The West Coast is the Best Coast

Bobby always says that the “west coast is the best coast” and in Ireland (okay, and in the US) I can agree!  After tackling the whole driving on the left side of the road thing, the four of us – Bobby, me, and my parents – piled into our rental van (yes, we rented a Euro minivan) and we set off for the Irish countryside. It was about a 4 1/2 hour from Belfast to Kylemore Abbey near the west coast of Ireland and we have never seen so many sheep in our lives!  We were not disappointed with the rolling green hills, little while houses dotting the landscape, or the hospitable nature of the Irish people.  From the abbey, we drove south to the famed Ring of Kerry, where we saw more beautiful (and surprisingly very diversified) landscapes. 

Kylemore Abbey

The Castle (later converted to an abbey) was built by Mitchell and Margaret Henry from 1867  to 1871 in Connemara, Ireland. Before the arrival of the Henrys, Connemara was a popular destination for hunting and fishing and Mitchell Henry became one of the growing number of Irish and English gentlemen who visited Connemara during the fishing season.  When Mitchell’s father passed away, he left him a large sum of money, which Mitchell then used to build the castle in honor of his wife. The Henrys owned and operated the estate for over forty years.  While the castle was being built, Mr. Henry used the construction as a type of political experiment.  Henry introduced many improvements for the locals who were recovering from the Great Irish Famine, providing work, shelter, and later a school for his workers’ children. After the sudden death of his wife in 1874, Mitchell spent less time at the estate and it fell into despair.  At the end of his life, he ended up selling the entire parcel of land – castle, gardens, and lakes – for much less than it was worth.

Some 17 years later, the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased Kylemore Castle along with 10,000 acres for a little over £45,000. Some of the lands were later purchased by the Land Commission and divided out among the tenants, and the castle was converted into an abbey.  They established a girls boarding school, which at its height in the 1980s, taught several hundred girls from around the world.  However, in 2010, due to limited enrollment, the school was closed.  The abbey is still in use today, with eight nuns actively running the property (seven of whom are over the age of 80; the eighth is only in her mid thirties!)

Us in front of the abbey

Yet another…

Almost invisible and yes, it was made for those under the age of 5

The chapel on the estate

Some of the greenhouses (that were used for tropical fruit trees) in ruins

The beautiful gardens on the estate

This little guy was separated from his momma

After spending a day walking the grounds of the abbey, we drove for almost two days across the Irish countryside and it was absolutely breathtaking.  I don’t have much to say (I know, that’s new!), but I think the photos speak for themselves:

A town so small you’d miss it by zoning out for five minutes; beautiful nonetheless

I could have taken thousands of photos of sheep…they were that cute

We stopped for lunch across the street from this gem

Totally agree.

We spent one of the two days driving the Ring of Kerry in southwestern Ireland, one of the most picturesque areas of the country.

Bridge near Kilarney

Killorglin, Ireland

This was our view for a lot of the drive :)

The yellow bush that was EVERYWHERE

Check out the baby blues on this guy!

The beach in Glenbeigh

Bobby touching the Atlantic for the first time ever (crazy, huh?!)

This guy was enjoying the chilly and very windy day

View on the south side of the Ring of Kerry

Pastoral land

View from the old military barracks

One of the many overlooks

Mom and Dad on the Irish coast

Deserted chapel near Kilarney

Headstones – new and old

Gothic arches

Interior courtyard

And here I thought all of Ireland was green….Ladies’ View on the Ring of Kerry

Ladies’ View

Mom and Dad at Ladies’ View

We stopped briefly in Limerick, Ireland on the way to the airport.  Although there were some beautiful churches, I really enjoyed the signage.

Prize medals…for chocolate?! Count me in!

I like positive graffiti

Comments

  1. Daisy McConnell says:

    Beautiful! You got such gorgeous weather in Ireland, it is so unbelievably green too!
    Reminded me of James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small” which was given to us as an illustrated copy and has many photos of the pastoral countryside in England. Lovely! http://books.google.com/books/about/All_Creatures_Great_and_Small.html?id=DXf-WRyvfJgC