Kylemore Abbey and castle.
Just 20 kms from Clifden is the superb Kylemore Abbey. Begun in 1867 by Mitchell Henry to house his family after they moved to Ireland. Taking fours to build it has 33 bedrooms and covers over 3500 sq. metres. Unfortunately his wife, Margaret died shortly after the construction so he added a mausoleum where he now lies alongside his wife.In 1882 one of Mitchell's daughters drowned in the Lough in front of the castle, and the poor man decided to sell it. It then moved from one person to another before Benedictine nuns bought it after being hounded out of Belgium during WW I. Having contracted debts to buy the house and gardens the sisters opened up some rooms as a bed and breakfast as later on having renovating the house and the cathedral, needing funds it was decided to open the house and gardens to the public.
It is open all year round except certain days such as Xmas and with various opening times, details are shown on the second site below.
Price is 12€50 for an adult with the usual 25% discount for students and seniors. An extra 10% for online booking beforehand.
Clifden Castle was built by John D’Arcy, the founder of Clifden town, in the beginning of the 19th century. John D’Arcy married twice and had as many as 14 children. When he died the castle and town passed on to one of his sons, who sold them when he went bankrupt. The Eyre family from England was the owners for a while but then it was bought by the government and land was divided among the tenants. The castle fell into ruins.
Clifden Castle is situated outside Clifden, along the Sky Road. I did not see the castle until I was walking back to Clifden. From where I was I could not see a road down to the castle and the sight of it was almost blocked by a high wall. Further on there is a stone gate with a tower and I thought that that could be the old entrance to the castle grounds. I was not sure as there was a private house just inside the gate, and as it looked private I didn’t want to take that road.
The next day I spoke to the woman at the hostel and she told me that the road through the stone gate is the road to the castle and it is not a private road, even if it has happened that people have come out from the house next to it to say it is.
- Castles and Palaces
When I came back to Clifden after walking the Sky Road I thought I would take the Beach Road down to the harbor before going back to the hostel. At the harbor I realised that the road continued when I saw a sign for the Boat Club and beach, so I decided to continue too. The road follows the bay, but not for very long. It ends by the Boat Club and a small beach. It is a beautiful walk to take and it was definitely worth it even if I just had walked the Sky Road. The day had been quite grey and cloudy but when I came to the beach there was finally sunshine.
- Hiking and Walking
I had heard of the scenic Sky Road outside Clifden and wanted to walk it when I was in the area. It is a walk of about 11km along a narrow road above the Clifden Bay. The views are very nice, but the day of my visit it was cloudy. Returning to Clifden, from the village Kingston, I took the Lower Sky Road which runs parallel with the Sky Road above. Eventually it joins the Sky Road.
What I noticed was that there were fences along the road most of the time and I had a hard time finding a nice place to eat my picnic lunch at. At the highest point of the Sky Road there is a viewpoint and car park, so I sat on the wall there to eat my sandwich. With many tourists coming in the summer I think it would be good with a few more places for people to stop at and have picnic. When I the next day talked with the woman at Clifden Town Hostel she told me that she lives along the Sky Road and only the previous week her driveway had been blocked by a car and people having picnic.
If I would return in summertime I would rent a bike and cycle the Sky Road instead of walking.
- Hiking and Walking
- Budget Travel
John D’Arcy Monument
When I was going to walk the Sky Road I came across a sign just outside Clifden, pointing up a hill to the John D’Arcy Monument. Of course I had to go up and have a look before I continued my walk. John D’Arcy is the founder of Clifden and he founded Clifden as one of the last Irish towns in the beginning of the 19th century. From the monument there is a nice view over Clifden and Clifden Bay.
Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park is beautiful! There are nature and hiking trails that allow you to see the natural bogs and heaths. In places there are wooden walkways to allow you to walk through bog areas without damaging the bog (or getting wet). I've read there are wild ponies roaming throughout the park, but we saw only a couple of ponies in a pen. The park covers 4000 acres so our two hour stop there barely scratched the surface, but what we saw was wonderful!
- Hiking and Walking
Take a ride up the Sky road.
At the crossroads by the church turn right and after 150 metres there is a sign for the Sky road on the left. This is a 11 kms drive gradually rising to 150 metres where there is a spectacular view over Slyne Head. There is a carpark at the end of the road where you can walk about at will.It's a shame that the road turns into a lane pretty quickly and there's not a lot of room to stop because the views are even better on the way up than when you get there. On the way down you have a good view of the ruined Clifden castle built in 1815 by the foubder of Clifden, John D'Arcy.
The sky Road
This 10.5 km long road brings you next to the Clifden Bay and it gives you an amazing view over Clifden and it's bay and a few small islands on the coast. It's a steep and windy road, but it has to offer an amazing scenery if you take your time to travel it.
For more photos have a look at my travelogue about the skyroad.
You shall be amazed just like us and stop more often then you think to enjoy the views.
Unfortunately, we were too late to tour the grounds of the abbey (the abbey itself is not open for tours). We did take some photos from the parking area. The abbey is quite impressive looking and what we could see of the grounds surrounding it were gorgeous. There were just too many things to do and see around Clifden to get them all done in one day!
- Castles and Palaces
- Religious Travel
Drive along Sky Road
Sky Road is near Clifden in County Galway. The road signs confused us a bit, but we finally figured out where it was. The drive up is a little scary on the narrow roads but when you get to the top there are places to park. The view is spectacular!
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
The Sky Road
Thankfully nothing to do with Rupert Murdock.
It is in fact no more than a strip of tarmac. It's difficult to write a tip for this place as the superlatives available fall very short of the sheer beauty and majesty of the views afforded from the road.
The road is about 7 miles long and runs out from Clifden, past a ruined Gothic pile, along the Atlantic shore. The road then forks to form a loop. The lower road runs near rthe cliff edge, whilst the connecting high road affords maginifent views out to the ocean. In driving terms it is not as spectaular (or dangerous) as an alpine pass or the Neapolitan riveria around Amalfi, but the scenery is just as impressive.
I must have been to the road about half a dozen times over the years and each time the weather has been different, giving an impressive new nuance to the experience.
"Mainistir na Coille Móire" is one of Connemara's famous attractions, the Kylemore Abbey with its Victorian Walled Garden is a highlight of history in the area. Nestled in an area of old oakwoods which terrace the mountainside, within the mountainous valley of Kylemore Pass with woodlands and a lake, sits the Abbey as a home to the Benedictine nuns since the 1920's. The Abbey was built in 1868 by Mitchell Henry in memory of his late wife Margaret in a neo-gothic style as a castle by architects James Franklin Fuller and Ussher Roberts with the aid of 100 men a day. Margaret died of dysentry that she caught while on an expedition to Egypt. The castle took 4 years to complete. It covers over 40,000 square feet with over 70 rooms. There were 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, a billard room, a library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room, and various offices and domestic staff residences for the butler, cook, housekeeper, and other servants. Mitchell Henry was a wealthy politician from Manchester, England who was also the MP for Galway Country from 1871-1885. A Gothic Church built by Mitchell Henry and designed by Architect James Franklin Fuller was constructed as a miniature cathedral on the estate. The house was purchased by the Benedictine nuns in 1920 after fleeing from their convent in war-torn Belgium in 1914. They replicated here the same boarding school they were running in Belgium for over 300 years, still schooling to this day. It became one of the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. The community of nuns who have resided here for 189 years. The south transept has beautiful stained glass tracery windows depicting Fortitude, Faith, Charity, Hope, and Chastity. In front of the altar was a trap door through which coffins were lowered to the vaults below. Due to erosion, the church began to decay. The nuns began restorations in 1991. A mile west of the main Abbey is the 6 acre Victorian Walled Gardens that Mitchell built during the construction of the Castle. This garden was one of the last walled gardens built during the Victorian period in Ireland and the only garden in Ireland that is built in the middle of a bog. The gardens are maintained with 21 huge glasshouses that were originally built to house exotic fruits and plants that were heated by three boilers, one of which doubled as a limekiln.
The Gardens fell into disrepair through the years until the Nuns found grants to repair them. The Gardens were re-opened in 1999. The Garden houses only plants and vegetables that grew in the Victorian era. In the back of the gardens is a tea room providing refreshments for the guests.
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
The steel road
It is a great shame that the rail link between Clifden and Galway no longer exists. It must have been a spectacular line. Nowadays it could have given a valuable boost to the tourist trade. I believe that (but don't quote me) that the rails were sold to the UK as a source of metal for weapons / planes / tanks etc in WW2.
At least the station area has (like far too many elsewhere) was not just knocked down and turned into a supermarket and ugly carpark.
The station became a hotel (and a good one I believe), the good sheds a small theatre and the engine shed a local museum. The created courtyards contain upmarket shops and cafes which still retains bits and pieces of the railway heritage. An impressive project if I say so myself.
Rent A Car and Enjoy The Scenary
Our family had a rented car and we drove out from Clifden to see the beautiful scenary. We also took a day trip to County Mayo to the town where the movie Quiet Man was made starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. That was very enjoyable.
- Road Trip
Take a walk (or drive) along the Sky Road
This narrow road goes out in a big loop on cliffs overlooking Clifden Bay. You will pass the ruins of Clifden Castle which you can look around. Best of all are the views, stunning vistas of the bay and the 12 Bens mountains.