St. Finbarr Walks

In West Cork and South Kerry the practise of walking pilgrim paths to St Finbarr’s hermitage in Gougane Barra has been in place for many centuries. In one such place, Drimoleague, local tradition recalls that St Finbarr arrived at the Top of the Rock in the sixth century and admonished the people to return to Christ, after which he made his way to Gougane Barra. The practise of walking this ancient route has been revived since 2008 and groups as large as eighty, and as small as three or four are regularly found walking the 22 mile (36km) route. The route itself has been opened up to the public with the goodwill of landowners along the route, who maintain the walks under the Walks Scheme.
Leaving aside the spiritual benefits for a moment, this walk is a truly magnificient journey which 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 combined with interesting folklore and the characters one might meet along the way make this an experience that draws people back again and again. 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 camarderie 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.

The Contemplative St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Walk EASTER 2020 is on Sat 18th and Sunday 19 th April 2020 The order of events is as follows:

  • Saturday : You can park your car for the day in at the Top of the Rock Pod Páirc and Walking Centre.  At 9am we depart from the Top of the Rock, heading for Castledonovan, Mullaghmesha and the Mealagh Valley. Lunch will be served in the Mealagh Valley community hall at approx. 2.30pm.  Arrival in Kealkil having completed the first 12.5 miles of the walk at approx. 5.30pm.
  • A bus will convey you back to Drimoleague for around 6.30pm.
  • Sunday : Park your car at Carriganass Castle in Kealkil for a 9.30am start from Carriganass Castle in Kealkil for the 9 mile walk over the mountain to Gougane Barra. There will be a Sandwich lunch at a stop near Lackavaun before the steep ascent. An alternative will be available for those who wish to take a less strenuous route to walk into Gougane by road. Arrival in Gougane at approx. 4.45pm with a short time of reflection.

REFLECTION: On the contemplative walk we stop about every hour or so at places where St Finbarr might have stopped, eg An tobair Ur, the Glanaclohy rock, the  stone circle etc. We reflect on the life and message of St Finbarr and then resume our path.

COST:  The cost is €25 per day. This includes a good lunch and the return bus journey and gratuities for guides. We expect between 60 and 70 walkers.

LEVEL of FITNESS: We have had people in their seventies do the pilgrim walk but they need to be very fit . Particularly on Sunday the gradient can be steep and demanding over an extended period. The area is subject to dense fog and we have to stay together at all times.  The path is well marked and discernible at all times.

TO REGISTER please email David at or text or ring his mobile phone 086 1735134


The annual AUGUST St Finbarr’s Contemplative Walk is set for Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd August 2019. This coincides with the National Pilgrim Paths week. The same terms as the Easter walk apply to this.

‘WHERE FINBARR WALKED LET MUNSTER LEARN is a booklet written by David on the life of St Finbarr. Copies can be obtained by sending a stamped addressed envelope (stamps:2x€1) to David at Top of the Rock DRIMOLEAGUE P47KF66

Click here for a link to a great review of our walk along St. Finbarr’s way by blogger Patrick Mitchel!