The name Gougane Barra comes from Saint Finbarr,  who is said to have built a monastery on an island in the lake nearby during the 6th century. The present ruins date from around 1700 when a priest called Denis O'Mahony retreated to the island. During the times of the Penal laws, Gougane Barra's remoteness meant that it became a popular place for the celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass. The nineteenth century oratory which stands near the original monastery is famous for its picturesque location and richly decorated interior and is a popular place for wedding photography. St Finbarr's Oratory is the final destination for one of the five Pilgrim paths of Ireland , St. Finbar's Pilgrim Path, which starts 35-kilometres away in Drimolea