Thursday, 17 April 2014

Climb a waymarked trail up scenic Conigar mountain near Gougane Barra

This mountain climb gives varied views of the stunning lake and valley at Gugan Barra

  • Walk begins from near Gougane Barra hotel, plenty of parking available
  • Signposted walk, with waymarker posts along the way
  • Initial climb along good farm track, with beautiful views of lake
  • Trail continues onto rough mountain, hillwalking experience / fitness essential
  • Superb views of mountains, valleys and Gugan Barra from higher sections
  • Two very distinctive lakes near the summit of the walk, handy picnic stop
  • Can be very wet, sometimes on lower sections, always higher up - so good boots
  • Initial track and higher mountain route very steep, and wet, great care to be taken

 Since the Gugan Barra Forest Park is closed at present, this short section of the Beara-Breifne Way at Gugan Barra is a walk that you can still undertake there, beginning from near the hotel. Just drive or cycle past the hotel, passing the entrance to the island and the oratory (church) on the right, and just afterwards you'll see the unusual thatched toilets on your left (winner of Toilet of the Year award some years ago). You can park on the left just past the toilets, or, if it's busy there, just park by the gate to the island.

 You'll see a sign pointing up the path beside the toilet, and the path (I believe) is part of the national Beara-Breifne Way, the local Sli Gaeltacht Mhuscrai and the themed O' Sullivan Beare walk. Just walk up here, cross the stile, and continue up. The first section here can have water running across it, so wear good waterproof boots and look well ahead to pick your route. The track is quite sound, and ziz-zags up the hill. Look out for the yellow arrows on the waymark signs, these will help you keep on the right path, especially higher up.

 As you climb, the views to your left over Gugan Barra lake and its island oratory are breathtaking. As part of the Forest Park appears below you, the path becomes steeper (you could just walk to here and back, just over 1 km each way, if you want a gentler walk), and follow the steep track till it finishes at a stile.

 Climbing over, you'll see that you are now on rough hill land. Follow the arrow waymarkers up to your left, crossing the stream where it looks most sensible. If there has been a period of wet weather, you'll want to detour around sections of the trail which go over boggy ground. I'd suggest picking your own route over dry rocky ground to your left, but don't stray too far from the route which hugs the fence on your left, or you'll be doubling back. Also take care over the rocky ground, as there can be sudden drops and very steep sections. In fact, I'd say that in most conditions you should avoid the boggy stretches.

 The way up is quite clear, apart from these detours, and you emerge onto a beautiful ridge at the top, upon which lie two lakes, one large, one small, ideal for a picnic stop. Where the path is signed south over a fence, to Carriganass and Kealkil, you can either cross there and continue to Kealkil (in which case you'll need either to be picked up there by car or to have left a second car parked there), or climb straight ahead and explore Conigar mountain.  When the Forest Park re-opens (not till at least June, I believe), it will be possible again to continue on with a circular walk over the edge of Conigar's plateau, with the cliffs of Maolach to your right, across the cleft of Poll (where Tom Barry's flying column escaped from the British army at dead of night) and around the head of Com Rua above Gugan Barra, coming down by Sli Sleibhte into the forest, and hence back to your car. Even so, you can at the moment climb up onto Conigar, enjoying the panoramic views into Com Rua below, and as far as the Reeks.

 Saturday 19th April sees a pilgrim walk from Drimoleague to Gugan Barra, it's pilgrim paths day. In fact, a 2-day walk with accomodation starts on Good Friday at 8pm. See for details of Sli Fhionn Narra or

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