Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gougane Barra

I nearly forgot our last stop before reaching Gougane Barra.  Carriganass means Rock of the Waterfall and seems a very appropriate name for this little castle which perches over 12 metres (about forty feet) over a river.  It was built in 1540.

The stone used came from a local quarry about two miles away from the castle site and the stone was transported hand-to-hand by labourers for the distance of the two miles.   The Chieftain responsible for the building became known as Dermot of the Powder as he accidentally blew himself up with gunpowder in 1549, just nine years after the building of the castle.  Another interesting fact - the mortar used to hold the stones of the castle together was made up of a paste consisting of bulls blood! 

Fifteen minutes further along this road we turned off and reached Gougane Barra. 

I know I don't have the words to describe a place of such outstanding natural beauty.  It's picture postcard Ireland.  It was high on my Irish Bucket List because of St Finbarr's on the lake but I'd now have it as top of the list of most beautiful Irish places.  

It's not just the beauty.  It's the peace and tranquility of the place.  Magical.

The minute we turned the last corner and I saw the lake I was in a hurry to check in to the hotel and get outside to explore. The name Gougane Barra comes from Saint Finbarr, who is said to have built a monastery on an island in the lake nearby during the 6th century. The present ruins  (adjoining the little church) date from around 1700 when a priest, Denis O'Mahony retreated to the island.  His tomb sits at the side of the road more or less opposite the causeway to the island on which the church stands.

Father O'Mahony's tomb

Causeway to the island

It's unusual for me to only take one photo inside a church.  To be honest I felt quite overcome after being inside for a few minutes, touched by a reverence I rarely feel.  I was so sure God was there I felt compelled to kneel and be still.  I'm glad I took this one photo as I wasn't able to remember what it looked like, I was so impressed by how it felt.

In a courtyard to the left of the church entry are eight small circular cells and in these cells are plaster casts of the Stations of the Cross:

In the centre of the court is a wooden cross raised on a platform:
There's a bell inscribed 1026 on the outer wall of the courtyard.

I headed up the road to the left of the hotel for a quick walk before dinner.  It was only the realisation that it was getting cold that reminded me to turn back.   Once I entered the forest I just wanted to keep on walking, listening to the wind rustling in the trees, water flowing off in the distance.  It is the kind of forest I imagined you would find in Ireland, very little grass, velvet moss covered floor and a great deal of fern.  A few wildflowers... purple, yellow, buttery yellow and white.  I could almost see the leprechauns.
 It was the tour's last night and a group dinner was planned.   And what a terrific dinner it was.  We were staying at the 5th generation family run hotel beside the lake.  First class service by all the staff and Chef Katie's menu recommendations were delicious.  A wonderful place to stay.

Next morning I was up bright and early, eager for more photos of the lake.  This time I ventured up the road to the right of the hotel.  The lake was still and there was a light mist hanging over the Derrynasaggart Mountains. 

 The only movement on the lake were the little ripples created by fish jumping.

The locals watched me with interest. 

I would have loved to walk further but I was proud of the fact that I'd never kept the other passengers waiting at any of our stops and didn't intend to change that on my last morning.  As I turned back to the hotel I noticed two of my fellow tour members out on the lake for a little exercise.

Even the public toilet near the causeway to the church has its own special place in these spectacular surroundings, winning the prize of top toilet in Ireland in 2002!   I have another photo taken of a prizewinning toilet in Scotland, too.  It's nothing compared to this one.  Sorry, Scotland. 


  1. An amazing series of photos but I particularly love the one of the little white church and that rather magnificent reflection.

  2. Hello Pauline,

    Some truly magical photo's. Some of them would be perfect for making jigsaws. Love that toilet too.

    Happy days.

  3. Some lovely photos, I couldn't pick a favourite if I tried. Glad you're enjoying your holiday.


  4. It gets better and better.
    I'll be sorry when this series comes to an end. It's a grand start to my day.

  5. That church, i'd love to go say my morning prayers in there!

  6. I too felt the amazing presence in that church it was quite overwhelming and I was struck by the same urge to kneel!
    I agree-this is probably the most beautiful spot of them all.

  7. Well those pictures really are superb Pauline and just ooze peace and tranquility. I'm so glad that you managed an inside photo of the chapel. I know what you mean about the feeling inside it. Sometimes it can be overwhelming even to someone with no belief in God.

  8. It certainly is incredibly serene! What a wonderful place.


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