The Ride: 24.5 miles, 2,300 feet of climbing. For a map, click here.
The day’s ride started with a 3 mile, 400-foot climb out of Glengariff. Easy riding then followed for 10.5 miles before a steady but not difficult 550-foot climb over 4.5 miles into Gougane Barra, which we were told was Ireland’s first national park.
Gougane Barra isn’t big – only about 1,000 acres. But it is isolated, surrounded by steep hills on all sides and only a couple of infrequently travelled roads leading in from the east.
Other than the scenery, there’s not much here – just a wonderful old small hotel, a pub and a gift shop, a small lake, a 100-year old chapel that’s popular for weddings and the remains of a 6th Century monastery. St. Finbar chose this site for his monastery because it was isolated and peaceful, perfect for meditation and contemplation. And Gougane Barra remains peaceful and isolated.
From the hotel, there’s a two-mile long loop road through the park, which itself has dozens of hiking paths through wonderful, dark, mossy woods.
During the summer months, the hotel hosts a play each night in a large tent behind the buildings. After dinner, six of us took in a one-man show about Tom Creen, an Irish adventurer who took part in three expeditions that tried, but failed to reach the South Pole.