As our tour bus worked its way around a twisty turny road in a haze of fog and rain, the driver began telling the story of Kylemore Abbey. Despite my front of hardheaded realism and steadfast belief that prince charming is a lie made up by Disney, it’s a well-known fact that I’m somewhat of a romantic at heart and this story is one that wooed me before I even laid eyes on the castle itself. It’s a story that dates back to 1850 when a lady named Margaret was on her honeymoon in Connemara with her husband Mitchell Henry. The couple decided to stop for a picnic at the hunting lodge and Margaret became so enchanted by the area that Mitchell purchased the land and built them a home there.
This romantic gift was set on 15,000 acres and the castle was built around the original hunting lodge and came complete with gardens, walks, and woodlands. The couple had 9 children and enjoyed a happy life at Kylemore until tragedy struck. One of their children took ill and the family was advised to go to a warmer climate. The Henrys took their family to Egypt when Margaret fell ill and passed away at the age of 45. Mitchell was so grief-stricken that he had his wife’s body embalmed and brought back to Kylemore and laid to rest on the grounds. Tragedy struck again, when one of the Henry daughters was thrown off a horse and thus, Mitchell abandoned Kylemore. At the age of 84, Mitchell Henry died penniless in Leamington, England but still had his last wish to be reunited with his wife granted. Her body and his ashes are in the mausoleum on the grounds of Kylemore to this day.
When visiting Kylemore Abbey and Gardens, the iconic castle oozes romance. I’m not clear if I felt this way because I heard the story of the Henrys prior to my visit or if I’ve watched too many episodes of Downton Abbey along with reading too many Jane Austin books but there was something about a castle nestled at the base of the mountains that made me regard this as one of the most romantic buildings that I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the tourist hoopla that surrounds this site but what I enjoyed the most was the beauty of the castle and strolling the grounds of the Kylemore to the Walled Garden and in and around some of the woodlands areas. I did it all in the rain and can only imagine the beauty of the area if it were a sunny day.