The Bottom Line
- One of the best known sights (and picture postcard views) of Ireland.
- Impressive Neo-Gothic buildings and relaxing nature walks.
- Splendid walled gardens.
- Only limited access to abbey.
- Can become very crowded in the season.
- Splendid stately home best described as a Victorian Gothic Revival Fantasy.
- Used as a convent and boarding school by Benedictine nuns.
- Visitors may explore the grounds, but not the main building.
Guide Review - Kylemore Abbey (County Galway)
The huge, neo-gothic pile beside the lake, nestling into a steep mountain side, was conceived as a family home by Mitchell Henry. Unfortunately this was never to be - Henry's wife and daughter died soon after and the house was never really a home. Then in 1921 the Benedictine nuns came - nuns on the run. The Belgian order fled from the horrors of the First World War and (after an interlude in England) found a new home at the western extreme of Europe. The nuns rebuilt Kylemore as their abbey and incorporated a boarding school for girls. One of the most famous schools in Ireland now, even considered by Madonna for her daughter.
Alas this will not come to be - due to dwindling membership the order has decided to wind the school down.
Most tourists will not be too taken aback by this - they come for the picture postcard view, the good restaurant, excellent souvenir shop and the walks. The abbey is not generally open to visitors, but the grounds are and so is a recently restored neo-gothic church a few hundred yards long the lakeshore. Strolling along the well-maintained grounds on decent tracks is a pleasure not to be missed. It is, however, often skipped by visitors as it doesn't exactly come cheap and takes some time. The walled garden belonging to the abbey is almost a separate attraction but worth a visit as well.
Ultimately Kylemore Abbey is an attraction for walkers and lovers of Victorian architecture. To all others it might appear mediocre. Bearing in mind that the scenic view is a five-star-sight. So - a "must see", but not necessarily a "must pay and see close-up".