One of the sites high on my list of “places to visit” while in the west was the beautiful Kylemore Abbey. If you haven’t heard of it, like myself, you probably have seen a picture of it on any number of obligatory Irish marketing materials. What myself and family members have always referred to sardonically as, “literature.”* So we drive up from Galway into the heart of Connemara, with its rugged scenery and roads. We even ran into a herd of sheep walking the road like they owned it (which they really do), just as surprised to see us as we them!
Kylemore consists of 2 parts, the abbey/former boarding school/former private residence and the Victorian Walled Gardens. I absolutely love attractions steeped in history like this one. This beautiful place started as a private residence of Mitchell and Margaret Henry. They were devoted to each other (I am such a sucker for these sweet love stories, especially when they happened in a time where marriages=alliances of resources), and were truly happy, if only for a wee bit. After taking on the monumental task of building this gorgeous home for his wife and family (not to mention employing the local Connemara people, improving their economy and livlihoods and paying them a damn decent wage) poor Margaret fell sick on holiday and passed away. Mitchell was devastated. He built a beautiful neo-Gothic church to her memory on the property, which today is a moving testament to his love for her (I’m not crying, you’re crying.)
The inside is exquisite. There is lots of light in the church and lots of work went into the details. My favorite was the marble from the 4 provinces of Ireland. Each pillar had a different design carved into it as well. The shamrocks were a fantastic choice, Mitchell.
The inside of the house is still beautiful even though after the Henrys owned it, it became an abbey for the Benedictine nuns fleeing First World War Belgium. Then in another about-face, it became a boarding school for the daughters of wealthy families around the world. I can’t help but imagine what it would have been like to have gone to boarding school in this beautiful grand home, so full of history. Boarding schools always seem like something from another time to me, something from “back then.” To have the kind of money to send your daughter to this place too. It’s another world to me.
The other part of the property consisted of the walled Victorian Gardens. Here Mitchell could grow all the food for his household and staff, no matter the season. There was even a greenhouse for growing bananas! It was cool to wander around and see the plant arrangements and gaze into what the master gardener’s house looked like in the 19th century. All in all, a very cool place and would definitely recommend!
*As in, the little pamphlets you pick up B&B’s, hotels etc.