Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Round & About [Roundstone] Connemara

Roundstone has been a resort for holiday makers since the 1820's, situated in the heart of the beautiful Connemara region of Co.Galway.  It is also one of the oldest fishing villages on the West Coast, with it's busy wee harbour, where local fisherman can be seen preparing their nets & returning in the late afternoon with the days catch.

If you want to see a wee slice of Roundstone, then take a look at this video & watch as the delightful Padriac shows you around the town - Go where Padriac takes you

Colourful Roundstone, Connemara
We were on the road early after a lovely breakfast at Wits End B&B & drove via Clifden in the hope of getting a good view of the Twelve Bens Mountain range, but the early morning mist was still hovering low, obscuring them. 

Clifden, Co. Galway
Kylemore is located in Connemara in the west of Ireland & one of it's greatest attractions is Kylemore Abbey.  This beautiful Abbey which was formerly a castle sitting below steep hills on the edge of Kylemore Lough, is one of the oldest of Ireland's Benedictine Abbeys.  The community of nuns who have resided there since 1920, have a long history of providing education & a religious community for Irish women during times of persecution in Ireland.  They also ran a farm & helped to restore the Abbey's walled gardens. 

Kylemore Abbey, Kylemore, Co. Galway
A section of the Abbey is retained strictly for the nun's use & is not open to the public. 

The 6 acre Victorian walled garden was built by Mitchell Henry at the same time as the construction of Kylemore Castle between 1867 and 1871.   It later fell into decline under the ownership of the Duke & Duchess of Manchester but in 1920 when the Benedictine nuns took over ownership of the Abbey, they began the restoration of the gardens.

The bell tower of Kylemore Church rises up out of the Woods, Kylemore, Co. Galway
Kylemore Abbey, Co. Galway
Kylemore Abbely, Kylemore, Co. Galway
Kylemore Estate, Co. Galway
The formal Dining Room, Kylemore Abbey, Kylemore, Co. Galway

Kylemore Gardens, Gardener's House, Kylemore
Looking out into Kylemore Gardens from the Gardener's Cottage, Kylemore, Co. Galway
As we expected, we were the first to arrive at Kylemore, closely followed by 4 other tourists, so our walk around the abbey was lovely & quiet. We caught the shuttle bus up the lane about 2 kms to the Abbey gardens, now well tended by a team of gardeners.

The Formal Garden at Kylemore Abbey, Kylemore, Co. Galway
Kylemore Gardens, Kylemore Estate, Co. Galway
Kylemore Gardens, Kylemore Estate, Co. Galway

Kylemore Gardens, Kylemore Estate, Co. Galway
As previously mentioned, the Abbey was built by Mitchell & Margaret Henry.  On the death of his father, Mr Henry came into a large inheritance from his father, a Manchester cotton merchant & decided to abandon his medical career & move to Connemara where he built Kylemore Castle.

Kylemore Church, Kylemore, Co, Galway

Kylemore Mausoleum, Kylemore Estate, Co. Galway

Stone Bridge, Kylemore Estate, Co. Galway

Kylemore Lough

Mitchell Henry made many improvements for the locals who were recovering from the Great Irish Famine, including work, homes & schooling for his workers children.  He represented Galway in the House of Commons for 14 years and whilst tragedy struck with the sudden death of his wife in 1874 and later his daughter, Mitchell Henry gave the tenants at Kylemore a landlord hard to be equalled not just in Connemara but throughout Ireland.

Kylemore Abbey on the shores of Lough Kylemore, Connemara

After a look around the gardens we returned by shuttle bus to the Abbey & walk the 2km along the edge of the Lough to the Kylemore church & Mausoleom where the Henry’s are buried.
In 1874, Margaret Henry sadly died of dysentry while on holiday in Egypt, just four years after the castle had been completed.   Her body was brought back to Kylemore for burial.  It is said that Mitchell Henry could not bear to place his beloved wife beneath the ground so she was laid to rest in a Mausoleum built on the Castle estate.    A Gothic church was also built in Margaret's memory.  Henry saw out his life in England and after he died in 1910 his ashes were brought back to Kylemore and laid to rest in the mausoleum next to Margaret.

Mitchell & Margaret Henry's story is one of romance & tragedy & is eloquently told in this short video clip:  An Irish Castle Love Story

Kylemore Abbey, viewed from other side of Kylemore Lough, Co. Galway

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ballynahinch, Co. Galway
On the way home we passed the stunning Ballynahinch Castle,  now a 4 star luxury castle hotel, tucked away in a private corner of a 450 acre estate, with a backdrop of the beautiful Twelve Bens Mountains. 
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Connemara, Co. Galway

Twelve Bens Mountain Range, Connemara, Co. Galway
Back in Roundstone, we called into Malachy Kearns Bodhran shop & while the man himself was just walking out as we were walking in, I did get a quick lesson on how to play the Bodhran by his Jamacian wife Gifty.  Tempted to buy myself the real mccoy & go for the largest Bodhran in the shop, I eventually settled for the medium size, to put up on my wall & take down every now and again, to make some noise with when the urge takes me.

Malachy Keane's Bodhran Studio Billboard, Roundstone

Roundstone Harbour, Connemara, Co. Galway

Roundstone Harbour, Connemara, Co. Galway

Roundstone, Co. Galway
We decided on revisiting O'Dowd's for our evening meal & nightcap before retiring back to our B&B to pack, ready for an early start in the morning.


  1. What a lovely write up, we were in this area this past Sept.. I was looking for the name of the castle hotel and stumbled on your site! We too were on a genealogy hunt, chasing Irish Ghosts

    1. I'm so glad you dropped by Marilyn. Connemara was one of my favourite places.