Part 3…Kylemore Abbey…A romantic gift lives on…A tragic love story…

A wedding gown of the era.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland” 

“Leprechauns originate in Irish folklore as
a fairy in the form of a tiny old man often with a cocked
hat and leather apron. The word derives from the Old Irish word luchorpanmeaning ‘little body’.”
As we wandered through the rooms of Kylemore Castle, we were reminded of many historical castles, museums, and homes we’ve toured during our travels.  In a considerably lesser manner, Kylemore’s furnishings reminded us of some of the furnishings in Versailles, although definitely not as elaborate. To see those photos, please click here.

After all, a king, Louis XIII, built the magnificent French palace, not a simple businessman like Henry Mitchell a few centuries later.  But, Margaret and Henry, as world travelers, surely have visited Versaille and other great castles while their castle was being built in Ireland.
The interior of Kylemore Abbey’s castle was renovated in recent years honoring the design and style of the era.
Sadly, Margaret’s life was cut short while traveling as explained in the following from this site:

“A Tragic Love Story

As you enter the front door of Kylemore Abbey you cannot help but notice the beautiful carved angel which guards over it. In the hands of that angel is the coat of arms of Margaret Henry’s birth family, the Vaughan’s of County Down. 

Margaret’s Coat of Arms over the front door proudly proclaim this as her castle. Look more closely and you will also see charming carvings of birds which were a favorite motif of the Henry’s. The birds represented the Henry’s hope that Kylemore would become the ‘nesting’ place of their family. Indeed Kylemore did provide an idyllic retreat from the hustle and bustle of life in London where, even for the very wealthy, life was made difficult by the polluted atmosphere caused by the Industrial Age.

This chaise certainly appeared to be comfortable.

At Kylemore Margaret, Mitchell and their large family reveled in the outdoor life of the ‘Connemara Highlands’. Margaret took on the role of the country lady and became much loved by the local tenants. Her passion for travel and eye for beauty were reflected in the sumptuous interiors where Italian and Irish craftsmen worked side by side to create the ‘family nest’. Sadly the idyllic life did not last long for the Henrys.

In 1874 just a few years after the castle was completed, the Henry family departed Kylemore for a luxurious holiday in Egypt. Margaret was struck ill while traveling and despite all efforts, nothing could be done and after two weeks of suffering she died.  She was 45 years old and her youngest daughter, Violet, was just two years old. Mitchell was heartbroken. 

An authentic horse tricycle, hand pedaled,  used by the Mitchell children.

Margaret’s body was beautifully embalmed in Cairo before being returned to Kylemore. According to local lore, Margaret lay in a glass coffin which was placed beneath the grand staircase in the front hall, where family and tenants alike could come to pay their respects. In an age when all funerals were held in the home, this is not as unusual as it may first seem. In time Margaret’s remains were placed in a modest red-brick mausoleum in the woodlands of her beloved Kylemore.

Although Henry remained on at Kylemore life for him there was never the same again. His older children helped him to manage the estate and care for the younger ones, as he attempted to continue his vision for improvements and hold on to his political career. By now he had become a prominent figure in Irish politics and was a founding member of Isaac Butt’s Home Rule movement. 
“The rocking horse as we know it dates back to the 17th Century when wooden rocking horses first appeared in Europe. A very few of these early rocking horses still survive in museums and private collections. These include one of the earliest ridden by King Charles I of England when he was a boy.”

In 1878 work began on the neo-Gothic Church which was built as a beautiful and lasting testament to Henry’s love for his wife. Margaret’s remains were, for some reason, never moved to the vaults beneath the church and to this day she lays along with Mitchell in the little Mausoleum nestled in the woods.”

In that era, medicines were yet to be discovered that could possibly have saved her life.  One can only imagine how sorrowful her death was to Henry and their young children which occurred only a short time after the completion of the castle.
Another wedding dress from the era, the 1700s.  This may be comparable to the gown worn by Margaret Vaughn Mitchell.
As much as we all whine about the incompetencies and stresses as a result of medicine, Big Pharma, politics, traffic and much more, we are lucky to live in these times.  

As hard as the walk was for me at Kylemore Abbey, I am grateful to be alive and still continue to try to make each day memorable.  Today, I started walking upstairs, trying for 10 flights a day, to build my stamina.  
Ornate fireplace.
Stairs are the hardest part for me at this point and although I struggle with each step on the spiral staircase, doing so regularly can only help build my strength.

Again, no cleaner today due to her recent illness.  Tom and I will take care of it ourselves, him doing the floors and me cleaning the kitchen and two baths all of which is a good exercise for me. 
In the era, it was commonplace for “gentlemen” to use a walking stick when out and about, as well as those who may have needed to use one of these ornate canes.
That’s it for our Kylemore Abbey story and photos.  Today, it is exactly three weeks until we head for the airport in Dublin where we’ll spend one night and fly to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the next day.

Enjoy every moment of your day and evening!

Photo from one year ago today, July 18, 2018:

When capturing this hippo and cattle egret in the bright sun from quite a distance, we didn’t realize there was a croc in the photo until we uploaded the photo.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…Kylemore Abbey…A romantic gift lives on…A tough walk required to explore…

The view across Lough Pollaacapull is seen from the castle’s veranda.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland” 

“One of the most curious facts about Ireland takes place in the town of
Killorglin in the 
Reeks District
. Here, a festival known as the Puck Fair sees a goat crowned as King Puck for three days. The Queen of Puck, traditionally a local young schoolgirl, crowns the goat.”

The story continues today with photos and the history of the Benedictine Nuns of Kylemore Abbey. Here is the link to the property’s website with a wealth of information if you’d like to read further.

Unfortunately, due to the walk up a long and steep hill to the actual abbey, we could only enjoy the views from afar, which didn’t produce good photos due to the distance.
As we approached the enchanting Kylemore Abbey Castle. 

Below is a photo that we borrowed from their site of the exterior of the Neo-Gothic Catholic Church.

“For more than a century, Kylemore has been the romantic nineteenth-century Irish castle overlooking a lake in the West of Ireland. Just a five-minute (steep) walk along the shores of Lough Pollacapull lies Kylemore’s enchanting neo-Gothic Church. 

Kylemore Abbey’s Neo-Gothic Church was built in the style of a fourteenth-century. Described as a ‘Cathedral in Miniature,’ this elegant building is a lasting testament to the love of Mitchell Henry for his wife, Margaret. On your visit, you may be lucky enough to enjoy one of the many musical performances that take place here throughout the year.”
Please excuse the blurry photo (not our photo) of the neo-Gothic Catholic Church located on the ground of Kylemore Abbey.

“Benedictine nuns of Kylemore Abbey

The present Benedictine nuns of Kylemore Abbey have a long history, beginning at Brussels in 1598. Following the suppression of religious houses in the British Isles, British Catholics left England and opened religious places abroad. Several monasteries originated from one Benedictine house in Brussels, founded by Lady Mary Percy in 1598.

Houses founded from Lady Mary’s house in Brussels were at Cambray in France (now Stanbrook in England) and Ghent (now Oulton Abbey) in Staffordshire. Ghent, in turn, founded several Benedictine Houses, one of which was at Ypres. Kylemore Abbey is the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys.

There are numerous religious statues and displays throughout the castle.

The community of nuns, who have resided here since 1920, has a long history stretching back almost three hundred and forty years. Founded in Ypres, Belgium, in 1665, the house was formally made over to the Irish nation in 1682. The purpose of the abbey at Ypres was to provide education and a religious community for Irish women during times of persecution here in Ireland.

Down through the centuries, Ypres Abbey attracted the daughters of the Irish nobility, both as students and postulants, and enjoyed the patronage of many influential Irish families living in exile.

Mitchell Henry, digitized portrait who built the castle for his beloved wife, Magaret Vaughn Mitchell, in 1867.

At the request of King James II, the nuns moved to Dublin in 1688. However, they returned to Ypres following James’s defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The community finally left Ypres after the Abbey was destroyed in the early days of World War One. 

The community first took refuge in England and later in Co Wexford before eventually settling in Kylemore in December 1920. At Kylemore, the nuns reopened their international boarding school and established a day school for local girls. 

Margaret Vaughn Mitchell’s digitized portrait.

They also ran a farm and guesthouse; the guesthouse was closed after a devastating fire in 1959. In 2010, the Girl’s Boarding School was closed, and the nuns have since been developing new education and retreat activities.”

The property’s peaceful environment, including the Victorian Walled Garden, left us smiling, grateful we’d taken the time and effort to see what we were able to see.

Riding boots.  Horseback riding was prevalent in this period.
I suppose this is how it will be with tours at ports of call during our upcoming Baltic cruise. I can’t imagine I’ll have a lot more improvement in the next three weeks when we head to Amsterdam. But, I’ll continue to do the best I can to increase my stamina. 
Visitors aren’t allowed to view the second floor occupied by the nuns.
Have a fantastic “hump day” for those still working. And a great “all-of-the-days-of-the-week-are-the-same” for us retirees!                            

Photo from one year ago today, July 17, 2018:

That morning’s 17 kudus in the garden. See the video at this link for details.

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.