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That’s No Abbey!

Updated: Jun 18, 2022

Kylemore Abbey is one of the most visited attractions in Connemara. Naturally, it was on our itinerary. Although the Benedictine nuns who run the attraction claim it is an abbey, anyone who looks closely at the furnishings inside the main building will wonder what bare-breasted female statues and other secular decorations are doing there. (Image: Looking out the front door of Kylemore.)

Kylemore Castle was built in the 1870’s for Mitchell and Margaret Henry. The Henry family left in 1902 and sold the estate to the ninth Duke of Manchester. Money problems caused them to give up the castle in 1914. The Benedictine nuns took over the estate in 1920. Of course the history is much more complicated than these few sentences describe. You can find out more on the Kylemore website.

If you go there, I think you’ll agree that the building has all the characteristics of a castle, not an abbey. In fact, I didn’t see one nun while was there. (Image: The walled Victorian Garden.)

The Benedictine nuns might be monastic women who “have been seeking God for over 300 years” but they are also a very enterprising lot who have adapted their ways to make money over the 100 years of being at Kylemore. They first started an international boarding school as well as educating local girls. Today they run a farm and guesthouse, develop tourism and craft businesses. Kylemore chocolate, fudge, and crafts are all for sale in their extensive gift shop. This is their vision for the future:

“With contemplative monastic life at the heart of Kylemore, we continue to develop Kylemore Abbey as a successful visitor enterprise in order to preserve its rich heritage and to generate income for the upkeep and restoration of the Estate and the development of our new Monastery and Retreat Centre.”

The Benedictines are now spread among temporary locations on the estate “with no communal monastic home.” That explains why I didn’t see any of them. They are hoping to earn enough money from their various ventures to build “the first female Benedictine monastery” in Irleand in 400 years. At the rate tourists are flocking to the estate, it won’t take them long to achieve their dream. (Image: Part of the garden wall.)

One of the pigs on the property. I wouldn't want to run into it in the dark.

Another section of the garden. They grow vegetables, fruit trees, and flowers from the Victorian era.

The remains of a building when Kylemore was in its glory. It's just a wall now.

The pot graveyard.

An unusual flower, from the Victorian era.

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