Gougane Barra in West Cork has one of the most naturally spectacular unspoilt landscapes in Ireland, surrounded by mountains, a lake and the country's first national park. It is the location of a famous holy island in the middle of this lake, that is linked by a causeway to the mainland. Since the 6th Century this island has been associated with the patron saint of Cork, St. Finbarr, and contains numerous religious buildings dating from the 17th to 20th centuries. The present St. Finbarr's Oratory (1906) sits on this island and is a popular destination for pilgrims, visitors and weddings from all over the world. The River Lee rises in the mountains above Gougane Barra and makes its journey through villages, lakes and reservoirs before reaching the sea at Cork City Harbour, 89km away.
Gougane Barra is in the Muskerry Gaeltacht, an area where Irish or Gaelic is the main language spoken of the people and Irish culture in the form of poetry, music and storytelling is part of everyday life.
Young people visit the area to attend Irish college and become immersed in the language and culture as a way of improving their spoken Irish and experiencing Gaeltacht life.
Coillte Gougane Barra forest park covers 339 acres with rocky outcrops, high pine, sitka and spruce forests, a rich diversity of plant, animal and bird life. There are numerous signed designated walking trails suitable for all abilities. Many visitors, poets, writers and artists have been attracted to Gougane Barra.