We trusted the weather report for sunny weather, but when we arrived at Gougane Barra National Park, it was pouring. With a bit of patience, the rain cleared and the rest of the day saw a light drizzle at most. Walking at a decent pace, we soon warmed up (it was 4 degrees Celsius) and even took off our rain jackets.
The park has an entry fee of 5 euros per vehicle but you can also enter as a pedestrian (which we had to do since we only had notes – only coins are accepted at the unmanned gate). This meant that we had to do a little extra walking but it was all very beautiful so we didn’t mind. We started walking along the road to the lower parking area were there are good bathrooms and a lively little waterfall nearby.
The first trail we took was the Sli Laoi (prounounced Sli Lee; the white path). It took us along the infant Lee River to the upper parking area where the Sli Sleitbhe (the red path) starts. I’ve included some photos here of the Sli Laoi.
I remember it was listed as one of the more strenuous trails but the Sli Sleitbhe only took us an hour (instead of an hour and half) even though we’re not very fit at the moment. There were quite a few stairs both up and down, so be careful of stepping on any stone, mud or wood as it may be slippery. The path can also be narrow, but it’s certainly worth the views and scenery – even in winter!
We had extra energy after the hike so we even did another walk afterwards, the Sli Doire Na Coise (blue trail). It’s a short trail that winds to the lake (near the entrance) and back to the lower parking area again.
There are a few other trails from the lower parking area that we’ll try out next time and there are also other trails that start before the entrance to the park and before the picturesque Saint Finbarr’s Oratory.
When you leave the park, be sure to look out for the brushes on which to clean your shoes of the plant disease that’s present in the park. You can read more about it here: