Kylemore Abbey, Ireland
You always hear about how beautiful Ireland is and I think that most of that reverie one has when thinking of this place stems from being in the coastal towns in and around Galway. It is simply breathtaking and the photos you will see in this blog are not going to do it justice at all.
It began when we arrived where we would be staying at this portion of our trip, The Twelve Hotel. When we arrived we were greated with such warmth and hospitality that it really was nice to arrive after a long and rainy trip over from Dublin.
Our first night there we were beat so we decided to have dinner at their West Restuarant. It was amazing food and the staff was super helpful and gave us suggestions on what to try. We ended up getting the same meal just different deserts.
After an awesome feast we retired for the evening.
The next day we would head over to the Kylemore Abbey to see the beautiful gardans there, the abbey itself, and the small Gothic Church that were on the grounds there. The abbey has a sad but rich history. It started out as the home built for Mitchell Henry's wife Margaret who tragically died in 1874 after contracting dysentry on a trip with the family to Africa. The abbey changed hands a few times after that and now is run by the Benedictine Nuns who still reside on the property. For more on the history of the abbey here is a link to more information - The History of Kylemore Abbey.
When we first arrived at the abbey we ourchased our tickets which were about $14.80 per person USD. There was a shuttle that takes you over to the Victorian Walled Gardens and since it was overcast on arrival we decided to go to this area first since much of the remainder of the grounds were buildings we could duck into if it started to rain. The shuttle ran frquently so we did not have to wait very long for one to arrive.
At the drop off is where the tourist shop is located which does have restrooms and a small cafe if one decided that they wanted to eat here. We went on to check out the gardens first since neither of us where hungry. The gardens are immense. The garden comprises of roughly 6 acres of land. The eastern half comprises of the flower or pleasure garden, glass houses and gardeners’ houses, the kitchen garden makes up the other half of the garden and is predominantly given over to the growing of food. The buildings for the Head Gardner and those for the staff that worked under him are still in place, many of which were restored to what they would have been when they were first built for the Mitchell family.
After walking the gardens we headed back to the shuttle area and decided to skip it and walk back. We exlored the grounds a bit as we did so. The abbey cleverly added some standing wind chimes, puzzles and other small games along the pathway. The sun sarted to peek out here and there and the scenery was just awe inspiring. I miss seeing this time of forrest since I now live in a desert climate.
Once we made it to the abbey we went inside and caught the last portion of a guided tour. There is so much history in this place. Much of the furniture and all fireplaces, wooden floors, oak panelling, etc are original. There is one area that has the most devine carvings in its deep black wood. I sat and looked at the carvings for several minutes just because they were so ornate.
After the abbey we set about going to The Gothic Church. Per the website, "Mitchell immediately set about building a cathedral-in-miniature in memory of his wife Margaret. The beautiful gothic church is a testament of his love for Margaret. 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. Today, it is used to host musical recitals, poetry readings and cross-community celebrations." Structurally it is simple yet beautiful with high gothic arches one would come to expect with this style church. Once inside I went to the front of the church to bow and reflect and then took a moment to light a candle for my mom and my brother. Outside the church are the headstones marking the resting places of many of the nuns that had served here.
Outside the small church is the path that leads to where the Mitchell's are entombed. Each location overlooks the stream that splits the property. Henry Mitchell definitely chose wisely when he selected this spot to buld the home for his wife and family.
If you travel to Galway I would recommend this as a stopping point. Much more than a tourist attracion, this place rich in history has a gorgeous landscape that cannot help but make an idelible mark on your soul. Even on an overcast day, with a few peeks of sunlight, one cannot help but take a few moments along the grounds to reflect. Even if one is not religious, the gothic church has architecture that beckons you to enter.
Once you do, you are forever one of Kylemore Abbey's biggest fans.