The other day I was visiting our quarry in Connemara , and had few hours to spare. The day was bright, still and dry – a truly magical Connemara day , so I want to bring you with me for a drive and then a walk to visit one of the most iconic places in Ireland – the magical Kylemore Abbey.
So, lets jump into the car and head up the Inagh valley. Today Lough Inagh is a clear as glass and there are low clouds over the Twelve Bens mountains. Turning left at the Leenane junction lets head west towards Clifden . After a few kilometres driving I’m always careful to watch out for cars suddenly slowing as they round a tight corner and take their first glimpse of Kylemore… the sight will simply take your breath away !
Let’s park the car and I will tell you a little about how this magnificent building stands in this remote part of Connemara .
Kylemore Castle was built in 1868 as a private home for the family of Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor from England . He moved to Ireland when he and his wife Margaret purchased the land around the Abbey, after having travelled there on their honeymoon in the mid 1840s. The construction of the castle began in 1867, and took the total of one hundred men and four years to complete.
But Mitchell and Margaret never got to live together in Kylemore. Tragedy struck in 1875 when she died, aged 45, of a fever contracted in Egypt. After this Mitchell did not spend so much time at Kylemore, although he kept it going, before eventually selling the estate.
In 1920, the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the castle and lands after they were forced to flee Ypres during World War I.The nuns ran the abbey as a convent, a school and as a working farm ,opening an international boarding school and establishing a day school for girls from the locality.
Sadly the school closed in 2010 , but the Benedictine community are still here and welcome visitors to their grounds for us to enjoy.
Let’s head up the driveway to get a closer look …The castle covers approximately 40,000 square feet and at one time had over seventy rooms with a principal wall that was two to three feet thick. The facade measures 142 feet in width and is made of granite brought from Dalkey by sea to Letterfrack, and of limestone brought from Ballinasloe. The driveway is lined with trees that were planted over a hundred years ago , and in the stillness we can hear the calling of starlings, robins, finches and wrens. I even spotted some swallows enjoying the last of the fine weather before they head back to warmer climates for the winter months.
A few hundred metres up the driveway is truly one of the most magical gems in all of Connemara – the gothic church. This beautiful building was built between 1877 and 1881 and in fact is a miniature replica of Norwich Cathedral.
Let’s go inside for a look around , the church is filled with columns of green Connemara marble, red Cork marble and black Kilkenny marble . It is an exquisite display of the natural beauty of the stone , and what a place to see the marble that was lifted from our own quarry put to such use.
I am going to pause and light a candle and let’s stop for a moment of peace and calm.
Another gem that is worth a visit is the Victorian walled garden that is located about 500 metres on the western side of the abbey. As I have to get back to the quarry we won’t have time to visit today, but let’s try to get back there someday soon.
As we stroll back along the lake shore towards the carpark there are several place to stop and rest ; I just wish we could have more time to soak up the views and the incredible atmosphere ; and we have been so lucky with the weather today – Connemara can be a harsh place when the westerly wind and rain blows in from the Atlantic ocean.
Before we go, let’s take a quick peek into the gift store ; naturally it is well stocked with our Connemara marble and rosaries .. but there are lovely crafts, foods and gifts to suit every visitor !!
Righto, I had better get moving right away to get back to the quarry. I do hope that you enjoyed coming with me to Kylemore Abbey, and until next time please stay safe and well.
All the best,