Two unexpectedly memorable stops, Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey, highlighted our second day on the wild and scenic peninsula on the western edge of County Galway.
The desolate beauty, well-marked hiking trails and small but interesting visitor center make the 5,000-acre Connemara National Park a must-see attraction. There we learned about the birth of the bog, some 2,500 years ago, from high rainfall and waterlogged soils, and about the value of bogs – as a source of fuel, of the mummified remains of the past, and as an inspiration of poets. We set off on a two-hour hike on one of three designated park trails, walking across the peat bog, a significant feature of the Connemara landscape of today, then ascended cone-shaped Diamond Hill.
Kylemore Abbey inspires for its incredible beauty and the love story behind its creation. When Mitchell and Margaret Henry left their home in Manchester, England in 1850 to honeymoon in the Connemara, they were so besotted by the beauty of the region that they decided to make it their home. Upon inheriting his father’s estate, Mitchell Henry purchased the 15,000 acre property and built not merely a home but a fairytale castle for his beloved.
Their 14-year idyll living there with their 9 children ended tragically when on holiday in Egypt, Margaret fell ill with dysentery and died at the age of 45.
Henry built a jewel of a small Neo-Gothic Church to the east of the castle as a memorial chapel to his wife.
He also created the first model farm in the West of Ireland and cultivated Ireland’s largest Victorian Walled Garden with 21 glasshouses heated by a network of water pipes.
A visit to the abbey begins with a short film that recounts the love story as well as the innovations that can be seen on a walk through the gardens. Guided one-hour and three-hour mountain hikes and woodland walks are offered in summer.
Kylemore Abbey is now home to a community of nuns of the Benedictine Order who came in 1920 after their Abbey in Ypres, Belgium was destroyed in World War 1. They opened a world-renowned boarding school for girls, which closed in 2010, and restored the abbey, the church and the gardens to their former glory.
Click here to read about day 1 of our trip along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
Click here to read about day 2 of our trip along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
Click here to read about day 3 of our trip along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
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