Gougane Barra , County Cork

Gougane Barra , County Cork

Several ancient monastic foundations in coastal parts of Ireland , and even in Scotland , are attributed to a Saint called Barra or Fionnbharra. His name meant ‘the white-crested one’ , and old texts claim that he rode a mysterious horse on the sea and plucked fish from that ‘watery plain’.

His hand was radiant , and it was said that on his death the sun stood still in the heavens for twelve days. Was Barra , then , a sea-deity or a sky-deity recast in Christian form? The real explanation may be that the name which he bore had resonances of pre-Christian belief , and that his cult was spread far and wide by monks who were devoted to him.

St. Barra seems to have lived in the 6th century , and to have been an accomplished scholar. Finding a little island on a deep lake in the Derrynasaggart Mountains , he settled there. The place was called Gugan , meaning ‘crevice’ , and there Bara established a famous school for clerics.

The river Lee rises at this ‘Gougane Barra’ and , after some time , an angel directed the Saint to follow the course of that river as it flowed directly Eastward for 50 miles. It went through marshland before entering the sea , and at that place Barra founded a hermitage. Many people flocked there , forming a settlement which grew into Cork city.

Far to the West , however , his little foundation at Gougane has a mystique all of its own. A little causeway leads out onto the Island , on which the ruins of an old chapel and a holy well stand among luxuriant trees. Many people still go there on pilgrimage , especially on the feast-day of the Saint , September 25th.

To organise a visit to Gougane Barra and see its mystique awe for yourself contact us now to plan your tours of Ireland.