The Cork Hajj - Taking Tae On Gougane Barra Mountain
With the raging global pandemic in mind and the emphasis on not just so-called ‘staycations’, but ‘Corkcations’ where Corkonians don’t have to leave Cork to go on holidays - PROC Central Command have greatly increased the number patrols around our borders to ensure you can be fully confident of exploring the county in its entirety.
From Youghal Bridge in the east to the sheep fence at the top of Gougane Barra in the west – there’s no reason to holiday anywhere outside of the Rebel County. Open your mind, by staying in Cork.
Last week, on your behalf of course, we conducted some security exercises (and a good bit of balming out) at Gougane Barra.
You might have been there on a school tour as a smallie, but you were probably too busy sharing the ucks of a smuggled cigarette in “Ireland’s Best Jacks” to appreciate the unfathomable beauty and enchanting spirituality of this incredible place.
Just an hour’s drive from the city, Gougane is much more than paradise. It’s a Cork paradise. And it’s almost tourist-free to boot.
While the forest walk is daycint, for The Full Gougane experience, you have to do the ridge walk around the valley. It is the Hajj pilgrimage equivalent for devout Corkonians.
The path up to the mountain is easy to find, it’s 500m before the entrance to the forrest. There’s a left just after the hotel car park, at the ‘Award Winning Toilets’, that is part of the Beara Way walking route that leads to the top of the mountain.
After a 90 minute climb, you will experience an intense rush of emotion as you look west down into to Bantry Bay and east towards, well, the rest of Cork. There is so much of Cork up here that some of you might find it overwhelming.
Look at it, there lah! The whole thing is Cork! It’s everywhere….Cork, Cork, Corky, Cork!
You don’t need to bother looking north or north west, there isn’t much up that way except a few view-spoiling turbines, a bitter wind and a preference for overcharging covid-spewing Texan tourists. But, everything else around you is pure and proper Cork.
Have The Tae And Sangidges on one of the huge flat rocks that allow you to see right down into the lake and oratory - the holy place where founder of Cork City, St. Finbarr, used to say mass and pray like mad for the success of 7th century Cork GAA teams.
By the way, Ye Olde Rebelles won all around them as a result of Finny’s direct line to The Main Man Above, but the famous ‘Twenty In A Row’ of 601-621 A.D was never recorded in GAA role of honour because of the protestations of a rival by the name of St. Healy-Rae Ó Sé, from a neighbouring county who was well connected with the king of Dublin, St. Dustin The Dirty Dub. A holy show indeed.
(The bellyaching excuse from the GAA was a lack of good quality scroll parchment on which to write the scores, but the Rebels never bought that one. Finny was livid, apparently.)
Anyway, up on this most magnificent of perches with a view that rivals the one from the roof top bar in the water tower in Knocknaheeny (never been? You need to know the right people, feen), you are guaranteed a near out-of-body experience where spontaneous weeping with joy, talking in tongues and rolling around on the ground singing De Banks, is commonplace.
When you have recovered your Corkonian composure, to walk around the valley you’ll leave the official Beara Way at the sign posts by the big lake, and follow the fence to walk around the valley below. Particular care needs to be taken on the north side of the valley as the fence actually becomes the Cork county bounds with Kerry.
The Kingdom have lashed up a load of wind turbines a stone’s throw from the fence here to try to ruin the mystical greatness of Gougane (as well as powering the huge batteries that go into ‘Funghi’ the mechanically powered Dingle dolphin), but they make as much impact on Cork here as the Kerry hurlers make on the championship every year.
The descent from the ridge is tricky. If you’re doing the full clockwise loop around the top there is no path (deliberately, we assume to prevent Kerry immigration), but rather than look at a map or download some app that immediately sends your mother’s maiden name, your underpants size and a list of all the weird things you search for when you’re baloobas, to a Silicon Valley server, you should trust your inner-Corkonian DNA to guide you down the mountain safely.
The ferns and heather can always be surgically from your face later (what matters the body when the spirit has been fulfilled, dear friends?) and because of your spiritual high you are unable to experience any physical pain.
Awaiting you at the hotel is a creamy pint, a toasted special and an ice-cream and other Corkonians on the same buzz.
Put Gougane Barra on your bucket list, feen. You’re not a real Corkonian unless you’ve drank Barry’s Tea whilst looking down on the lake at Gougane Barra as it trickles away east to become the River Lee.