Exploring Natural Cork: Enjoying the gorgeous sunrise at Barley Lake

Richard Gordon continues his exploration of Natural Cork in a 12-part series. Today we feature his visit to the stunning Barley Lake, which is located just outside Glengarriff, in West Cork
Exploring Natural Cork: Enjoying the gorgeous sunrise at Barley Lake

Barley Lake, near Glengarriff, in West Cork. Pictures: Richard Gordon.

I ARRIVED at sunrise, and the geology of the area looked incredible, like an artist’s impression in the mountainside, wavering lines as if they were applied by brushstroke or etched with creative intent.

Grassy roadways.
Grassy roadways.

It could be seen in the distance as I wound my way through a diverse collection of country homes that were nestled into the West Cork landscape. I followed the narrow road’s incline as the sheen left from the overnight rain made the Tarmac glow as my wheels rolled either side of the classic grassy stripe that lay in the centre of the road.

I reached the last parking point to find the place pristinely deserted. A colossal silence filled the air all around me. I headed for a summit a short distance away.

I walked towards where the sun was blazing, rather than into the shadow. The grassy, mossy sod tricked me into thinking it was sturdy ground, until a clandestine sink patch squelched up to my shins and my boots were soaked. I would recommend wellies with grip, as even when sturdy, this terrain can get quite slippery too. The drainage of the area is quite poor as it’s bogland.

I continued up, from one level to the next, from one boulder to the next, until the view beyond the apex point spilled into my vision.

The early morning, low sun was cooking heat down towards the steaming valley that was packed with woodland. It was a breathtaking sight. It was so nice to see the bulbous heads of deciduous trees everywhere — so much native vegetation.

Beautiful flora.
Beautiful flora.

Many coniferous plantations were poking up from the base of the valley and lined up along the hillsides too. So much forest filled the trough of the valley and great plumes of mist rose up from the rise of temperature and evapotranspiration that was occurring.

The great sink of water that is absorbed by the forest root systems from the many streams and rivers that flow through the area gets sucked up through trunks and dissipates through leaves. This created beautiful drifting clouds of morning fog.

The bleating of sheep could be heard, some of them found summit points themselves, as they stood there looking heroic, basking in the early morning sun, outlines flaring with light.

The rumble of water got louder the further I walked and then I noticed the flow that was carving a route down the hill. My eyes followed it up until the lake was in view. It appeared as though a giant mould had been effaced from the rock and a glimmering mercurial disk was slotted into the groove. It sat there, voluminous and perfectly still, the odd bobbing breeze would tickle the surface leaving little rippling patches.

Stunning vista.
Stunning vista.

I made my way across to the lake and decided that the moment was too perfect to not swim. I had the entire place to myself. Aside from the tiny homes speckled into the distant landscape, no sign of humanity was around. I’m not a huge fan of lake swimming, too much mud and insects, stagnancy and decomposing vegetation, slippery surfaces and dark waters, random and mysterious plops at the surface leaving emanating rings... but oh well, I jumped in anyway and my chest was quickly searing with an icy rush.

I didn’t last very long, but it was certainly refreshing as I sat on a rock and warmed myself using the final blast of morning rays.

When I left it started to rain again, just showing how assiduous monitoring of weather apps is necessary if you want to get out and enjoy these places with some sunshine at this time of year.

Beautiful wildflowers.
Beautiful wildflowers.

I use the Met Éireann App, for anyone who is that way inclined. Many bogland inflorescences were scattered; like thistles and fluffy hares-tails and different butterworts, and blue eyed grass were all to be found around the soggy heath.

On the way back down, I saw a multitude of wildflowers on the roadside. The floral fireworks in the foreground, the dense woodland of the valley in the background, and the bog and geology of the area all combined to make this place a remarkable point of Ireland’s natural beauty.

If you are visiting an area near water it is important to know the do’s and don’ts. See https://watersafety.ie/recreation/. Also stick to public pathways.

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