Off the beaten path around Barley Lake

Most of the trails I hike on are fairly clearly marked, whether it’s the luxe wooden boardwalks of New Zealand’s Great Walks or the rough gravel of a well-trodden route up Carrauntoohil. But sometimes I think it’s fun to leave the comfort of a clear path and get your feet dirty, and luckily I have friends who feel the same way. When I originally moved to Ireland for grad school, Medb was one of my very first friends, and now after international moves and much travel on both of our parts, we are finally living in the same country again. She and her partner Callum are currently on a trip from Dublin to gorgeous West Cork, so yesterday Steve and I headed out to meet them. Medb suggested the Barley Lake walk, but there was conflicting info about it online so none of us really knew what to expect.

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Far down a winding road near the quaint little village of Glengarriff, we began our hike after abandoning our cars along the side of the road (no fancy carparks here!). We headed up a steep uphill route (and I thought my second trip up Carrauntoohil was tough—more on that later this week!) and hoped that the forecasted rain would hold off (it quickly got so humid we changed our tune and hoped that the forecasted rain would come as soon as possible to cool things down). After twenty minutes or so, the lake came into view, and the road ended. This could have been it; we could have taken a nice look at the lake and turned back, but that’s not our style.

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And so, off we went over a ridge and into the boggy grass around the lake. It took approximately one (1) minute before all of our shoes were soaked, but the water wasn’t that cold and we didn’t mind. There wasn’t a hint of a trail through most of it, only a vague indication that it might be possible to traverse. If the sheep could do it, so could we. The sheep could probably avoid falling into holes up to their waists, to be fair, but the sheep also didn’t have quick-drying leggings so who really comes out ahead here?

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At the top of the biggest ridge, we were treated to views across Barley Lake in one direction and views over to another, smaller mountain lake in the distance in the other. After a brief chat with a farmer herding sheep with the help of his dog, we circled the lake and looped back down the ridge to the top of the road. By the end of it, the rain had started up in earnest so we were glad to get back to our cars and head down to Glengarriff for a lovely meal of seafood chowder and chips.

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There’s nothing but rain in the forecast for the next few days so no hikes are on the docket, but it was amazing to see friends again after a long time living so far apart, and it’s always fun to leave the world behind and go exploring into nature.

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