Ireland 2019: Connemara, Part One — Kylemore Abbey

Connemara is the name of the area of County Galway that is bounded by Killary Fjord on the north, Galway Bay on the south and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. There have been many arguments as to what constitutes the eastern border but it is usually agreed that Connemara is west of Lough Corrib and outside the city of Galway. On our final day in Galway we boarded a Galway Tours coach for an all-day tour of this fabled land. Kylemore Abbey was our first stop.

Kylemore Abbey is north of Connemara National Park and about 80 kilometers northwest of the coach station in Galway.

Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.

It rained most of the time on the way to Kylemore Abbey. We drove by most of Connemara’s famous hills but hardly saw any of them.

My wife, our daughter and son-in-law and their two daughters in front of Kylemore Abbey. It was just the six of us on our Connemara tour. My older daughter and her family took the train to Dublin that day.

A wealthy English pathologist and eye surgeon named Mitchell Henry and his Irish-born wife Margaret honeymooned in Connemara in 1850. A few years later Mitchell returned and purchased a hunting lodge and the surrounding estate at Kylemore and commenced building a castle for his wife. The 40,000 square foot castle with more than 70 rooms was completed in 1871 along with a large walled garden.

Lush woodland scenery across Lough Pollacapall. There is a local legend that a great white horse rises from the lake every seven years.

It stopped raining a few minutes after our arrival and so we decided to first visit the Victorian Walled Garden. There is an admission fee to the Abbey but the gardens and gothic church are free to visit.

The path to the Walled Garden.

Map of the Kylemore Estate.

I think fairies may be living here.

We skipped the pig sty.

Funny-looking sheep. Kids adore them!

The walled garden.

Garden scene.

close-up of garden flowers.

The nearby forest.

My granddaughters enjoyed the gardens.

Connemara pony. We saw several of his cousins on the Aran Island of Inishmore  a few days earlier.

A portion of the Kylemore Abbey timeline. Mitchell Henry sold his estate in 1903 to the Duke of Manchester who was forced to sell in 1914 because of gambling debts. That was the year the Benedictine convent in Belgium was destroyed during World War I and the nuns moved to England. In 1920 they bought the Kylemore estate from London banker Ernest Fawke and the estate became an abbey.

The story of the Benedictine nuns in stained glass is featured in the Welcome Room along with an audiovisual presentation.

The story of the Irish nuns who went to Belgium in the 17th century and stayed there for more than 200 years.

The nuns ran an international boarding school as well as a school for local girls for 90 years. The schools closed in 2010 but many elderly nuns still live in the abbey.

Several of the rooms on the first floor of the Abbey are open to the public and have been restored to show how they looked during the Henry years.

Another Victorian room.

Mitchell and Margaret’s daughter Florence.

Inner hall.

Geraldine Henry, daughter of Mitchell and Margaret.

There are a couple of other rooms which depict life in the castle when it was owned by the Duke and Duchess of Manchester.

Mitchell Henry built this neo-Gothic church in memory of his wife who died at the age of 45 during a trip to Egypt in 1874. Her youngest child was only two years old at the time.

Inside the church which is sometimes referred to as a “cathedral in miniature.”

History of the church which started out as Anglican and became Roman Catholic with the arrival of the Benedictine nuns in 1920.

The church restoration project was completed in 1995.

The University of Notre Dame in Indiana arranged a joint educational program with the nuns in 2015. Kylemore Abbey is now one of Notre Dame’s six Global Centers throughout the world. The nuns manage the estate and also operate a gift shop where they sell their own pottery, jewelry, skin care products, jellies and chocolates.

One last look at the magnificent scenery surrounding Kylemore Abbey.

And one more glance at the abbey.

We stayed at the abbey for about two hours and had lunch there at Mitchell’s Cafe. Our next stop was Killary Harbour just a few miles away and that will be the subject of my next post.

Irish Music Bonus – –  Man from Connemara by Sean Keane.

Sean Keane hails from the tiny village of Cahirlistrane in County Galway and so owns that distinctive voice of the western Irelander. Sean was a founding member of the group Arcady but usually performs with his own band these days. Sometimes he sings with his sister Delores. He also likes to play the whistle during a song and every once in a while he will pick up his ulleann pipes. Let’s listen to his rendition of Man from Connemara.

 

 

 

About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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4 Responses to Ireland 2019: Connemara, Part One — Kylemore Abbey

  1. StillWalks says:

    What a fantastic place. Connemara is a beautiful area but I have not been to this estate. Thanks for the visit – I’ll have to make it real some day.

  2. Peter Klopp says:

    Mitchell Henry must have been extremely rich to be able to build such a huge and magnificent castle for his wife. Great photo essay with a few very nice pictures of your family!

  3. disperser says:

    That’s quite the place. I guess there were the equivalent of Bill Gates even back then. Interesting that the nuns (probably the church) could afford to buy it. I guess helping the poor is a lucrative business.

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