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.
Categories: IRELAND, ireland: connemara
Tags: Castle, Connemara, ireland, Kylemore Abbey, Mitchell Henry, travel, Travel and Tourism, travel blog, Travelogues, Walled Garden, working abroad, working overseas
I’m not sure if this is just because I’m growing slightly more impatient and demanding with old age but I’m starting to think that I should stop purchasing organized tour vouchers in the name of saving money. This weekend was even further proof that I don’t enjoy travelling around Ireland as part of a tour. I think part of the reason is the way the tours themselves are organized here and the other part may have something to do with my mild allergy to other people and a huge dislike of schedules that I can’t bend/influence to suit my fancy. It all started with the fact that I had a Living Social voucher for a tour of Cong and Connemara with the Dublin (otherwise known as Galway) Tour Company which was burning a hole in my pocket. I’m usually the girl who buys these vouchers and lets them expire but the new thrifty me wasn’t going to let this happen and so this weekend it was the tour or bust!
Cong – quick snapshot taken while running to meet the bus on time
As I was hell-bent on doing this tour, I was up at the crack of dawn so I could meet and greet the busload of strangers who I would experience the Irish countryside with. YAY! Turns out that most were keen on keeping to themselves except for a pervy man who kept eyeballing me and trying to chat me up whenever his wife/girlfriend/situation left his side. Its times like this that I wished I had the balls to say, “No hope in hell…you fugly old balding weirdo!” instead of putting on my headphones and screaming, “Sorry, I can’t hear you!”.
Aside from the thrilling company on board that made this an unforgettable experience, I also felt lied to by the brochure. The trip said it was for Cong and Connemara so one would expect to spend the bulk of time exploring Cong and Connemara right? Turns out that this is a bad assumption as we only had 20 minutes allocated in Cong which served as a coffee break, pee stop, and run around to see as much as humanly possible if you dare. It was no better in Connemara as the major stop made was at the Kylemore Abbey and Gardens. At this stop, we were released for 2 hours to get off the bus (15 mins wasted right here), have lunch, deal with queuing, wait for a shuttle to the gardens, and explore the grounds before it was back on the bus again.
Connemara – Kylemoore Abbey
By the end of it all, I felt like I was on a race against the clock and didn’t get anything accomplished at all. I ran out of time at each of the stops and wasn’t able to see everything that was advertised and yet I managed to see more than the average person. The bulk of the day was spent sitting inside a bus as the driver told us interesting stories and pointed out places that would be cool to visit if the bus would just stop. Eventually, I gave up and just put my headphones on so I could enjoy my favourite hobby of napping. The one thing I know for sure is that I will be returning to this region on my own (note to self: must learn to drive stick for cheaper car rentals!) as the trails in Cong and Connemara would make for a great walk.
Categories: IRELAND, ireland: cong, ireland: connemara
Tags: canadians working abroad, canadians working overseas, Cong, Connemara, Galway, ireland, travel, Travel and Tourism, travel blog, Travelogues, working abroad, working overseas