Walk in St Finbarr’s Footsteps on Pilgrim Paths Day
Over this Easter weekend (19th-20th April), a band of modern pilgrims will be tracing St. Finbarr’s footsteps in West Cork, walking from Drimoleague to Gougane Barra, as part of a national bid to have walkers take to Ireland’s 15 pilgrim paths on the same day.
The group will take up Finbarr’s route at ‘the Top of the Rock’ in Drimoleague, where Finbarr instructed people to return to Christ before beginning his own journey over three mountain systems and four valleys to the spot where he established his hermitage, now the site of the chapel on the lake at Gougane Barra.
Pilgrimage is, of course, one of the oldest forms of travel, and the popularity of camino walks elsewhere has led to their revival in Ireland too. In 2008, the practice of walking St. Finbarr’s ancient route was revived, and the walk he took now forms an extension to the much-loved Sheep’s Head Way walking route.
Modern walkers following St. Finbarr’s path enjoy the changing terrains and spectacular views available on the 22-mile (35km) route. Join the Pilgrim Path’s event this Easter, and you’ll travel through and over the Ilen, Mealagh, Ouvane and Lee valley basins, taking in spectacular views over Bantry Bay and stretches of the West Cork coastline.
A rich archaeological landscape is combined with interesting folklore on a route that passes historic Carriganass Castle, stone circles and other ancient monuments before reaching its destination.
David Ross of West Cork Walking runs the Top of the Rock Walking Centre and – as the leader of the guided walk – he believes that the spiritual aspects of the walk are often the most rewarding for people who follow St. Finbarr’s Way: ‘The questions that arise as we walk are fascinating’, explains David.
‘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 will make St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Way a special experience for anyone who joins us this Easter’, says David.