I had seen photos from Tully Mountain and wanted to do a hike there while in Letterfrack. When I asked Mike at Letterfrack Lodge about the mountain he borrowed me a map, and drew on the map where I should walk while on the mountain. I also wrote down his instructions.
In the morning I brought a lunch picnic and set off for Tully Mountain. From Letterfrack I first walked along the road to Tully Cross. After Dawros River I turned left towards the mountain. Mikes description was something like this: Walk past the quay a few hundred metres to the top of the road, turn 90° right and walk 50m to the fence, hop over at the step (and yes, there was a way to get over the fence there), keep going straight to the shoulder. Stay on the shoulder to the top, there are four tops, keep going downhill to a stonewall, turn left, follow the stonewall and coast back.
It was a beautiful sunny day and the views were stunning in all directions, towards the sea and towards Connemara National Park. I enjoyed the hike very much and didn’t see anyone else on the mountain. Tully Mountain is only 356m high. There is no real trail, but only some sheep tracks. When it was time to descend I walked a bit too much to the left and there the heather was high at places. Near the stonewall I found a big stone in the sun where I had my lunch. On the way back I followed a narrow road below the mountain and then continued back along the main road to Letterfrack.
Walking to and from Tully Mountain, and the hike on the mountain, had all together taken around 7 hours. This hike was the highlight of my week in Ireland.
Connemara National Park Visitor Centre is situated in Letterfrack. It was closed in the end of February when I visited but it is here that the trail up on Diamond Hill, a mountain 442m high, begins. The hike to the top and back is 6.7km long, but if you don’t want to go all way up there are shorter trails to walk as well. I couldn’t see any other trails leading further into the national park while I hiked up on Diamond Hill. The trail is mostly easy to walk, but higher up on the mountain slope the path is rockier.
I arrived in Letterfrack before lunchtime, and I had bought my lunch picnic already in Galway, so after checking in my luggage at Letterfrack Lodge I headed out for Diamond Hill. It was a clear and sunny day, even though a bit cold. It was a lovely walk with beautiful views.
Kylemore Abbey was constructed between 1867 and 1871 by Mitchell and Margaret Henry. They had visited Connemara already during their honeymoon in the 1850s and loved the area very much. When Mitchell Henry inherited money they bought the old hunting Lodge Kylemore Lodge and 15 000 acres of land. On the site of the lodge they built their castle. Construction of the castle and gardens gave good paid work for the tenants and people in the area. The Henry’s also made other improvements for their tenants, like setting up a school for the children.
Mitchell and Margaret Henry had nine children and they lived a happy life together at Kylemore Castle. Their happiness ended in tragedy as Margaret died of dysentery, only 45 years old, while the family were on holiday in Egypt 1874.
In 1903 Michell Henry sold Kylemore Castle to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester and the Duchess had a lot of changes done to the interior of the castle. Kylemore Castle change owners again and finally, in 1920, it was purchased by an order of Benedictine Nuns, and thus became Kylemore Abbey. The nuns have made much restoration work of the Walled Garden and Gothic Church and they have had a boarding school which closed as late as June 2010.
To come to Kylemore Abbey I walked from Letterfrack. It is 4km and the walk took around 45-50 minutes. I arrived before 10 o’clock and luckily it had already opened. At Kylemore Abbey I walked around for 3h to see the main building, the Gothic Church and the Walled Gardens, before I went to a café to have coffee and scone.
The admission was 12.50 Euro (February 2013).
At Letterfrack Lodge I had found a leaflet with information about the Dawros Walk. As it was still a beautiful late afternoon after I had hiked up on Diamond Hill and visited one of the cafés in the village I decided to make this walk.
In the beginning you walk along the road to Tullycross. After some time you come to a junction and there is a handmade sign pointing to the left which says Dawros. At this junction there is also an old water pump. Now you walk along a narrow road past some houses and pastures. There are very nice views of the bay and Tully Mountain. When you return you will have a great view of Diamond Hill and Connemara National Park.
I walked quite far but didn’t follow the road till its end. From the Tullycross – Letterfrack road it is 2.5km till the end of the road.
The Victorian Walled Garden is situated about 1.5km from the Visitor Centre and if you think that is too much to walk there is a shuttle bus every 15 minutes (when there are people). I walked to the gardens and met three other visitors along the road, but while visiting the gardens I didn’t see any other visitors. However there were three gardeners working there.
The Victorian Walled Garden was constructed at the same time as Kylemore Abby and for its location the southern slope of Duchruach was chosen as it is the warmest spot on the estate. It was a very advanced garden at that time and there were 21 glasshouses where, among other things, tropical fruits were grown. After the Henry’s had sold Kylemore the garden fell into decline. The Benedictine Nuns used the garden and in 1996 they started a large restoration work with help from outside.
The garden is about 6 acres large and it is divided in two halves, the Flower Garden and the Kichen Garden, with a natural mountain stream running in between them. In the Garden the Gardener’s House and the Workmen’s Bothy has been restored and you can visit them both. In the tool shed there are some original tools on display. Two small glasshouses have also been restored.
When I visited it was late February so not many flowers were not in bloom, but it was nice to stroll around in the garden anyway and I sat down on a wall eating my lunch sandwich.
There are some nice walks you can do on the Kylemore grounds. I first walked past Kylemore Abbey to the Gothic Church, Mausoleum and Ironing Stone. This walk first follows Pollacappul Lake with nice views over the lake and with Connemara National Park behind. Then I walked back to visit Kylemore Abbey.
After visiting Kylemore Abbey I took the woodland walk to the Victorian Walled Garden, which is about 20 minutes away. This walk passes the smaller Maladrolaun Lake and goes through woodlands. From the garden I took the extended woodland walk that makes a loop before joining the road between the garden and Kylemore Abbey. If you like walking it is definitely worth taking this extended woodland walk.
Margaret Henry tragically died when the family was on holiday in Egypt. In her memory her husband had the Gothic Church built. It is a beautiful mini-cathedral built in a Neo-Gothic style. Outside there are some gargoyles and inside there are beautiful stained glass windows. The inside walls are made of yellow sandstone from Italy and there are pillars and other details made of marble from four different Irish provinces.
When the Benedictine Nuns took over Kylemore the church was turned into a Catholic church. Previous it had been an Anglican church.
Sometimes there are concerts in the Gothic Church.
Near the Gothic Church is the mausoleum of Margaret and Henry Mitchell. Margaret Henry died only 45 years old while on holiday in Egypt. She got dysentery and died within 16 days. Her remains were brought back to Kylemore and put to rest in the mausoleum on the estate grounds.
When Mitchell Henry died in 1910 he lived in England, Kylemore had been sold and he was almost penniless. But his wish to be rejoined with his beloved wife at Kylmore was granted and his ashes were brought to the mausoleum at Kylemore.
Within the Kylemore Abbey grounds there is a big stone with the shape of an iron. This stone is said to be a wishing stone and if you stand with your back to the stone and throw a pebble over it three times in a row your wish will be granted.
There is also a legend connected to the stone. According to the legend there were two giants, Fionn McCool at Diamond Hill and Cú Chulainn at Dúchruach who often had arguments. During one argument Cú Chulainn throw a big stone at Fionn McCool but it fell down where it is now laying.
I had read that there was a trail up the mountain above Kylemore Abbey to a statue, the Sacred Heart Statue and of course I wanted to do some hiking while there. To my disappointment you can only walk up to the statue, or on the other mountain trails, with a guide and only during the summer months. If you want to take one of the walks you should book ahead.
I asked at the ticket office if it was possible to hike on the other side of the road from Kylemore Abbey. I was told that if I turned left at the main road there would be a small dirt road/trail on the right after a while and there I should be able to hike up the mountains a bit. There are no real trails, but only narrow sheep trails and I couldn’t walk very far before I got stopped by a fence and had to turn around. Well, I still had to walk back to Letterfrack so I did that instead.