The story of Kylemore – both Castle and Abbey – is a truly remarkable one. The twists of fate which have marked its history at crucial moments from its beginning to the present day combine to create a colourful and moving history. Kylemore is located in Connemara, in the west of Ireland and its greatest attraction is its location.
Nestled at the base of Druchruach Mountain (1,736ft) on the northern shore of Lough Pollacappul, the heart of the Connemara Mountains, it is regarded as one of Ireland’s most romantic buildings. Originally built in 1867 as a romantic gift, Kylemore Abbey and the surrounding mountains and lakes are steeped in history including engineering initiatives, model farms, tragedy, royal visits, gambling debts, a hideaway during Ireland’s troubled history as well as excellence in education.
Today Kylemore Abbey and the estate are open to visitors all year and the main areas to be visited are; the Abbey, the Gothic Church, the Victorian Walled Gardens, the Craft Shop, Pottery studio, Restaurant and Tea Rooms as well as the Lake and Woodland walks.
Prior to Kylemore becoming an Abbey, it was built as a Castle and the first stone was laid in 1867. One hundred men were employed a day to constuct the castle which took four years to complete with construction costs coming to a little over £29,000.
The Castle covered approximately 40,000 square feet with over 70 rooms and the principal wall was two to three feet thick. The facade measured 142 feet in length and is made of granite brought from Dalkey by sea to Letterfrack and limestone from Ballinasloe.
There were 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, ballroom, billard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room and various offices and domestic staff residences for the butler, cook, housekeeper and other servants.
In 1920, Kylemore became an Abbey and is the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. TheCommunity of nuns, who have resided here for 189 years, have a long history stretching back almost three hundred and forty years. Founded in Ypres, Belgium, in 1665, the purpose of the Abbey at Ypres was to provide an education and 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.
The Community were forced to leave their beautiful Abbey in Ypres, just as the first shells began to fall on it during World War I. After several years of searching, and with the assistance and blessings of the Archbishop of Tuam, the Community eventually settled on Kylemore Castle in December 1920. Content in the peace and tranquillity of Connemara, all rights and privileges of the Ypres Abbey were transferred to Kylemore by the Holy See, and so the Castle became an Abbey.