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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe romantic Kylemore Abbey on the shores of a lake with a backdrop of a wooded hillside was originally called Kylemore Castle. It was built by Mitchell Henry and his wife Margaret in the 1860s, boasting many splendid reception rooms including a ballroom with a sprung floor, a magnificent staircase, a library, a study, and thirty-three bedrooms. with its very impressive neo-Gothic style exterior. The Kylemore Abbey, Connemara's version of the Taj Mahal, with its idyllic surroundings, picturesque facade fronted by a tranquil lake that perfectly reflects the imposing building, has fast become one of Ireland’s most popular tourist sights.
Discover the stories of tragedy and romance, the engineering initiatives and model farms. Open to visitors are the Abbey's restored rooms, as well as its Victorian-walled garden, Gothic church, and its expansive grounds and trails. The Tea House by the Victorian-walled garden is the perfect place to sip a cup of coffee and enjoy the stunning views. And before you leave, make sure you stop by the gift shop where you will find a wide variety of Irish souvenirs, beautifully scented soaps, delicious chocolates, felted wool bags, jewelry and woolens. Nearby is Clifden, where you can access the Sky Road, a breathtaking loop drive with scenic views of the Irish coast.
HistoryMitchell Henry decided to build Kylemore for his wife Margaret, who had fallen in love with the spot during a carriage ride while on their honeymoon. He bought Kylemore Lodge, the original building on the site where they later built Kylemore Castle and constructed the magnificent castle, complete with gardens, walks, and woodlands which eventually covered 13,000 acres of land. Mitchell Henry made vast improvements to the land and provided much-needed work, shelter and schooling for locals recovering after the Irish famine. For almost 10 years, Mitchell, Margaret, and their nine children live here. His wife Margaret died after contracting Nile Fever on a trip to Egypt in 1875. Heartbroken, Mitchell built her a spectacular memorial chapel on the banks of the lake about a mile from the castle.
In 1903, Mitchell sold Kylemore Castle to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester, but they spent only a few years at the castle. The property was heavily mortgaged and on the death of Eugene Zimmerman in 1914, the castle was taken over by Ernest Fawke, a London banker. In 1920, the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased Kylemore Castle. The nuns transformed the castle into an Abbey, opened an international boarding school, and established a day school for local girls. The school was formally opened in 1923. Due to societal changes and increasing running and maintenance costs, it was decided to close the school. The last students of Kylemore Abbey sat their exams in June 2010.
What to See
Kylemore AbbeyIt took four years to fully construct Kylemore Abbey, with the work completed in 1871. The limestone and granite facade of the Kylemore Abbey is a splendid example of neo-Gothic architecture and is one of the most photographed buildings in the country. Inside, the Abbey gives a glimpse of its former glory and the grandeur of the period. Open to the public are the audio visual room, entrance hall, inner hall, drawing room, middle room, and dining room. Much of the furniture and all fireplaces, wooden floors and oak paneling are original. Be sure to watch a short 10-minute introduction film to the Abbey before you wander through the rooms.
Victorian Walled GardenThe Victorian Walled Garden lies about a kilometer west of the Abbey. The beautiful garden was constructed at the same time as the castle and was laid out by the head gardener, James Garnier. The garden was filled with fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers as well as 21 glasshouses heated by hot-water pipes. A lovely stream runs through the garden and divides it into Flower Garden and Kitchen Garden. Only plants that grew in Victorian times are planted in the garden today. Herbs and vegetables grown there are used in the Mitchell’s Restaurant and Tea Room.
Gothic ChurchTo the east of the Abbey is the Gothic Church. It was designed by James Franklin Fuller who also designed Ashford Castle. Work began in 1877 but it was not completed until 1881. It was built as a tribute to Margaret Henry, the wife of Mitchell Henry. The church which is renowned for its colored marble was designed as a miniature cathedral and contains beautiful stained-glass window in the south transept. Be sure to look closely at the gargoyles - they are angels.
Originally, the Gothic Church was a place of Anglican worship. Following the arrival of the Benedictine Nuns to Kylemore, it was re-dedicated as a Catholic Church in 1920. It was intended that Henry’s wife would be buried in the crypt below the church, but her husband could not bear the thought of burying her below ground, so she was laid to rest in a mausoleum a short distance from the church.
MausoleumA short walk past the church leads to the mausoleum where the couple is buried. Margaret Henry died in Egypt, in 1874, at the age of 45 and just three years after the completion of the castle. Her remains were brought back to Kylemore and laid to rest in the mausoleum on the grounds. When Mitchell Henry died on the in 1910, his ashes were brought back to Kylemore and laid to rest next to his beloved wife, Margaret, in the mausoleum in the grounds of their dream home.
VisitingKylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden is open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. with last entry to the estate at 5.30 p.m. Visit the Kylemore Abbey's website for more information on opening hours and ticket purchase. You can save some money by booking tickets online. Also bookable are guided walks beyond and around the estate. A free shuttle bus from the Kylemore Abbey to the Victorian Walled Garden departs every 15 minutes during opening hours. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to visit as there is plenty to see and do.
Getting ThereKylemore Abbey is located in Connemara, on the N59 road between Clifden and Westport. It is easily accessible by car from Shannon, Galway, Clifden, and Westport. Or choose one of the numerous private coach tours of Connemara.
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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Jun 20, 2015