Gougane Barra; the little church in the lake..

During our recent visit to Cork, we decided to take a spin down west to Gougane Barra to see St Finbarrs oratory, a little hidden gem west of Macroom. I’d been here years ago when I lived in Cork, and had memories of a little stone church on an small island, nestled below the mountains. As we turned the corner for our first sight of the church, these memories proved true.

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It was quite cold this day, but we decided to take a wander round the little island. The name in Irish is Guagán Barra, meaning “the rock of Barra”.
“Barra” refers to St Finbarr, the patron saint of Cork, who is reputed to have built a monastery here during the 6th century.
As you enter the grounds you pass the old well. The church looks as beautiful closer up as it does from the road, and an old bell hangs from the remains of the 6th century monastery walls.

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The present building dates to the 1700’s. It’s a tiny church, with only four small pews on either side. But it’s a beautiful place, with lovely stained glass windows and intricate stone carvings.

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Outside, the remains of the monastery are crumbled moss covered ruins; there is feeling of peacefulness in this west Cork valley. It is believed that St Finbarr spent time here before making his way to Cork city. There he established another settlement close to the current site of St Finbarrs Anglican Cathedral.

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Going up the steps you reach the remains of the monastery, with the Stations of the Cross  in Irish placed above the old prayer cells of the monks. Standing there, the words contemplation and mediation come to mind.

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Gougane Barra is set in a beautiful spot; the scenery is breath-taking, and it although it is more spectacular in summer, even in deepest winter it has a unique charm.

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If you happen to be passing; stop and have a wander.

Battle of the Flags – UCC style!

For a number of years now University College Corks’ Medieval Renaissance Society (also known as UCC MedRen) have organised an annual event on University campus known as The Battle of the Flags. This event takes place early in the yea and re-enactors from all over Ireland come to Cork and do battle with an assortment of weapons. This year was no different.

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The battle field was located on the Lower Grounds on the UCC campus, with the old college buildings overlooking it; the college provided a striking backdrop to the battles. We walked to the field along the Western Road in viking kit; to say that we got a few strange looks would be an understatement. Cars and buses were definitely slowing down, and pedestrians were giving us a wide berth. Can’t really imagine why!!

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Weapons included spears, swords, axes and dane-axes to name a few. I should point out that these guys train regularly and have to pass assessments before they can fight on the battlefield. Health and safety has to take precedence.

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The basic premise is simple; each team is given a flag and the aim of the battle is to engage the other teams and win their flag. Score is kept and the winners are the team that has taken the most flags for the duration of the battle.

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With six teams fighting there was a lot going on, and it was hard to keep track of how things were going – just as well there were independent score keepers!
This was the first re-enactment event of 2013 in Ireland, and I believe a good time was had by all – especially in the social gathering after!

The Long Valley……….

Many years ago I lived and worked in Cork. One of the places I regularly hung out in was The Long Valley Bar on Winthrop Street in the city center. I remember it as a long and narrow pub filled with conversation and laughter. It was a great place for a pint, with good company, and it served the best sandwiches……..

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Recently I  visited the city again as part of a viking adventure, so we decided to stay an extra couple of days; a chance to visit old haunts!

We made our way to the ‘Valley’, mainly to see who would be there, and if it had changed much since I left. On walking in the door, I instantly thought it was wider. It turned out that there had been some renovations and the bar had indeed been moved to give customers more room.

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When the owner remembered my name I was speechless; I left Cork over twenty years ago. Question was did they remember me for good or bad reasons?!! Well, it mustn’t have been all bad as they didn’t throw me out!

Sandwich ordered we sat and waited. When it arrived it didn’t disappoint! They are freshly made, looked amazing and tasted as good as it looked.

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We went back the next night for a few pints. The pub was quite empty, but it was a Monday night after all. There was a poetry reading club in the bar upstairs; form the laughter and chat that we could hear, it sounded like a pretty social gathering! Where we were in the bar, the conversation was good; and it felt good to be back there!

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If you’re ever in Cork and looking for a place to go, drop in and say hi!! And don’t forget the sandwich…….

You can also check them out on their website; http://www.thelongvalleybar.com/
They’re also looking for old photos of the pub and the clientele.