Slí Gaeltacht Mhúscrai – 1

St Finbarr's Oratory, Gougane Barra

Gougane Barra to Ballingeary. From a honeypot to a famine pot over clapper bridges.

The Slí Gaeltacht Mhúscrai 1 starts in Kealkill and ends in Millstreet following part of the much longer Beara Breifne Way 2

St Finbarr's Oratory, Gougane Barra
St Finbarr’s Oratory, Gougane Barra

I have walked the first part of this route from Kealkill before so decide to join it in Gougane Barra. Gougane is impossibly photogenic and there is a coach-load of tourists in full flow when we arrive, although they seem more interested in leprechauns and souvenirs than in the incredible scenery which is looking magically green in today’s sunshine. The country is experiencing a rare heat-wave and the tar in the car park is already melting.

After a quick tea and scone, Herself accompanies me as far as the small clapper bridge at the head of the lake and then we part ways until later. This is a relatively short section but I have not been hiking for some time so this is a good way to get back into action. The route heads off North East climbing gently up the valley road below the high horseshoe of hills that surround Gougane Barra. It then loops back south towards the River Lee which flows out of the Gougane Barra lake to the sea beyond Cork City. The only off-road section climbs up through forestry before joining small roads again into Ballingeary.

The views are perfect in this bright, clear weather, but the temperature rises through the day. A light cooling breeze comes and goes and I welcome the relative shade of the forestry where I find a log-pile to sit and eat lunch. The road into the village is hot and tiresome and I am relieved when I meet the road junction by the bridge.

Clapper Bridge, Ballingeary
Clapper Bridge, Ballingeary

In Ballingeary there is a path signed to the ‘longest clapper bridge in Ireland’ which has to be seen, so I take the short diversion down a shady track. The bridge is certainly long but there is a modern house perched above it which detracts from the scene somewhat, and today the water under the bridge is very low.

I walk down the wide street and sit by the shop enjoying a large ice-cream and cup of tea while I wait for Herself to arrive but considering that Ballingeary is in the Gaeltacht, I am slightly disappointed not to hear any Irish being spoken in the shop as people come and go.

Famine Pot, Ballingeary
Famine Pot, Ballingeary

After Herself arrives we visit the ‘Famine Pot’ displayed by the second bridge and then head off towards Ballyvourney where we are staying the night at Home Farm.

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About the route

See my route in Google Maps

This is a short section, mostly on small roads, but it has wonderful views with the high scarp around Gougane Barra often in view.

11.8km (7.3 miles) in 3.25 hours including the diversion to the clapper bridge in Baingeary.
Total ascent: 267metres, Max elevation: 247metres.

  1. A rough translation is the ‘The way of the Irish-speaking Muskerry region’.
  2. The Beara Breifne Way traces the legendary fourteen-day march taken by Dónal Cam O’Sullivan Beare and his one thousand supporters in 1603.


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