I was up bright and early today. I’ve had it in my head for a while that I wanted to go to Kylemore Abbey, I’ve never been there so I was intrigued. I also wanted to check out where my Nan was from in Connemara but nothing really ever goes to plan.
I left the house while the country was still asleep and took the drive to Connemara hoping to get the sunrise. When you leave Westport you hit the bendy roads, it has certainly improved a lot since I was last there as in there are now two sides of the road instead of one! The sheep seem to sleep on the verge though so be careful if you are driving there….and when the world does wake up be careful of the drivers who don’t seem to know what side of the road they are on….and the walkers who are hovering on loose rocks taking photos. There were also lots of hares and I saw a pheasant so you need your wits about you.
The sun rose but I didn’t get the photos I was hoping for. I drove all around the place trying to find something that looked familiar. I failed. I drove around Renvyle where my Granddad was from although he died before I was born. For some reason the Margaret Coyne I was looking at on the 1901 census was not my Margaret Coyne so I was in completely the wrong area! It finally clicked this afternoon that I should have been in Rosroe and I was in spitting distance of the place so there may be another trip next year.
I did, however, find a deserted beach and I really enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Connemara is really not as remote as I remember it. There are a lot more businesses and hotels there now and it’s great to see them.
I arrived in Kylemore Abbey just as it opened, the reflections on the lake were stunning, I really picked the right day to go there. I loved looking around the abbey, there are just five rooms opened to the public but there’s a lot to find out. The abbey was built as a castle in 1868 and owned by the Henry family. I’d earlier discovered the place where one of their daughters died when her horse went out of control.
Mitchell Henry, who was born in Manchester, built the castle for his family to set up home in. Sadly a few years after the castle was built his beloved wife died. She is laid to rest, along with her husband, in the mausoleum on the grounds. Mitchell was heartbroken and built a neo-Gothic church as a tribute to her.
The castle is now an abbey and is owned by The Benedictine nuns, they took over the abbey in 1920. For a time it was used as a boarding school but these days the nuns, who have restored the abbey and the beautiful gardens and grounds, make chocolate and soap which is for sale in the extensive gift shop.
The walled garden is absolutely beautiful and there’s really a lot to see there. Admission is €13 but if you book online you’ll save 10%. I’d recommend getting there early, I spent two lovely hours exploring on my own and just as I was leaving the tour buses were arriving and the car park was fairly busy.
There’s a lovely restaurant if you fancy a bite to eat and all the staff were very friendly. I’d really recommend Kylemore Abbey as a place to visit, it really is well worth it.