One of Ireland’s most iconic tourist attractions is the Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden. It is a Benedictine monastery which was founded in 1920, in the same location as Kylemore Castle in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.
The Abbey is also considered to be the largest tourist attraction in Ireland because of the dramatic image where the whole castle is reflected in the Connemara lake.
The castle was built for a wealthy doctor from London, Mitchell Henry who purchased the land around the Abbey. The construction of the building began in 1867 and was completed in four years. It was designed by James Franklin Fuller and had over seventy rooms. There were 4 bathrooms, 33 bedrooms, a ballroom, 4 sitting rooms, library, smoking room, gun room and several offices and residences for the stuff.
It also houses the family mausoleum and has a Gothic cathedral. The mausoleum is a simple brick building and is the resting place of Margaret Henry, Mitchell Henry, and a great grand-nephew. The Gothic cathedral was completed in 1881 and is located on the left-hand side of the avenue before the Mausoleum.
In 1909, the castle was sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester who, after several years, were forced to sell it because of financial debts. During WWI, the Benedictine Nuns were forced to flee from Belgium and so purchased the Abbey castle and surrounding lands. It has been a place of spirituality and education ever since.
The nuns opened an international boarding school and established a day school for the local girls. It was the main school for most girls from Renvyle, Letterfrack, and after almost a century, in 2010, the school was closed. Today, the nuns still own most of the buildings, such as the ground floor which is open to the public.
The Victorian Walled Garden is a magnificent oasis in the Connemara Countryside. It is maintained to strict Heritage standards and is filled with Victorian vegetables, shrubs, and various flowers. When it was first developed, along with the castle in the 1800s, it had many heated glass houses and over 40 gardeners.
After almost a century, the garden fell into decline but it was restored in 1995 by the Benedictine nuns and in 2000 was opened up to the public. Coupled with the Abbey castle, this amazing garden, which won the prestigious Europa Nostra Award, is an ideal destination for visitors to spend the day out in the majestic Connemara.