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