Just north of Bantry you could take a splendid drive into the Shehy Mountains (30mi/50km return). Follow the N71 to Ballylickey, where you could stop at Manning’s Emporium, a café-delicatessen with an excellent selection of artisan foods. Turn right onto R584 signposted to Gougane Barra immediately after crossing the Ouvane River. Soon you will be crossing the Ouvane River again at Pearson’s Bridge. Keep left at the fork in Kealkill. Soon cross the Carriganass Bridge, with Carriganass Castle towering on your left. Once a stronghold of the O’Sullivan Bere clan, Carriganass (“the rock of the waterfall”) played an import role in the defeat of Gaelic nobility. The castle is open to visitors, and there is a picnic site by the river.
Continue on the scenic road through the wide valley of the Ouvane. Pass Future Forests, an excellent garden centre with an extensive range of useful, fruitful & beautiful plants. The road gradually climbs through a gap called the Pass of Keimaneigh (“Deer's Pass”) into the Shehy Mountains before winding downhill. Watch for the left turn to Gougane Barra where the road levels out, to reach this magnificent mountain lake in tranquil setting. On the tiny peninsula in the lake stands St. Finbarr’s Oratory. It marks the site of an early Christian settlement where St. Finbarr, patron saint of Cork, once had his hermitage. Cronin’s Bar & Café is a perfect place to stop for coffee and tasty food.
Continue along the road to reach Gougane Barra forest park where some lovely nature trails have been waymarked.
St. Finbarr’s Oratory, Gougane Barra
Fog rising from the Lee valley on a winter morning in the Shehy Mountains