Day Six | The Wilds of Connemara
Today was an easy, but long travel day, with lots of beautiful scenery as we drove through what’s known as the wilds of Connemara (the lowlands of bogs, heathlands and lakes), as we head up into the Maumturk Mountains. Small fishing villages west of Galway and larger communities farther up into the mountains (including the villages of Oughterard, Maam Cross, and Recess provide ample opportunities to take in the views, break for coffee or lunch or browse shops in the larger towns. Fishing, cycling, hiking, and other recreation tourism is coming back, and tour buses, large and small are evidence of the area’s popularity.
We drove through the village of Leenane on the Shores of Killory Harbor, Ireland’s only fjord on our way to our primary destination, the Kylemore Estate, nestled at the base of Duchruach Mountain, on the northern shore of Lough Pollacappul in the heart of the Connemara Mountains.
The 1000-acre estate is located just over one hour from Galway City, and is one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions. Kylemore Castle was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry MP, a wealthy businessman, and liberal politician. Inspired by his love for his wife Margaret, and his hopes for his beloved Ireland, Henry created an estate boasting all the innovations of the modern age. An enlightened landlord and vocal advocate of the Irish people, Henry poured his life’s energy into creating an estate that would showcase what could be achieved in the remote wilds of Connemara.
Victorian Walled Garden
The Henry family lived in the castle for only 10 years before Margaret died during a trip to India. Henry never returned to live in the castle after his wife’s death. In 1920 the estate was turned over to the Benedictine Nuns, who fled Belgium after World War I. The Nuns founded Kylemore Abbey and later, a private school for girls on the property. The Abby and school are no longer open and the property is maintained by the Kylemore Trust, a nonprofit organization and a registered charity in Ireland. All funds generated are used to advance its dual mission of preserving the heritage and natural beauty of Kylemore and supporting the monastic way of life.