Kylemore Abbey is a stunning house; it’s one of those places that ends up on Buzzfeed lists and tourism websites and has probably served as the backdrop for many a grand house in the movies. My mom and I knew that it was one of the places that we wanted to see without a doubt, and even without any tours of the house or the gardens, it is worth the trip out to the west coast. We spent two days in Co. Galway, with Kylemore being the first day of our West Coast adventure! It was gloomy as most days are there, but still entirely lovely!
How can you not be blown away when you are pulling up and see this view? Kylemore Abbey was built by Mitchell Henry for his wife Margaret, and it took over four years for the castle to be built completely. Henry was originally a doctor from London, and served as an MP for Co. Galway for 14 years. Connemara was chosen as they had a visited a hunting lodge on the Abbey grounds on their honeymoon in 1850; talk about a gift for your wife- 15,000 acres of land and a castle fit for royalty. It was completed in 1871, but Margaret sadly died of dysentery in 1875. She was buried on the estate, and Henry’s ashes were brought back for burial in 1910 when he passed away at the age of 84.
Pollacappal Lake is across from the Abbey, and adds to the drama of it all. A small but fairly rough lake from the looks of it, I can imagine staring out across the lough in the morning with tea. (Okay, I imagine every scenario with tea, but it seems particularly appropriate here.) It certainly gives the impression of a fortress- with a mountain behind you and water in front.
In 1903, King Edward VII visited Kylemore, and even apparently considered purchasing the estate. However, he backed away because it was too expensive for even him… Yes, it’s cripplingly expensive for everyone, but imagine having a drive way and view like this! I feel like this would take some of the sting out of it of the price tag.
I shouldn’t have been, but I was quite taken aback by just how dark the entryway to the castle is. A lot of extremely dark panelling is used through the castle, and although Henry was quite modern in moving the castle to hydro-electricity in 1893, it leads to some very dark rooms. On the upside, you wouldn’t be spending too terribly long in the entryway, and the detail and grandeur make one hell of an impression on your guests!
I do love the use of velvet throughout the house- it gives such a luxurious and elegant feeling to a room. The red is especially striking, and stands out against the darker wood panelling.
I don’t know why, but I am fascinated by staircases in grand houses. They are often the “in-between” spaces where transitions and a mixing happens. This isn’t the most elaborate staircase that I have ever seen (ahem, King’s Staircase, Kensington Palace, I’m looking at you) but it also isn’t the most plain, either. The wallpaper is a lovely touch and the window lets in a good deal of light. The tiny desk below the staircase is all function, though!
An understated entrance to a very important room in every house- the library.
While you can see that the castle is set up as a museum to show what the house was like for the family, it actually served as a school from 1920 to 2010 for the Irish Benedictine Nuns in the Order of St. Benedict. Originally from Ypres, they escaped Flanders in 1914 during the war. Originally from Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries, daughters from Irish aristocratic families were sent to the school Ypres, and continued when the school was established back in Ireland. It is sad to think that the school closed from a lack of pupils, but it is a fairly remote and removed school with what I’m sure would be a rather specific experience. The Benedictine community is still alive and well at Kylemore, though- we didn’t make it to the Victorian Walled Garden (due to weather) but they put a great deal of work into the gardens and landscaping! The gift shop also featured pieces of art, honey, and clothing made by the community.
While I’m still fascinated by this fireplace almost four years later, I don’t know if I would love to have this in my house to admire, or scared to have it in my house due to the pupil-less eyes staring you down in addition to the Medusa-style hair.
This room specifically was dedicated to showing the history of the school, quite different to the rest of the rooms. I would have loved to see more of the pupil’s items but understandably items like that are rarely kept for posterity. I especially loved being able to see some of the garments of the Order, as those are less often shown. You also have to love the portraits of nuns hanging throughout the room, in case you forgot who was in charge.
I adore this dining room- it doesn’t fall into the trap of dark and mysterious, unlike many other houses of the period. The mint green is gorgeous, and I think contrasts the furniture beautifully. The furniture is also not terribly overwhelming, which really allows you to take in the room as a whole!
If you ever happen to find yourself in Connemara, I would find my way to Kylemore Abbey, if only for an hour. It is wonderful spotlight into the past, and a gorgeous house in Ireland.
What is your favourite historical location?