Introducing Gougane Barra Forest Park
Gougane Barra is a truly magical part of inland County Cork. It's almost alpine in feel, with spectacular vistas of craggy mountains, silver streams and pine forests sweeping down to a mountain lake, the source of the River Lee. St Finbarre, the founder of Cork, established a monastery here in the 6th century. He had a hermitage on the island in Gougane Barra Lake (Lough an Ghugain), which is now approached by a short causeway. The small chapel on the island has fine stained-glass representations of obscure Celtic saints. A road runs through the park in a loop, but you're better off slowing down and walking the well-marked network of paths and nature trails through the forest.
The only place to air your hiking boots is the Gougane Barra Hotel There's an on-site restaurant, a cafe and a pub next door. The hotel runs a summer theatre festival.
Bus connections are limited; call the hotel for details and possible pick-up part way.
The park is signposted on the R584 after Ballingeary. Returning to the main road afterwards and continuing west, you'll travel over the Pass of Keimaneigh and emerge on the N71 at Ballylickey, midway between the Beara Peninsula and the Sheep's Head Peninsula