A Rainy Day at Kylemore Abbey
In the last few days of our 2-week jaunt around Ireland Brandon and I visited the Connemara region in the western part of the country. One of those days was spent exploring Kylemore Abbey and Connemara National Park. That day was one of the highlights of our trip and for good reason.
The abbey, walled gardens and Gothic church are set in the beautiful and rugged mountains of the Connemara and there was a wide variety of things to see and do at the abbey and in the immediate area. Of course no trip to Ireland would be complete without a full day of rainy weather but that didn’t dampen our spirits or desire to see everything the abbey had to offer.
Kylemore Abbey wasn’t always an abbey. It was a originally a house built by Mitchell and Margaret Henry in 1867 and took 4 years to complete. Unfortunately tragedy struck soon after when Margaret fell ill with dysentery on a trip to Egypt in 1874. Mitchell had his wife’s body brought back to Ireland and immediately began constructing a chapel to house her remains. After Mitchell’s death the house passed to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester where it fell into disrepair before being purchased by a group of Benedictine nuns from Ypres, Belgium. Kylemore Abbey has been home to the nuns ever since with 15 nuns still living there today.
Only a small part of the abbey is open to the public for tours while many rooms are closed off and used as living spaces for the nuns. The guided tour doesn’t take long at all so the majority of your visit is actually spent outside walking the trails between the gardens, abbey, and church. The picturesque trail that runs along Pollacapall Lake from the abbey to the church has plenty of benches for guests to stop and enjoy the scenery. The Gothic church still regularly holds performances. In fact there was a group of American students performing at the church when we were there.
Almost everything the nuns eat is grown within the 6 acre walled gardens of the abbey, along with various flowers and herbs. There are many paths in the gardens to walk through so that even with tour buses filling the parking lot it doesn’t feel crowded. The walk from the abbey to the gardens is a little lengthy (1 km) but there’s a shuttle bus you can take if you’re not up for walking all that way. Because of the distance, however, we heard many complaints from guests on guided bus tours that they simply didn’t have enough time to visit both the abbey and the gardens. One of the reasons I always prefer to rent a car and drive on my own!
The Verdict: While the church and abbey were beautiful the gardens of Kylemore Abbey were undoubtedly my favorite part of the day. If it weren’t for the dreary weather I would have spent so much more time in there. Still, I truly enjoyed our visit and would go again. Heck, if I lived in the area I would even get a membership there! Their 13 euro price is reasonable and if you book online you can save an additional 10%. The only complain is that I wish there were more of the abbey that guests can visit but since so many nuns live here I can see why so much of it is closed off to the public.
How to Get There: Kylemore Abbey is right off N59, the main road that makes up the majority of the Connemara Loop, or at least the version of the loop that we did. Connemara National Park is right across the street so you can easily visit both attractions in one day if you wish.
What To Do: Only about 5 rooms in the abbey are open to tourists and the guided tour is short so much of your time will be spent outside. Be sure to pick a sunny day to visit! There is also a cafe on site and souvenir shop. I recommend purchasing a piece of handmade Kylemore pottery. We came home with a lemon-scented candle and loved it!
Child Friendly? Kids will enjoy running around the abbey’s gardens but there is also a designated children’s play trail with outdoor musical instruments, rope sheep and lots of other wooden play pieces.
Pet Friendly? There is no information on Kylemore Abbey’s website about their pet policy so I’m going to assume that pets aren’t allowed on the premises.