KYLEMORE ABBEY

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If you are looking for a place to visit that combines history, culture, nature and spirituality, look no further than Kylemore Abbey. Located in the stunning Connemara region of County Galway, Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery that has a rich and fascinating story to tell. Kylemore Abbey was originally built as a castle by Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor and politician from England, who fell in love with Connemara during his honeymoon in 1850. He bought the estate of Kylemore in 1862 and began to construct a lavish castle for his wife Margaret and their nine children. The castle was completed in 1871 and featured 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, a library, a study, a school room, a billiard room, a gun room, a smoking room and various offices and staff quarters. The castle was surrounded by beautiful gardens, including a six-acre walled garden that produced exotic fruits and vegetables. The castle was also a symbol of Henry’s social and political vision. He was a benevolent landlord who cared for his tenants and workers. He built a church, a school and housing for them on the estate. He also supported various causes such as Home Rule, land reform and education. He was elected as a Member of Parliament for County Galway in 1871 and served until 1885. However, tragedy struck in 1874 when Margaret died of dysentery during a trip to Egypt. Henry was devastated and decided to build a Gothic church on the estate as a memorial to his beloved wife. The church was completed in 1881 and features beautiful stained glass windows, marble columns and carved angels. Henry also built a mausoleum near the church where he buried Margaret’s body. He later joined her there when he died in 1910. In 1920, Kylemore Castle was bought by the Benedictine nuns who had fled Belgium during World War I. The nuns had been founded in Brussels in 1598 by Lady Mary Percy, an English noblewoman who converted to Catholicism and joined the Benedictine order. The nuns had survived many trials and persecutions over the centuries, including the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. They had established a boarding school for girls in Ypres, Belgium, but it was destroyed by German bombs in 1914. The nuns found refuge in Kylemore Castle, which they renamed Kylemore Abbey. They continued their monastic life of prayer and work, following the Rule of St. Benedict. They also reopened their boarding school for girls, which became one of the most prestigious schools in Ireland. The school attracted students from all over the world, including Princess Rukmini Devi of Nepal, who later became a famous dancer and cultural activist. The school operated until 2010, when it closed due to declining numbers and rising costs. The nuns then decided to focus on their spiritual mission and their role as custodians of Kylemore Abbey. They also established the Kylemore Trust, a charitable organization that aims to preserve and develop Kylemore Abbey as a place of education, culture, hospitality and spirituality. There is so much to see and do at Kylemore Abbey that you can easily spend a whole day exploring the estate. Here are some of the main attractions that you should not miss:
  • The Abbey: You can take a self-guided tour of the abbey and learn about its history and architecture. You can see some of the original rooms that were used by the Henry family and the nuns, such as the dining room, the drawing room, the chapel and the library. You can also admire the beautiful stained glass windows, paintings, furniture and artefacts that decorate the abbey.

  • The Neo-Gothic Church: You can visit the neo-Gothic church that Mitchell Henry built for his wife Margaret and marvel at its intricate design and craftsmanship. The church features marble columns, carved angels, Celtic motifs and a stunning altar made of Irish marble. You can also see the organ that was played by Margaret Henry herself.

  • The Mausoleum: You can pay your respects at the mausoleum where Mitchell and Margaret Henry are buried. The mausoleum is located near the neo-Gothic church and is surrounded by trees and flowers.

  • The Victorian Walled Garden: You can explore one of Ireland’s most beautiful gardens, which covers six acres and has two sections: a kitchen garden and a flower garden. The garden was restored by the nuns in 1995 and features heritage plants and vegetables, glasshouses, fruit trees, herbaceous borders and ornamental ponds. You can also visit the garden tea house and enjoy some delicious treats made with ingredients from the garden.

  • The Woodland Trails & Tales: You can enjoy a walk through the woodlands that cover 300 acres of the estate and discover some of the stories and legends that are associated with them. You can follow different trails that vary in length and difficulty and see some of the wildlife that inhabits them. You can also visit some of the historical sites that are hidden in the woods, such as an iron mine, an ice house and a soap factory.

  • The Cafe & Craft Shop: You can take a break from your exploration and relax at the cafe that offers a range of hot and cold dishes made with local produce. You can also browse through the craft shop that sells unique gifts handmade by the nuns or local artisans. You can find pottery, chocolate, soap, candles, books, jewellery and more.
Kylemore Abbey is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Connemara, as it offers a glimpse into Ireland’s past and present, as well as a serene and beautiful setting for relaxation and contemplation .

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53.561692, -9.889345

Kylemore Abbey

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