And Today's Castle Is...

Tuesday ~ We drove to Clifden for a bit of shopping, then on to Kylemore Abbey. Although some of the online reviews said, "Just take a picture from the road. Don't bother to pay the admission and go in," we loved it here and wished we'd had more time. But we like history, and might be somewhat unusual in that way. We started by eating lunch and browsing the gift shop for souvenirs. After finishing, we headed up to the abbey.

Kylemore Abbey

The soups in Ireland are largely pureed. Very flavorful, but I didn't like the consistency.

At night, when the Henry's would host a party, the castle would be lit up in the water's reflection. It must have been absolutely spectacular!

Margaret and Henry Mitchell honeymooned in Connemara and fell in love with the region. When Henry inherited a sizable amount of money from his cotton merchant father he left his career in medicine. He and Margaret built Kylemore Castle between 1867-1871, along with the gardens. It took one hundred men four years to complete and has 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, billard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room and various other offices and domestic staff residences for the butler, cook, housekeeper and other servants. It was a sort of experiment, to reclaim bogland and to encourage others to do the same, during the time when locals were recovering from the Great Potato Famine. He provided work, shelter, and later a school for his workers' children. He represented Galway in the House of Commons for 14 years.

Tragically, Margaret died in 1875, at the age of 50, after contracting a fever on a visit to Egypt. Henry was heartbroken and built a church to memorialize her. 

Margaret's church

Don refuses to build a church for me upon my demise. What a cad!

Isn't this angel's face, well, angelic?

In 1903 he sold the castle to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester. They only stayed at Kylemore Castle a few years, but in that time they made extensive changes, including changing the magnificent ballroom into the kitchen. Their lavish lifestyle was financed by the Duchess' father, American businessman Eugene Zimmerman. 

 The property was heavily mortgaged due to gambling debts that were incurred and on the death of Zimmernan in 1914 the property was taken over by a London banker. It lay dormant until 1920 when Benedictine sisters who had been forced to flee Ypes, Belgium in World War I, purchased the estate. Here are some more shots from in and around the Castle/Abbey.

These are GIANT azalea bushes!

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time for Don and I to see the Victorian walled garden. I would have loved to see it as, you know, I loved THE SECRET GARDEN, and I've never seen a garden of that type. But...I did see this bird in the parking lot. Isn't he cute? 

I shall call him...Charlie!

After this we left for Ballynahinch, our own castle for the night. Here are some more pictures of it.

I have to blow this up really big so you can fully appreciate the way the sun made the ivy leaf glow!

When we arrived at Ballynahinch the coach
driver had to take the bus through this opening. He slowed a little bit, but there was literally an inch on either side. If he had even wavered a little...  One thing about Irishmen, in my experience, is they drive like madmen. Martin, our black taxi tour driver in Belfast went up over a curb at one point, and when we came back that direction he stopped, got out of the car, and returned with the hub cap that had fallen off when we hit the curb. Gotta love it!

On that note...will we survive another harrowing journey tomorrow (I guess you know, since I'm writing this, but shh...) Tune in tomorrow for more adventures on the Emerald Isle!

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