Connemara and County Mayo Sights

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Kylemore Abbey Review

One of the most magical "castles" in all of Europe, much-photographed Kylemore Abbey is visible across a reedy lake with a backdrop of wooded hillside. The storybook Gothic Revival, gray-stone mansion was built as a private home between 1861 and 1868 by Mitchell Henry, a member of Parliament for County Galway, and his wife, Margaret, who had fallen in love with the spot during a carriage ride while on their honeymoon. The Henrys spared no expense—the final bill for their house is said to have come to £1.5 million—and employed mostly local laborers, thereby abetting the famine-relief effort (this area was among the worst hit in all of Ireland). Adjacent to the house is a spectacular neo-Gothic chapel, which, sadly, became the burial place for Margaret, who died after contracting "Nile fever" on a trip to Egypt. In 1920, nuns from the Irish Abbey of the Nuns of St. Benedict, who fled their abbey in Belgium during World War I, eventually sought refuge in Kylemore, which had gone through a number of owners and decades of decline after the Henrys died. Still in residence, the Benedictine nuns ran a girls' boarding school here until 2010. Three reception rooms and the main hall are open to the public, as are a crafts center and cafeteria. There's also a 6-acre walled Victorian garden; a shuttle bus from the abbey to the garden departs every 15 minutes during opening hours. An exhibition and video explaining the history of the house can be viewed year-round at the abbey, and the grounds are freely accessible most of the year. Ask at the excellent crafts shop for directions to the Gothic Chapel (a five-minute walk from the abbey), a tiny replica of Norwich Cathedral built by the Henrys.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Entrance off N59 about 8 km (5 miles) east of Letterfrack, Letterfrack, Co. Galway | Map It
  • Phone: 095/52001
  • Cost: €12.50, including shuttle bus to garden
  • Hours: Apr.–June & Sept., daily 9–6; July–Aug. 9–7pm; Mar & Oct. daily 9:30–5:30; Nov.–Feb., daily 9:30–4:30; Dec. & Jan. 10–4:30
  • Website:
  • Location: Kylemore Valley
Updated: 04-10-2013

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