If you are looking for a place to enjoy nature, history and culture in Ireland, you might want to visit the gardens at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara. These gardens are not only stunningly beautiful, but also have a fascinating story behind them.

Kylemore Abbey is a majestic castle that was built in 1871 by Mitchell Henry, a wealthy businessman and politician, as a romantic gift for his wife Margaret. The castle was situated on the shore of Lough Pollacappul, surrounded by the scenic Connemara mountains. Mitchell Henry also created a 6-acre Victorian walled garden, one of the last of its kind in Ireland, to provide fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers for his family and guests.

The garden was designed in a formal style, with four main sections: the kitchen garden, the flower garden, the herbaceous border and the glasshouses. The garden was so advanced for its time that it had 21 heated glasshouses, where exotic plants such as pineapples, bananas and grapes were grown. The garden also had a complex system of underground pipes that provided hot water and ventilation for the glasshouses. The garden was tended by 40 gardeners, who lived in cottages nearby.

The garden was a source of pride and joy for Mitchell Henry and his wife Margaret, who loved to walk and relax there. Unfortunately, their happiness was short-lived, as Margaret died of dysentery in 1874 during a trip to Egypt. Mitchell Henry was devastated by her loss, and built a Gothic church on the estate as a memorial for her. He also erected a mausoleum where he buried her body, which he had brought back from Egypt.

After Mitchell Henry’s death in 1910 the garden fell into decline. It became overgrown with shrubs and brambles. The glasshouses collapsed, and most of the garden buildings fell into ruin. The garden was almost forgotten by the time it became part of Kylemore Abbey in 1920.

Kylemore Abbey was established by a community of Benedictine nuns who had fled from Belgium during World War I. They bought the estate and turned the castle into an abbey and a boarding school for girls. The nuns used some parts of the garden for growing vegetables and flowers, but they did not have the resources or the expertise to restore it to its former glory.

It was not until 1995 that the restoration project of the garden began, thanks to the vision and initiative of Sr. Magdalena FitzGibbon, one of the nuns at Kylemore Abbey. She managed to raise funds and support from various sources, including the Great Gardens of Ireland Fund, and assembled a team of experts and workers to bring back the garden to life.

The restoration project took five years to complete, and involved meticulous research and archaeological work to uncover the original layout and features of the garden. The project also followed strict historical guidelines, using only plant varieties that existed before 1901. The result was an authentic heritage garden that won the prestigious Europa Nostra Award in 2002.

Today, the garden is open to the public as one of the main attractions of Kylemore Abbey. Visitors can admire the variety of tropical plants and vegetables grown there and which are harvested for the abbey’s restaurant; the flower garden, where colourful blooms create a stunning contrast with the grey stone walls; and the herbaceous border, where fragrant herbs line the path.

The garden is also a place of education and inspiration, as it hosts workshops, courses and events throughout the year. The gardeners at Kylemore Abbey share their knowledge and passion with visitors, students and volunteers who want to learn more about gardening and horticulture.

The gardens at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara are a testament to the love, faith and perseverance of those who created them and those who restored them. They are a hidden oasis of beauty and history that invite you to explore them and enjoy them.


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Kylemore Abbey's Victorian Walled Garden



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