Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney
Kylemore Abbey home of the Irish Benedictine Nuns and international girls boarding school, is regarded as one of Ireland's most romantic buildings, sitting at the base of the Duchruach Mountains, and on the shores of Lough Pollacappul.
In 1866 Mitchel Henry purchased Kylemore Lodge and 13,000 acres of mountains, rivers, lakes and bog, and began transforming it into what is now known as Kylemore Abbey. He built it for his bride, who had fallen in love with the area while she was on her honeymoon with Mitchel. The Abbey was more than a residence, it was a labor of love. To construct the castle, the road to Clifden which ran in front of the castle at the time was re-routed to where it sits today, on the opposite side of the shore of Pollacappul Lake.
As the Castle began to be built and rise up around the Lodge, the walls of the old house were taken down and was incorporated into the new building.
Sadly, in 1874, his wife Margaret contracted 'Nile Fever' while touring Egypt and died. Mitchel had her body brought to Kylemore and laid to rest in a mausoleum in the grounds. The stunning and unique Gothic Church to the east of the Castle was built as a memorial chapel to her.
In 1902 Mitchel, age 76, returned to England and the Kylemore Estate was put up for sale. It was soon purchased by the Duke and Duchess of Manchester, who carried out extensive alterations. The alterations were said to have been costly, and did nothing to enhance the building.
Mitchel Henry died on the 22 November 1910. His ashes were brought back to Kylemore and laid to rest next to his wife, Margaret, in the mausoleum.
The Duke and Duchess of Manchester spent only a few years at the castle. The property was heavily mortgaged and in 1913 the mortgagees foreclosed. For the next seven years it remained in the hands of caretakers as a new buyer was sought
In 1920, with the help of public loans, the castle was acquired, for little over £45,000, by a community of nuns of the Order of St Benedict. The nuns were refugees from Ypres, Belgium and were seeking to establish an Abbey and School in Ireland.
Kylemore Abbey is the only Irish Abbey for nuns of the Order of St Benedict. In accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, the nuns devote themselves to the monastic life of prayer and work. The Apostolate of education is one of the principal activities of the nuns. Soon after arriving in Connemara they set up a school for the education of local girls and an international girls' boarding school, which continues today.
The Order of St. Benedict has a 1,500 year tradition of hospitality and in keeping with this calling the Community always welcomed visitors to Kylemore Abbey. To help finance the upkeep of the Abbey and to repay outstanding loans the nuns established a guest house. Their guests were drawn by the tranquillity of Kylemore Abbey and the superb angling offered by its rivers and lakes. The culinary needs of the Community, School and guest house were supplied by the gardens and the farm.
In 1959 a fire struck, and destroyed two thirds of the school and Abbey. The main structure withstood the fire, and gave the nuns the option of rebuilding the Abbey to better suit their needs.
The guest house was never reopened after the fire, but that hasn't stopped the tourists and visitors who still flock to the Abbey for its romantic setting and wonderful views. The nuns graciously open the estate to the education and enjoyment of all who visit, developing excellent facilities as well as restoring and conserving the many historical features. They continue the tradition established by Mitchel Henry in the last century, of offering employment to the local people. Many of these are past pupils of the school. The main areas to be visited are: the Abbey, the 'Gothic' Memorial Church, the Walled Gardens, the Mountain Path, the Craft Shop, Pottery, and Restaurant.
Address: Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland, +353 95 41146.
Location: Between Reccess and Letterfrack.
Opening Times: Easter to November
'Kylemore Abbey' Weathered Shirt