LivingTravelKylemore Abbey: The Complete Guide

Kylemore Abbey: The Complete Guide

From a humble country house to one of the most luxurious estates in the Irish countryside, which later became a charming Benedictine abbey and school for girls – Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway has had an incredible history. .

The impressive estate and walled gardens are one of the best places to see in Ireland – find out why with this comprehensive guide to Kylemore Abbey.


Kylemore was made into the magnificent castle it is today thanks to Mitchell Henry, a wealthy Manchester physician who built the estate after inheriting his father’s cotton fortune. Mitchell fell in love with the area after bringing his loving wife, Margaret, to Connemara in the 1840s, during the Irish potato famine. Even in the midst of such a challenging time, the Henry’s were convinced of the potential to develop this wild part of Ireland.

Construction began in 1868 and the glorious result was a 33-room castle, complete with a ballroom, four living rooms, a library, a study, many offices, and a fully-equipped kitchen, all on 13,000 acres. The large Henry family would regularly arrive from London to enjoy their luxurious country retreat.

Tragically, Margaret Henry died suddenly while on vacation in Egypt in 1874, shortly after the castle was completed. Mitchell had his body brought to Connemara and began building the Neo-Gothic Church where the couple now rest together.

The Henry family sold Kylemore Castle in 1902 to the party-loving 9th Duke of Manchester and his exceptionally wealthy American wife. The couple completely redecorated the castle until they ran out of money.

This is how the building and its grounds ceased to be Kylemore Castle and became Kylemore Abbey. In 1920, a group of Belgian Benedictine nuns fleeing World War I founded a new abbey within the castle in the quiet Connemara countryside. The nuns opened a renowned girls’ school, which only closed in 2010. Today, many parts of Kylemore Abbey are open for public enjoyment.

What to see there

Kylemore Abbey is a great place to explore because there is so much to see in the gardens. The site is made up of the estate itself, the Abbey building (castle), the walled gardens and the Gothic church.

The most striking feature of Kylemore Abbey is the castle itself. First built as the impressive home of Mitchell and Margaret Henry, the castle is nestled in the verdant Irish countryside and is perfectly reflected in the waters of the lake in front of the incredible 19th century home . The ground floor rooms have been carefully restored to show what life would have been like on the estate during the time it was built. The upper floors of the castle are still in use as an abbey by the Benedictine nuns who own and live on the property and are not open to the public.

The walled garden was created at the same time as the castle and has been considered one of the finest Victorian gardens in Ireland. When Henry called Kylemore home, the six-acre gardens had a staff of 40 gardeners. Today, the walled garden has been restored by the Benedictine nuns who now own Kylemore and features plants that would have been grown here 150 years ago. There is a formal flower garden, carefully tended green gardens, an orchard and a charming house that once belonged to the head gardener.

Leaving the abbey, the neo-Gothic church is just a few minutes’ walk along the waters of Lough Pollacapull. The small church is designed to look like it was built in the 14th century, with an interior and facade gothic arch. However, the miniature cathedral was built by Mitchell Henry in the late 19th century as a memorial to his wife Margaret after her death during a family trip to Egypt. Margaret and Mitchell Henry are buried in the humble brick mausoleum beyond the little church.

The surrounding farm is full of nature, walk through forests and along the shores of the lake. You can also book in advance to follow a guided hike into the Connemara hills behind the Abbey by calling +353 95 52001.

After exploring all that Kylemore Abbey has to offer, you can stop for a snack at Mitchell’s Café, a dining room located on the grounds.

how to visit

Visiting Kylemore Abbey requires a ticket, which can be purchased on the spot or online. The attraction is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm

Kylemore Abbey Castle is undergoing renovations until mid-2019, which means that some areas may be temporarily closed. During construction to improve the visitor center and restore different rooms, a discounted entry price will apply.

The abbey is located near the town of Clifden and the town of Letterfrack. There are occasional buses that go to both locations from Galway’s main bus station, but Kylemore Abbey is about 2 miles beyond Letterfrack, or a 20-minute drive from Clifden.

The best way to get to Kylemore Abbey is to drive by car. It is just over an hour from Galway City, following the N59 towards Clifden. Several private Connemara day trip companies also offer bus tours that include the abbey as a stop.

What else to do nearby

The buildings and history of Kylemore Abbey are charming, but part of what makes the estate so fascinating is the location in Connemara. This part of Ireland has incredible natural beauty and when you are in the area you should also visit Connemara National Park. The wild oasis is also just outside Letterfrack.

Also nearby is the charming village of Lennane, which sits at the mouth of the Killary Fjord. The small town’s waterfront setting is a beautiful photo stop and its compact size makes it easy to explore.

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