Kylemore Abbey sits picturesquely on the shores of Pollacapall Lake in the heart of scenic Connemara. Kylemore, now occupied by Benedictine nuns, started life not as an abbey, but rather as a castle. The castle was the brainchild of local MP, Mitchel Henry. Henry had come to Ireland sometime in the 1860s, and fell in love with Connemara's rugged beauty. Enjoying considerable wealth, he had a varied career in medicine and business; one of his endeavors was setting up the Manchester Evening News in 1868. Construction commenced on the castle in 1864 to the designs of Samuel Ussher Roberts. Upon the death of his wife in 1875, Henry spent less and less time in Kylemore; the castle was eventually sold on to the ninth duke of Manchester in 1903. The castle came in to the hands of its present owners, the Benedictine nuns, in 1920.
The castle was an irregular plan country house, largely Gothic in design. The architect, Ussher Roberts had experience working with Gothic houses having designed the similarly magnificent Gurteen le Poer, in Co. Waterford in 1862. Additions were made to Kylemore by the duke of Manchester, and more significantly by the Benedictine nuns, who added a two block dormitory extension to the rear sometime after 1920. The nuns had previously resided in Ypres, Belgium, but had fled with the destruction of the city during the Great War. The Benedictines of Ypres had been an Irish community, set up in the wake of Reformation in Ireland, and founded in Brussels in 1598. The nuns at Kylemore ran an renowned international boarding school until its closure in 2010.
One of the abbey's treasures is the nineteenth-century neo-Gothic chapel. The chapel owes its erection not to the nuns, as one might expect, but rather to Mitchell Henry. The chapel was built as a family mausoleum upon the death of his wife in 1875. The chapel, located on the lake shore, one mile from the castle, resembles a miniature cathedral both in appearance and form, and is considered one of the finest examples of the Gothic Revival in Ireland. Mitchell Henry, who had largely retired from residing at Kylemore after his tragedy, was interred there with his wife upon his death in 1910.
The chapel interior