Although the town of Galway is a unique place in its own right, its location near several important landmarks in Ireland makes it especially important (have you seen those photos of the Cliffs of Moher?!). One of those fascinating locales is just about an hour outside the city, but it feels like a world away. This place is none other than the Kylemore Abbey, home to romance, tragedy, legends, and so much more. Today, we’ll focus on the legends.
History of Kylemore Abbey
But first, a short introduction to Kylemore. The Kylemore Abbey was once not an abbey at all; it was the home of Margaret and Mitchell Henry. The couple had honeymooned in Connemara one year and fell in love with the rugged beauty of the landscape, so they decided to build a castle there in 1868.
Only a few years after the castle’s completion, Margaret tragically fell ill and passed away. The neo gothic church on the grounds was built in her memory. Eventually, Mitchell sold the estate to a duke and duchess, who then sold it to the castle’s current owners, the Benedictine nuns. The nuns continue to live in the Abbey, caring for the Victorian gardens and fulfilling their mission.
Legends of Kylemore
Now for the legends. The Connemara mountains, wherein Kylemore is located, are said to be the home of a number of mythical figures.
The Two Giants
Two legendary giants, Fionn mac Cumhaill (aka Finn McCool) and Cú Chulainn, were regularly embroiled in earth-shaking fights among the Connemara mountains. Fionn is said to have lived near the Kylemore Valley; Cú Chulainn lived in the mountains just behind the Kylemore estate.
During one of their intense arguments, Cú Chulainn heaved an enormous stone at his foe, but it missed the other giant by a hair. That stone embedded itself in the earth, where it remains today.
That stone is known as The Ironing Stone for its shape, and that place is thought to possess magical powers. Locals say that if you stand against the stone, make a wish, and throw three pebbles over your shoulder, your wish will come true.
The White Stallion
One of the most distinctive features of the Kylemore grounds is the large, tranquil lake in front of the abbey. On a calm day, visitors can see an almost perfect reflection of the Kylemore castle in those pristine waters.
It’s said that once every seven years, an enchanting white horse--more beautiful than any other mortal creature--emerges from the stillness of the lake.
Back in 2011, the staff of the Kylemore Abbey were convinced that they had seen this white horse galloping across the surface of the lake. It was the sort of windy day that merges water and sky, and perhaps the white horse really did go racing about that day.
There are many more stories about Kylemore Abbey (one includes a bloodthirsty giant and another a disappearing hound), but the reality of Kylemore does a fine job of competing with the legends.
If you’d like to join me on my trip to Galway later this year and go to Kylemore yourself, take a look at the information page!
Author: Debra Harris
As founder of Life’s Journey Travel, I’m deeply passionate about creating custom travel experiences that allow my clients to truly savor the journey.