On Pilgrim Paths Day 2015, Ireland’s fifteen accessible pilgrim paths will be walked at the same time.
Individual groups will take part in a shared act of pilgrimage which will extend over the Easter weekend (4th-5th April).
Pilgrimage is, of course, one of the oldest forms of travel, and in West Cork and South Kerry the practice of walking pilgrim paths to St Finbarr’s hermitage in Gougane Barra has been in place for many centuries. One such path leads from Drimoleague, where – local tradition has it – St Finbarr arrived at the Top of the Rock in the sixth century and admonished the people to return to Christ, before making his way to Gougane Barra.
In 2008, the practice of walking this ancient route was revived since 2008 and, today, groups as large as fifty and as small as three or four are regularly found walking the 22 mile (35km) route. It goes “up and over” three mountain systems and four valleys, namely the Ilen, Mealagh, Ouvane and Lee valley basins. There are spectacular views over Bantry Bay and stretches of the West Cork coastline. A rich archaeological landscape is combined with interesting folklore. The characters one might meet along the way help to make this a memorable and powerful experience.
But it is the spiritual aspect that attracts many people; the questions raised as you walk: “What motivated Finbarr to bring the good news of Christ to these places? What message did he bring that eclipsed the prevailing darkness which he challenged? And why is there an unusual sense of peace and restfulness in the beautiful island where he held retreat?” The contemplation, the seeking and the finding, the camaraderie of other “pilgrims” and the pains and aches at day’s end… All these make St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Way a special experience to be anticipated and experienced to the full.
On Pilgrim Paths Day 2015, a group of pilgrims will walk St Finbarr’s Way, at the same time as other groups walk Ireland’s fourteen other pilgrim paths. We invite you to join us in this shared act of pilgrimage which will extend over the Easter weekend (4th-5th April).
Good Friday – 3rd April
● Arrive at the Top of the Rock Pod Páirc & Walking Centre from 8pm onwards. Enjoy a complimentary light supper, with time to meet fellow pilgrims and prepare for the Pilgrim Walk. A short reflection will be given on the challenge ahead.
Saturday 4th April
● (9am): Depart from the Top of the Rock, heading for Castledonovan, Mullaghmesha and the Mealagh Valley. (See map https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=z_jl1YteN8cU.krcwY-WGSh2Q )
● (2pm): Lunch will be served by the Mealagh Valley community group in their new community hall.
● ( 5pm)Arrival in Kealkill, having completed the first 12.5 miles of the walk.
● At this point those staying in Gougane Barra will be taken by bus to the Gougane Barra Hotel for dinner. Those staying in Drimoleague will have a bus transfer to Drimoleague via Bantry where walkers will have one and a half hours to go to the restaurant of their choice. This group will then return to the Pod Páirc by bus.
Sunday 5th April
● Bus transfers from Gougane and Drimoleague will enable a 10am start from Carriganass Castle in Kealkill for the 9.5 mile walk over the mountain to Gougane Barra.
● We will have a sandwich lunch at a stop near Lackavaun before the steep ascent. A bus will be available for those who wish to take a less strenuous route to walk into Gougane by road.
● Pilgrims will arrive in Gougane at approx. 4pm with a short time of reflection and prayer. The Gougane Barra Hotel will host tea and sandwiches for the walkers.
Cost is divided into two components:
1. Cost of walk: €45/person. (Concessions: €40) This includes lunches both days, bus transfers and cost of guides.
2. Cost of Accommodation: The Gougane Barra Hotel and the Top of the Rock Pod Páirc offer packages as follows
GOUGANE BARRA HOTEL (gouganebarrahotel.com)
Two night bed, breakfast and I dinner at €125.00 per person OR Three night B&B plus 2 dinners at € 199.00 per person
TOP OF THE ROCK POD PÁIRC (topoftherock.ie)
Two nights bed and breakfast : standard pod: €55/per person sharing. Luxury pod: €70 /pps
OR three nights bed and breakfast: standard pod: €80/pps Luxury pod €110/pps. Note: Dinner is not included. Cooking facilities are available and we can advise on local restaurants.