Part 1…Kylemore Abbey…A romantic gift lives on…A tough walk required to explore…

This is the over-the-top Kylemore Abbey, a former home, castle, and grounds of a wealthy family in the 1800s.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland” 

The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks are Ireland’s highest mountain range, home
Carrauntoohil, which at 1,038m (3,406 ft) is Ireland’s highest mountain.
Visiting Kylemore Abbey was a test for me. With the 1000 acre property, the Victorian Walled Garden (to which we could access the entrance to the gardens by shuttle bus), there was no doubt in our minds that a lot of walking up and downs hills would be necessary to fully enjoy our self-tour.
Sadly, I was sorely disappointed, not in the exquisite property but in my own lack of ability to easily walk through the stunning historical property. We made it to the ticketing entrance, the shuttle bus station for a ride to the gardens but not through the garden on many hilly trails.  
A lake, Lough Pollaacapull, highlights the property upon entering the grounds.

In the massive castle, only the first floor is available for viewing. The Benedictine nuns occupy the second floor and, overall, see to the management of the outstanding property. 

For the average person, there would be no issue touring this property but for me, still, a long way from full recovery, struggled every step of the way. However, I was never disappointed for venturing out to see this special property and did the best I could.  

The grounds and the gardens are meticulously groomed.
We didn’t miss too much other than parts of the garden and the abbey.  Today and over the next few days, we’ll share our photos here. The castle itself reminded me of the day in August 2014 when we visited Highclere Castle (see Part 1 of Highclere Castle may be found here. See photo below):
We held our breath as we approached Highclare Castle, home of the famed BBC Downton Abbey TV series. No interior photos were allowed.  Please click here for interior photos of the house and here for Part 1 of our post in August 2104.
Before we walked to the castle, we took the shuttle bus to the gardens a five-minute ride through lush tall trees and abundant greenery.  If only we could have toured the entire garden by shuttle, that would have been ideal.

Once we arrived in the garden to begin the walk, I knew I wouldn’t make it very far. There were benches for resting but on the busy Sunday, there were all occupied with other weary visitors. Even for the most well-conditioned seniors, the walk may have been challenging.

We walked to this location to catch the shuttle to the walled garden.

In a short while, we walked back to the shuttle bus pickup station and I was relieved to get a seat on the bus. Then, we had to tackle the steep uphill walk on a smooth paved road to access the castle. Once we arrived, I was OK and able to tour the castle with relative ease.

Once inside the castle, the love and care given to this fine property were evident. Here is the beautiful and also sorrowful story at this link about the building of the castle by Mitchell Henry for his beloved wife, Margaret Vaughn Henry:
The exquisite Victorian Walled Garden in the 1000 acre property requires the use of a shuttle which is included in the ticket price, Euro 10.50, US $11.80 per senior.

“Kylemore’s foundation stone was laid on September 4, 1867, for Margaret Vaughan Henry, the wife of Mitchell Henry. The estate had been bought and planned as an elaborate love token for Margaret and as a ‘nesting place’ for the growing Henry family. 

During our world travels, we’ve visited many botanical gardens open to the public, private gardens and gardens adjoining a variety of sightseeing venues. Of course, nothing compares to Versailles in France as shown in the photo below.

Although Mitchell Henry was born in Manchester he proudly proclaimed that every drop of blood that ran in his veins was Irish. It was to Ireland that he brought Margaret on honeymoon in the mid-1840s and where they first saw the hunting lodge in the valley of Kylemore that would eventually become their magnificent home. 

This was my favorite scene and photos from the Gardens of Versailles which we visited in August 2014. See here for photos, details and, Part 1 of our Versailles tour.

Although they visited Connemara in a time of hunger, disease, and desperation, Mitchell could see the potential to bring change and economic growth to the area. The son of a wealthy Manchester cotton merchant of Irish origin, Mitchell was a skilled pathologist and eye surgeon. In fact, before he was thirty years of age, he had a successful Harley Street practice and is known to have been one of the youngest ever speakers at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. 

On his father’s death, Mitchell inherited a hugely successful family business and became one of the wealthiest young men in Britain at the time. Mitchell lost no time in quitting his medical career and turning instead to liberal politics where he felt he could change the world for the better. His newfound wealth also allowed him to buy Kylemore Lodge and construct the magnificent castle.

This is the head gardener’s house and bothy.  A bothy is described as follows: bothy is a basic shelter, usually left unlocked and available for anyone to use free of charge. It was also a term for basic accommodation, usually for gardeners or other workers on an estate. Bothies are to be found in remote mountainous areas of Scotland, Northern England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. 

Designed by Irish architect James Franklin Fuller and the engineer Ussher Roberts Kylemore boasted all the innovations of the Victorian Age. There were 33 bedrooms, four bathrooms, four sitting rooms, a ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room, and various offices and domestic staff residences, as well as gardens, walks, and woodlands which eventually covered 13,000 acres of land at the cost of little over £18,000 (Euro 19932, US $23,270. 

The building on the upper right is referred to as the “glass house” which, to most of us is a greenhouse.

During construction, the sound of dynamite blasts were heard in Connemara for the first time as the castle was carefully set into the face of the mountain. This achieved the exact positioning required which to this day gives the castle its iconic appearance perfectly reflected in Lough Pollaacapull.”

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more photos including the interior of the castle and the continuing story of its owners. Please check back.  

Be well. Be healthy. Be happy.
Photo from one year ago today, July 16, 2018:
Once Tom spotted this female lion through his binoculars he grabbed the camera to zoom in as shown. For more photos, please click here.

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