Official tourism website for Cork, Ireland

The Road Less Travelled

Turn off the main driving routes and get lost in the culture and heritage of a region that truly is ‘A Place Apart’.

Day 1

A Different Route

Take the Macroom Road (N 22) from Cork and discover a different route to West Cork. Turn left just after Lissarda onto R584 and travel through the Múscraí (Muskerry) Gaeltacht to Gougane Barra, a journey of around 70 minutes from Cork City. The area around Gúgán Barra (Gougane Barra) is part of this Gaeltacht, and is made up of the villages of Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh (Ballingeary), Cúil Aodha (Coolea), Bhaile Mhúirne (Ballyvourney) and Cill na Martyra (Kilnamartyra), all situated to the west of Macroom town. Here you will get a sense that Gaeltacht history is all around you as you drive the winding and sometimes narrow road to Gougane. As one of Ireland's prominent Irish-speaking areas, this region was central in the Irish-language movement of the early twentieth century and Gougane Barra was home to the first ever Irish-language teaching college in the country, opened in 1903, and the Irish-language movement contributed significantly to Ireland's struggle for independence around a hundred years ago.


Gougane Barra

Gougane Barra itself is a place rich in history and culture, and set in a spectacular landscape. Walk, hike, cycle or fish while soaking up the magical atmosphere. Visit St Finbarr's Oratory and Cells, a place of veneration and pilgrimage, sit nestled on a tiny island in Gougane Barra Lake that stretches for a mile along the valley floor and is reached by a short causeway. Among many wondrous tales associated with St Finbarr, he is said to have been led by an angel from the source of the River Lee at Gougane Barra to its marshy mouth, where he founded his most important monastery, ‘out of which grew the see and the city of Cork’. Legend has it that Finbarr banished the great serpent Lú from the lake here, and as the beast fled, Lú created the channel which is now the River Lee. St Finbarr's Well and an ancient cemetery are both located near to the island, just next door to the Gougane Barra hotel.


Múscraí Gaeltacht

The Coillte Forest Park at Gugane Barra offers walks for all levels of ability, among the sitka spruce, beside the winding infant River Lee or past waterfalls tucked into the mountainside. Walk up the Derrynasaggart Mountains which ring the lake, accessible from the forest park or oratory.

Slow the pace down and let the Múscraí Gaeltacht work its magic on you as you wander your way through the many different aspects of this wonderful area.

Before continuing on from here stop for a bite to eat at Cronin's Bar & Café which can be enjoyed by the lake.

Allow 1-2 hours.


Buffalo Farm Tour

In the afternoon head to the Macroom Buffalo farm for a tour with the ‘buffalo lady’ Dorothy O’Tuama of O’Tuama Tours, which is located roughly 30 minutes away in Kilnamartyra. Here you can get up close and personal with water buffalo and even get to pet the buffalo calves on Ireland’s premier water buffalo farm. Afterwards find out how buffalo mozzarella is made and even getting to sample some of the farm’s artisan creations.

Allow 2.5 hours for this experience


If You Have Time...

If you have more time while in the area travel another 30 minutes from Kilnamartyra to the historic Carriganass Castle on the outskirts of Kealkill village at the heart of West Cork where you 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' and the Kealkill Stone Circle. After a day discovering the magic of this part of West Cork drive 15 mins more and check into the family-run Gougane Barra Hotel and relax for the evening.


Day 2

Forrest Bathing

In the morning enjoy a Forrest Bathing experience at Gougane Barra National Park which can be organised with the hotel. More than a walk in the woods, Forest Bathing allows you to submerge yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. Translated verbatim from Japanese ‘shinrin-yoku’, researchers have established a growing body of scientific literature on its diverse health benefits.

Allow 2 hours for the experience


Bantry Town

Depart Gougane and head for the market town of Bantry a journey of roughly 30 minutes, where you can stop for a bite to eat at one of the town's popular cafés and restaurants such as The Stuffed Olive family run bakery, cafe and shop in the centre of Bantry town. Or if it's a Friday why not check out the Bantry Market from 9:30am to 2:30pm where you will find the very best in local and artisan produce and crafts as well as a great selection of street food to keep everyone fed during a visit.


Top of the Rock

From here make your next stop the Top of the Rock Pod Páirc & Walking Centre located in Drimoleague less than a 10 minute away. This unique pod Páirc offers clean modern campervan facilities, camping pods and camping spaces. Against the lovely backdrop of the Castledonovan Hills you can walk the nine miles of heritage trails here and enjoy the fun of being on a working farm by the River Glen or if you have more time you can complete the St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Path from Top of the Rock back to Gougane Barra. This ancient pilgrim path which has recently been revived, traverses three mountain and valley systems, culminating in a glorious descent into Gougane Barra, of walk of 35km which is usually completed over two days.


If You Have More Time...

Before departing this mystical part of Cork head for the Beara Peninsula. With its end-of-the-world feel, a trip around the Beara Peninsula is the ultimate way to get away from it all. A drive right around the peninsula makes for an unforgettable day. Take in the immensity of the peninsula's rugged beauty and explore its many national archaeological monuments and colourful towns and villages.

Or rather than driving you could bring your hiking boots and hike your way around a section of the Beara Way a 206km distance trail which can be completed in full over 9 days and find some of the best archaeological sites and scenery in Ireland.

These include Dunboy Castle near Castletownbere which was home to O'Sullivan Bere, Ireland's last Gaelic chieftain or meet the ‘Hag of Beara’ with a visit Killcatherine Church with its pre-Christian stones. Make sure to also stop off at Allihies where you can visit the Copper Mine Museum to immerse yourself in history or relax on the sands at Ballydonegan beach. And why not round off your West Cork adventure by checking into or just visiting the Dzogchen Beara Tibetan Retreat Centre near Castletownbere. This clifftop retrest on the wild and beautiful Beara Peninsula extends a warm and open-hearted welcome to all and offers a choice of accommodation and year-round programme of retreats, seminars, workshops and professional training.

Never miss an event or new attraction in Cork.