Taking Time to Enjoy Kylemore Abbey

By Mary Caffrey Knapke

Kylemore Abbey is one of Ireland’s most iconic sights. It’s worth the drive through County Galway even if you only have time to stop in the car park, snap a photo, and tear back down the road again. That’s how I remember my first visit to the abbey, 15 years ago.

Luckily, several years later, my husband and I allowed ourselves to slow down during another whirlwind tour of Ireland and spend a few hours enjoying everything Kylemore Abbey has to offer. First, we toured the four rooms that have been beautifully restored inside the abbey. Then we went outdoors for a walk along Pollacappul Lake to the Gothic Church.

Rich History

I hadn’t realized before that Kylemore Abbey has such a rich history. A fishing and hunting lodge existed on the site before Anglo-Irish businessman Mitchell Henry purchased the land. Construction on Kylemore Castle began in 1867 and took four years to complete.

Just a few years after the castle was completed, Mitchell’s wife, Margaret, died at the age of 45 while traveling in Egypt. Mitchell had the estate’s Gothic Church built in her memory. During our visit, my husband and I saw only a few other people come and go from the church. We enjoyed sitting for a while in the quiet solitude of this sacred space.

Mitchell and Margaret were both laid to rest in this mausoleum just down the path from the church. After Mitchell’s passing, the Kylemore Estate saw two more owners before the Irish Benedictine nuns purchased the castle and grounds in 1920. They continue to live and work at Kylemore Abbey today.

My husband and I spent the rest of our visit wandering through the Victorian Walled Gardens. Over the years, the gardens had become neglected, but they are now faithfully restored. It was fascinating to compare the displayed photos of the wild, overgrown area with the beautifully tended gardens that exist today.

When we drove to Kylemore that spring day, I think we expected to jump out of the car and snap a few photos like I had in the past. But the abbey and the lush scenery all around it drew us deeper and deeper into the day. It was definitely worth slowing down to experience this gem in the heart of Connemara.

Mary Caffrey Knapke has been traveling to Ireland since the early 1990s. She blogs about Irish music and memories at http://whilethesunsmiles.blogspot.com.

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  1. Just beautiful! Many of us snap that photo from the footbridge and go on our way. I need to stop some time and explore further…and not just the gift shop!

    Thank you!

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  2. We spent an afternoon at Kylemore Abbey last week with some American visitors. It was absolutely extraordinary even this time of year. Thank you to Corey and Liam for recommending it to us! Imen xx

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  3. Judy – I agree, that image of Kylemore is “iconic.” So glad Mary shared the more interactive side of the place.

    Heidi – Agreed!

    Imen – I wish we could have directed you to this post before your trip. So glad you made it. Connemara is amazing, isn’t it.

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  4. I could spend a day just poking around the walled gardens there! Lovely photos; thanks for sharing!

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  5. When I first stayed in Clifden, Connemara, I was wandering around taking in all the sights when out of nowhere, I spotted a beautiful lake, and beyond it was the majestic Kylemore Abbey. The scenery is just breathtaking. I took pictures, roamed around, bought a tape that told the store of Kylemore Abbey, and went on my merry way, but it was like a magnet. Several years later I went back again, took more pictures, and went on my long journey to Killarney. Almost 2 years ago, I decided to go in the winter. Ireland had a very bad winter with a lot of rain, snow, ice, etc. but when my daughter and I got off the plane the sun was coming out, and it was beautiful. We found the lovely home we rented, and again I had to find my Kylemore Abbey. When we got there it looked like it was closed, but I decided to find out for myself. I was pleasantly surprised to find everything open, but my daughter and I were the only ones there. In the restaurant the manager told us that was the first day they had opened in 2 weeks because of the weather so once again Ireland smiled down on me. In the midst of that terrible weather we had a beautiful week of sunshine. Who knew? I also have a picture of the Abbey hanging in my living room, and of course almost all of the irish calendars have a photo of it. Just an added postscript: Ireland is a small country with a huge heart. The people are warm and kind, and always willing to help especially if you get lost (which has happened several times). I no sooner get home when I’m planning to go back again, and this year I will be 77.

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  6. I had a poster of Kylemore Abbey on my office wall for years. My first sight of it made me gasp, and took my breath away. We spent the afternoon there exploring. And now we make a pot of tea in our wonderful Kylemore Abbey tea pot, and smile and remember that wonderful afternoon

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