Gemma Grant continues her series on the Castles of Ireland
No trip to County Galway is complete without a visit to the magnificent Kylemore Abbey. Sitting on a 1,000 acre estate, Kylemore offers an impressive Victorian walled garden containing an array of flowers, vegetables and herbs.
To be included in the trip, is a tour of the beautifully restored period rooms, where visitors will learn about the castle’s history of tragedy and romance. Nestling nearby is the neo-Gothic church and Mausoleum, where the original castle owners, Mitchell and Margaret Henry, are buried.
The foundation stone for the castle was laid by Co. Down woman, Margaret Vaughan Henry in 1867. It was a present from her loving husband, Mitchell. Although born in Manchester, Mitchell proudly claimed to be Irish and stated that even the blood in his veins was Irish.
His father, Alexander Henry was a wealthy cotton merchant of Irish origin. Mitchell didn’t originally follow his father into the family business, but opted to study medicine and qualified as a pathologist and eye surgeon, running a successful practice in London’s prestigious Harley Street.
His path through life took a different turn on the death of his father in 1862. The young practitioner became one of the wealthiest men in Britain. Mitchell gave up his practice and returned to Manchester to run the family business.
His interests expanded into the world of politics, but he was unsuccessful in gaining a seat during the Manchester general election of 1868. His luck turned in Ireland, where he was returned as an M.P. for Galway.
His honeymoon trip to Ireland in the 1840s left a lasting legacy. It was while travelling through Connemara that he and Margaret fell in love with Kylemore valley and the lure of the hunting lodge encouraged the couple to expand this into Kylemore castle. The castle would be their ideal getaway from the hustle and bustle of life in London.
Their magnificent Irish home, resting against the backdrop of the mountain, offered an unhindered view of the tranquil Pollacappul lake. When finished, the original castle with its Italian décor, boasted a mere seventy rooms. Thirty-three bedrooms, four bathrooms, sitting rooms, library, school room and a billiard room to name but a few.