The ancient garrison town of Macroom in the heart of the Lee Valley is both the hub and gateway to a fascinating region which contains spectacular scenery and rural Gaelic speaking communities which are living breathing organisms of an ancient culture not preserved, but thriving. The town serves as the main commercial centre for a network of villages in its hinterland but is a worthwhile base for exploring at a more leisurely pace the surrounding countryside. Nearby Gougane Barra (the retreat of St. Finbarr) is one of Ireland’s gems with a lake surrounded by imposing forested hills giving great walking trails and unforgettable views. Further west along the N22 is Ballyvourney a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area and last village on the road before County Kerry. The area boasts outstanding natural beauty and walking and cycling trails as well as Ireland’s only toy soldier factory and visitor centre.