This route follows the skyline of the mountains around Gougane Barra Forest Park. It is a high walk suitable for the highly skilled walker on unmarked mountain surrounding this valley.
The Beara-Breifne Way
The Beara-Breifne Way follows the route of the 14 day march of Donal O’Sullivan Beara and one thousand supporters in the winter of 1602/1603. The Way, which is the longest in Ireland, runs almost the length of the country beginning at the western tip of the Beara Peninsula, and taking a route along the coast, across six mountain ranges, along the banks of the River Shannon and through the midland regions of Roscommon and Leitrim. It is possible to do this walk in sections and some of it passes close to Gougane Barra. See below.
Slí Gaeltacht Mhúscraí
Slí Gaeltacht Mhúscraí is a section of the Beara-Breifne Way that takes you through the Múscraí Gaeltacht (Muskerry Irish-speaking area) which stretches from Gúgán Barra (Gougane Barra) to the shoulders of Mullach na Ois, taking in Béal Athán Ghaorthaidh (Ballingeary) and Baile Mhúirne (Ballyvourney) on its way. Slí Gaeltacht Mhúscraí links the Beara Way and St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Way at Kealkill, crosses the Muskerry Gaeltacht, and joins the Duhallow Way at Millstreet. Its total distance is 50km but it can be undertaken in many shorter local sections.
St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Way
Stretching from the Top of the Rock, Drimoleague, to Gougane Barra, at a distance of 37km, this two-day ancient pilgrim walk follows in the footsteps of St Finbarr who visited Drimoleague in the 6th century. The walk passes through Kealkill, taking in some of the Carriganass walks on the way. The walk is challenging in places (refer to the booklet A guide to the Sheep’s Head Way – Eastern Routes). Most years there is a Pilgrim Paths Day at Easter when guided walks in the steps of St Finbarr arrive at Gougane on Easter Sunday.
Carriganass Castle Walks
On the outskirts of Kealkill village, in the heart of West Cork, Carriganass Castle played a dramatic role in one of Irish history's most exciting stories. In 1602, the castle's owner, Donal Cam O'Sullivan Bere, led his followers past its gates on a march to Leitrim that would see him join the Flight of the Earls from Ireland; that flight itself marked the end of Gaelic civilisation in Ireland. Today's visitors can explore the picturesque castle grounds, and many walkers each year take advantage of the way-marked routes that wind their way past this amazing monument at Carraig an Easa - 'the rock of the waterfall'.
Why not take a walk through history at Carriganass, just 14.5km from Gougane.
The walks include:
- ‘Póc an Tairbh’ loop walk
- ‘Srón na Gaoithe’ Loop Walk
- Kealkill Stone Circle
The Beara Way
The Beara Way incorporates part of the Beara-Breifne Way based on the march of O Sullivan Beare in 1603. The Beara Way is a 206km circular walking route around the highly spectacular Beara Peninsula with a large concentration of historical and archaeological sites en route. The route takes in the towns of Castletownbere, Kenmare and Glengarriff and a number of colourful villages in between: Allihies, Ardgroom, Adrigole and Eyeries. Bere Island and Dursey Island offer amazing walks after a short trip by ferry or the very exciting Dursey Island cable car ride.
The Sheep's Head Way
The Sheep's Head Peninsula juts into the Atlantic, pointing like a thin finger towards America. It sits between Dunmanus and Bantry Bay and is one of the most beautiful, quiet, unspoilt and award-winning walking areas in the South West of Ireland, only a 40-minute drive from here. The peninsula boasts extensive marked walking routes and breath-taking scenery. Various guide books are available.
- Knowledgeable local guides are available to bring small groups on day trips to hidden valleys and mountain peaks in this area.
- We can also recommend experienced guides for the ascent of Carrauntoohil (Ireland’s highest peak) and other high peaks in the South West.
- Catherine Ketch of Lee Valley Walking is our most local tour guide and highly recommended.
- Check out Hillwalk Tours, for guided/self-guided walks on the Beara Way, Sheep's Head Way or even the Kerry Way.
- Consider Outdoors Ireland, for guided walks and other outdoor activities in Kerry, with Nathan Kingerlee.
Recommended Guide Books & Maps
- West Cork Walks by Kevin Corcoran
- Osi Discovery Map, no. 85 available in our online shop
- Maps for Coillte walks available at reception
- Drimoleague Heritage Walkways by David Ross
- Scenic Walks in West Cork by Damien Enright