The drive to Kylemore Abbey was simply stunning. Below a mountain and perched at the shore, I watched, riveted as the white castle in the distance grew closer.
Kylemore Castle / Abbey was built in 1868 as a private home for the Henry family. In 1920, the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the Abbey castle and lands after they were forced to flee Ypres, Belgium during World War I.
The construction of the castle began in 1867, and took the total of one hundred men and four years to complete. The castle covered approximately 40,000 square feet and 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 from limestone brought from Ballinasloe.
There were 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room and various offices and domestic staff residences for the butler, cook, housekeeper and other servants. Other buildings include a Gothic cathedral and family mausoleum containing the bodies of Margaret Henry, Mitchell Henry.
You know me well enough by now to know that I’m not one for spending much time inside when there are grounds to wander and the Estate includes large walled Victorian Gardens.
We took a small break for an exceptionally decadent lunch of sharing a sandwich, chips, desserts, wine and fair amount of goofing off before hiking the grounds toward the gothic Cathedral.
The grounds alone are worth the trip and I could wander them forever.
In 1874, Mitchell Henry Family holidayed in Egypt – an exotic and popular destination in Victorian times.
Sadly, tragedy struck on the River Nile. Margaret contracted dysentery and died sixteen days later. She was beautiful, 45 years old and a mother of nine. “It is not our mistress we have lost, but our mother” said one tenant as the distraught Mitchell had Margaret’s body embalmed and brought back to Connemara so that she could be laid to rest at her beloved Kylemore. Henry could not bear the thought of having her lie in the cold ground of a foreign country. 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.
As if our day wasn’t already gluttonously full with what would take me weeks to fully digest, we pressed onward to board a cruise to tour the Killary Fjord.
Killary Harbor Wishing tree. For centuries, this ancient celtic custom has remained. People have tied ribbons or pieces of cloth to the “rag trees” or wishing trees. These are almost always a Hawthorn tree. It is believed that if you tie a piece of cloth from a garment of someone who is ill, having a problem or a ribbon with a wish, that the illness or problem will disappear and a wish come to pass, as the cloth rots away. I wished that my journey would find me here again. (But, I don’t know how long it takes to rot a ribbon and I’m the impatient kind so I’ll be buying a darn plane ticket)
Touring the Fjord
During the 1.5 hours sailing the 10 mile Fjord, we had drinks, took in the gorgeous views and Clay had cooked mussels, freshly harvested from a mussel farm on the Fjord.
We stood outside at the very front of the boat, drinking in the beauty and cool breeze when Clay leaned out over the rail, arms raised and yelled, (I crap you not) ” I’m King Of The World!” (Titanic movie reference) He’s such a goob. There it is…why I love the man.