As of last Monday evening, we are back in Indiana enjoying the warm, sunny weather and warm, welcoming friends, family, and familiar faces around town. It feels great! But we still have much to write about our last week in Ireland with our lovely guests, so here goes.
After a couple of days showing off the beautiful coastline of Fanore, giving Marvin and Eve the chance to see the stunning Cliffs of Moher, and taking them to the local pub on a special song and storytelling night, we packed up and all packed into the little red Skoda and set off on a journey that would take us up the west coast of Ireland, into Northern Ireland, and then down the east coast ending in Dublin for their flight home.
Not long after we set out we had a short roadblock in the form of some cute, fluffy bums.
Our first stop after passing the little lambs was at a beach to eat our packed picnic lunch of veggies, hummus, and fruit. And, of course, dark chocolate.
Feeling fueled up and ready to go, we headed to Connemara National Park in County Galway, which is over 7,300 acres of mountains, bogs, grasslands, and woods. We took one of the nature trails to the top of a mountain and back. It was about 4km total and a pretty steep climb at times, but there was a well-designated path to lead us onward and upward.
From the top of the mountain we could see the Kylemore Abbey from afar. The size looked impressive and convinced us to get a closer look after we descended the mountain.
The Kylemore Abbey is nestled into the base of some mountains and is regarded as Ireland’s most romantic building. For good reason, too, as it was originally built in 1867 not as an abbey but as a gift from Mitchell Henry to his wife Margaret, who had fallen in love with the beauty of the landscape 15 years earlier when they had visited Connemara on their honeymoon.
The Kylemore Estate spans an impressive 13,000 acres on land consisting of bogs, gardens, walks, and woodlands. Henry was committed to a policy of improvement and advancement so began restoring the bogland almost immediately and encouraged his tenants to do the same. Over the 40 years of Henry at the wheel, thousands of acres of wasteland were restored into the beautiful and productive Kylemore Estate. Henry was well-respected and provided a place for many locals, who were recovering from the Great Irish Famine, to work, live, and eventually he even built a school for his worker’s children.
Tragedy struck in 1874 while on holiday. Margaret fell ill with dysentery and died suddenly, just a few days before her 45th birthday. Henry had her remains sent back to Connemara and hired an architect to build a Mausoleum for her. Henry never remarried and his request to be buried in the Mausoleum with his wife Margaret was honored when he passed away in 1910.
In 1920 Margaret and Henry’s home became the Kylemore Abbey, home to an order of Benedictine nuns who were searching for a new home after having to evict their own abbey in Ypres, Belgium during World War I. The abbey became a boarding school and it wasn’t until 2010 that it finally shut its doors. Now it’s an intriguing stop for all who travel through Connemara.