On Thursday morning I boarded a coach tour from Galway through the Connemara to Kylemore Abbey. It turned out to be one of the best days I have had so far.
Our first stop was Ross Errilly Friary.
This building was occupied during the Middle Ages by Franciscan monks, around 300 of them apparently. The building is said to be the best preserved of its kind in all of Ireland. I have noticed, and Lewis also made a point of mentioning, that Ireland loves the “Best”, “Biggest”, “Oldest”, etc titles. Kind of like us really. The Big Pineapple, The Big Banana, the deadliest spider, the hottest day in history etc.
Anyway, this friary was really cool. It was erected in the middle of nowhere which a couple of hundred years ago must have REALLY been the middle of nowhere! I have loved the Irish countryside immensely; the lush greens, the rugged coastlines, the rocky Burren and, who could overlook, the bog!
Our next stop was the village of Cong. This was where the famous John Wayne film, The Quiet Man, was filmed. Most of the village was closed for the winter. The bookshop, however, was open so I of course spent some euros on Irish Historical Fiction.
After Cong the road became narrower and narrower as we wound through Connemara. Such gorgeous countryside! I was fascinated. And nauseous. Soooo nauseous!
The bus edged along the narrow road through the valleys of Connemara towards the abbey and all I could wish for was air, and for the winding roads to be straight. I felt so ill. Mike, the driver, finally pulled the coach to the side of the road and announced that Kylemore Abbey was in sight. The sight of the abbey took my breath away. Across the lough (lake) majestically stood the former house of a love struck man.
We had two hours to spend at Kylemore and I was eager to begin exploring. My tummy had other ideas. I needed food and water and to sit and breathe for a little bit. Finally I felt sound again and hopped on a mini bus to the Victorian Walled Garden. It was beautiful and I can only speculate how gorgeous it must be in the summer when the flowers are out in force. I wandered through the huge garden, embracing the crisp, fresh air and solitude.
I made my way up the hill to the abbey. Such peace. Such stillness. It was overwhelming yet comforting.
The ground floor of the abbey had been restored, complete with furniture, to when the Henry’s had lived there. Kylemore changed hands many times after Mitchell Henry left. Finally the Benedictine Nuns gained ownership and soon converted the main building into a girls’ school. It remained a school for girls until 2010. This school setting seems polar opposite to school back home! Fun fact: Kylemore’s restaurant sells red liquorice made in BROADMEADOWS!! As in Broady, Victoria. I couldn’t believe it!
I wandered further up the hill to the Gothic Cathedral which Henry built in dedication to his wife, Margaret. He couldn’t bear the thought of her lying in the cold ground so he also built her a mausoleum.
As I was walking back down the hill I was almost crying with gratitude and happiness for the opportunity to be there in that moment. As I walked along, all I could hear was the bubbling of the brook, the birds and my own breath. And the sheep. Sheep?? Suddenly 2 shaggy, long horned, black faced sheep appeared on the path in front of me. They couldn’t have cared less that I was there. Brilliant!