In line with public health advice, Kylemore Abbey is currently closed.

Thank you from Kylemore Abbey!

This day last year, Kylemore Abbey and Gardens was forced to close in the first of two major closures. 2020-21 has been a time none of us could have predicted and while it is has been a time of immeasurable difficulty for so many, everyone at Kylemore Abbey would like to take this one year anniversary to express our gratitude to the people who have ensured that Kylemore will be able to get back up and running when it is safe to do so. Those people are our wonderful staff who worked so hard to ensure the wellbeing and enjoyment of all of our visitors, and of course, you, our visitors and customers, who made the journey to Kylemore, who joined the nuns for daily prayer via the monastic church webcam, and who supported us by shopping in our online shop.


“Thank you from the nuns at Kylemore for all of the support and solidarity during this past year, especially to those who join us through the monastic church webcam every day.”  Sr. Maire  Hickey OSB, Mother Abbess.

“These past 12 months have tested us all in ways, which we never previously experienced. Throughout the challenges and isolation, we have endeavoured to seek hope and opportunity. As springtime brings warmer days, we look forward to welcoming you back to Kylemore Abbey and to sharing a brighter future”. Conor Coyne, Executive Director.

Learn the History & Tradition of the Easter Simnel Cake

Simnel Cake
Every easter in Kylemore, Mitchells Café and the Garden Tea House prepare and serve the traditional Simnel Cake. And each year our friendly staff get asked what is a Simnel Cake and why eat it at Easter? Well, here are the answers to that what and why….

A Simnel Cake is a baked fruit cake. Much lighter and with less alcohol than a Christmas cake, the main defining feature is the two layers of marzipan in the cake, one through the cake (as in the picture below) and one on top of the cake. Also sitting on top of the cake and lightly toasted are 11 further balls of marzipan. The marzipan balls represent the 11 faithful disciples and sometimes a twelfth placed in the middle represents Jesus. Here is where the whys start…

Dating back to medieval times, it is thought the name Simnel comes from the Latin similia which translates roughly as the “finest flour”. This sense of importance surrounding the Simnel cake took on a new meaning later in Christianity when the Simnel cake was used as a treat to show appreciation on Mothering Sunday and provided a break from the strict dietary restrictions associated with Lent. In became so much associated with Mothering Sunday that the day is now sometimes referred to as Simnel Sunday, always falling mid-Lent on the fourth Sunday, three weeks before Easter Sunday.

marzipan Layer-Simnel CakeSimnel Cake

Another story that is sometimes told about the Simnel cake was that it came to be after an old couple Simon and Nell could not decide what they would do with excess pastry left at Easter, one wanted to boil the dough while the other wanted to bake it. They compromised by doing both and so the “Sim-Nel” cake was born. Today, as suggested by the story the cake is cooked twice, but now it is baked and grilled instead of boiled and baked as the original ones were.

Whether you believe in the origin stories around the Simnel Cake or not we will leave it up to you, but it is a staple of many Irish households come Mother’s Day (this year on March 14th) and Easter Sunday. And as we approach our second “unusual” Easter it is nice to learn about and honour some of the old traditions.

A limited-edition of Kylemore’s traditional Simnel Cake is on sale now on our online shop.

Simnel Cake

Wintering Well in Kylemore

As Winter turns to Spring, signs of new life are evident on the Kylemore Estate. Buds are starting to appear on the trees and daffodil stems are beginning to peep through the soil. Spring is a season of new life and hope. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our Connemara foals in a couple of months. This year four of our mares are expecting foals.

While Kylemore Abbey has been closed to the public, we have been busy taking care of our beautiful Connemara ponies. It is important during the Winter months to ensure our mares are well looked after to give them every chance of delivering a healthy foal. All the broodmares at Kylemore live out for the Winter. As the nutrients in the grass decline in the Winter, our mares’ diets are supplemented with haylage, which is made here on the Estate, and some hard feed. The hard feed provides the necessary minerals to aid the development of the foal before it is born. Our mares are fed and checked twice a day.

Connemara is where the Connemara pony originated so these ponies are well equipped to deal with the harsh Winter weather experienced in the West of Ireland. They grow long hairy coats to protect their skin from the elements. The ponies also benefit from the shelter provided by the many trees on the Kylemore Estate. However, last years foals, who are now yearlings (all horses and ponies turn a year older on the 1st of January), are stabled for the duration of the Winter months in a big loose shed with a turnout yard for them to roam freely around. Having these young ponies stabled makes it easier for them to be handled daily and to learn to walk and trot on a lead. In another few weeks when the weather improves they will be let out full time to enjoy the Spring grass.

The long Winter evenings are traditionally when many Connemara pony breeders start to think about choosing a suitable stallion to mate their mares with in Springtime. Nowadays, thanks to the internet and social media it is so easy to carry out extensive research on stallions. At Kylemore we carefully select stallions to best compliment our mares. We hope these stallions will help fulfil our breeding objective of breeding true to type ponies that have the ability to compete at a high level.

As the days are getting longer, we look forward to the arrival of our foals. When the mares get closer to foaling they will be moved to the foaling paddocks to prevent any risk of injury to the mare or her foal. A closer eye will be kept on the mares due to foal. In the days before a mare foals her behaviour pattern will start to change. She will become increasingly restless and start swishing her tail and looking at her sides. Her udder will start to fill and as she comes closer to foaling wax like beads will form on the ends of her teats. This wax-like substance is the immune-supportive colostrum which is so important for the newborn foal. Careful monitoring of the mare will ensure none of these signs are missed.

This year, one of our mares and her foal will take up residence for a few months in Áras an Uachtarain as part of the Biodiversity scheme there. Hopefully, in our next pony blog we will be announcing the birth of some of our foals.

We look forward to welcoming you soon to Kylemore Abbey to meet our Connemara ponies and to experience our new Connemara Pony Trail where you will be able to learn more about our native pony breed.

Written by Niamh Philbin.

Ceol ó Kylemore: Ceiliúradh na mBan

Kylemore Abbey in Connemara is the spectacular setting for ‘Ceol ó Kylemore: Ceiliúradh na mBan‘, a Red Shoe Production for TG4.

Pic: Síle Denvir                                                                       Pic Sharon Howley

The programme which first aired January 31st, the eve of Saint Brigid’s Day – Lá ‘le Bríde, a day which traditionally marks the end of the long dark winter and embraces the returning of the light. This year more than any other, the date is especially welcomed and
Ceol ó Kylemore provides the perfect musical celebration of this beginning of Spring and the brighter days ahead. This hour-long programme was recorded at the end of 2020 and features some of the best of women traditional musicians and singers. Moya Brennan of Clannad will be joined by many of TG4’s acclaimed Gradam Ceoil award winners, including Mary Bergin on whistle, Laoise Kelly on Harp, Josephine Marsh on accordion and Sharon Howley on cello, along with singers Cathy Jordan, Pauline Scanlon with Nicola Joyce and Noriana Kennedy of The Whileaways, along with up-and-coming star Sibéal – the voice behind the pivotal performance piece ‘Mise Éire’ which was the centrepiece of the 1916 Rising commemoration in 2016. Caitlin Nic Gabhann on concertina completes the all-female line-up.

Pic Mary Bergin                                                      Pic: Laoise Kelly

Set as it is against the rugged backdrop of Connemara, Kylemore Abbey is the ideal location to celebrate Brigid, the Goddess and Saint. This 19th-century castle was once a grand family home before it became a refuge to a small order of nuns fleeing the ravages of war in Europe. It continues to be home to a community of Benedictine nuns, a haven and centre of learning which nurtures many facets of Irish cultural life.

Pic: Moya Brennan and Aisling Jarvis in Kylemore 

Presented by traditional singer and harper, Síle Denvir, Ceol ó Kylemore – A Celebration of Women in Irish Music will include a specially-commissioned composition from Josephine Marsh on accordion with Liz and Yvonne Kane on fiddles and an ensemble finale featuring the full stellar cast.

With special thanks to Tourism Ireland, the Benedictine Nuns of Kylemore Abbey and the Notre Dame Global Centre at Kylemore Abbey.

‘Ceol ó Kylemore: Ceiliúradh na mBan’, is available NOW internationally on the TG4 Player.


In a year when many Irish and international visitors are prevented from travelling, the Benedictine nuns of Kylemore Abbey extend an invitation to people of all faiths and none to join them for religious and spiritual services via the recently installed church webcam at the world famous Connemara Abbey.

Available at www.churchservices.tv/kylemore and www.kylemoreabbey.com/monastic-church-webcam Mass will be livestreamed daily from 12.10 p.m. and on Sundays at 11.30 a.m. Vespers will be sung (in Latin) on Sundays and solemn feast days at 6.00 p.m.  A special Mass will be celebrated on 8 December 2020 for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the titular feast of Kylemore Abbey.


Kylemore Abbey has a global reputation as place of hospitality, based on the essential role of hospitality given to the monastic community in the Rule of St. Benedict.


Kylemore’s nuns now welcome locals and visitors from across the globe to join them for daily religious services.  At a time when Covid-19 restrictions prevent many from attending Mass in person, the webcam will enable a wide audience to join the nuns in Kylemore for prayer.


While this will be of interest to many in Ireland and abroad who have visited Kylemore as tourists, it is expected the webcam will be of particular interest to alumnae of the former Girls’ Boarding and Day School, which closed in 2010 and has over 2,500 alumnae in Ireland and across the globe.  Earlier this year a major Kylemore Abbey School reunion planned for 600 past pupils had to be postponed due to Covid-19.

Although currently closed due to public health restrictions, Kylemore welcomed over 560,000 visitors in 2019 and significantly increased numbers of Irish visitors this year. The Kylemore Abbey Monastic Church webcam is likely to attract many of those visitors who seek to participate in daily Mass and religious services from the beautiful setting of Kylemore Abbey and estate.

Inviting all to join the Benedictine community for religious services, Kylemore Abbess, Sr. Máire Hickey OSB said: “The tradition of Benedictine hospitality is at the heart of Kylemore Abbey.  From our earliest origins as a community we have always been globally connected – and from our home in Connemara we continue to draw visitors, pilgrims and students to experience the tranquillity, peace and beauty of Kylemore.  With our Monastic Church webcam we can reach out in a new way to the world, welcoming all who wish to join us as we pray.”

The Benedictine community of Kylemore Abbey, led by Sr. Máire Hickey OSB, consists of 12 Benedictine nuns and several monastic visitors from across the international Benedictine family.  Kylemore’s resident chaplain, Fr. George Vakkachan Punnathanath OSB (of Jeevan Jyoti Ashram, Shivpuri, Andhra Pradesh, India) will celebrate Mass daily with the community.

The Kylemore Abbey Monastic Church webcam is available at www.churchservices.tv/kylemore and www.kylemoreabbey.com/monastic-church-webcam.   Mass is livestreamed daily from 12.10 p.m. and on Sundays at 11.30 a.m.



Kylemore Abbey to place Connemara Mare and foal in Áras Paddock.

Kylemore Abbey is delighted to announce an exciting new partnership between Áras an Uachtaráin and Kylemore Abbey whereby each year a Connemara mare and foal from the Kylemore Herd will take up residence with the President of Ireland and graze the Áras paddocks from May to September. The partnership was formed following discussions about implementing biodiversity grazing strategies in both the Áras and Kylemore Abbey and a subsequent visit to Kylemore Abbey by President Higgins and his wife Sabina.

Conor Coyne, Executive Director of Kylemore Abbey explained “It will provide an opportunity to get national and international media coverage for the Connemara pony and will be the start of developing a more educational experience for the breed,”.

The mare will deliver her foal in Kylemore and once her foal is strong enough the pair will travel to the Áras. Foals born at Kylemore Abbey carry the “Peaceful” prefix symbolising the tranquillity of the Kylemore Estate and the link to its tradition. President Higgins and his wife will choose a name for the foal using the “Peaceful” prefix.

Foal competition

The Connemara pony plays a large role in Irish Heritage and it is fitting that a Connemara mare and foal be on display to the public in such a prominent setting. Once used as a working pony on farms in Connemara, these ponies now compete in equestrian sports around the World. The herd of Connemara ponies arrived in Kylemore last year and since their arrival, they have proved hugely popular with visitors at one of Ireland’s best-loved visitor attractions. The placement of a mare and foal in the Áras will further increase the awareness of this special native pony. The objective at Kylemore Abbey is to showcase the very best of the West of Ireland, and the Connemara Pony definitely fits the bill. This new partnership greatly enhances that objective.

New Conservation Plan for Kylemore Abbey

The Kylemore Trust today (10 November) announced that work has commenced on a new Conservation Plan at the iconic Kylemore Abbey estate.

Funded by the Heritage Council and Irish Georgian Society, with additional funding from Kylemore Trust, this Conservation Plan will focus on two of Kylemore’s unique heritage features – the neo-Gothic Church and the Victorian Walled Gardens.

As a non-profit organisation led by the Benedictine nuns, one of Kylemore Trust’s main purposes is to enhance and conserve the heritage and natural beauty of the Kylemore Estate for the nation. This Conservation Plan, focussed on the neo-Gothic Church and the Victorian Walled Gardens, will ensure the protection of the built infrastructure of these two architectural gems, identify future potential restoration projects, and advise on improving access for people with disabilities at these sensitive heritage settings.

This work which commenced earlier this month is led by Cathal Crimmins Architects (Grade 1 Conservation Architects) and will identify and make recommendations for a programme of future conservation projects at the iconic Connemara estate.

Since 1920 the Benedictine community have been committed stewards and conservators of the built heritage of Kylemore estate.  In the 1990s and 2000s, the Kylemore Trust led a refurbishment programme for the estate’s Gothic Revival Church and a partial restoration of the Victorian Walled Gardens. These achievements were recognised with prestigious Europa Nostra and RIAI awards. More recently, with co-funding from Fáilte Ireland, Kylemore Trust has made a significant investment in the restoration of the iconic Kylemore Abbey building itself.

Speaking on the announcement of the Conservation Plan, Kylemore Trust Executive Director, Conor Coyne said: “This year Kylemore Abbey welcomed more Irish visitors than ever before. As part of our mission to enhance the heritage of Kylemore, we have commissioned this work to provide us with a blueprint for future conservation works and to help us expand physical access to these unique spaces on our estate.  It builds on our strong commitment to sustainable development and social responsibility.”

Virginia Teehan, CEO of the Heritage Council commenting on their grant support said: “I am delighted we were able to contribute to this most welcome initiative through our Community Heritage Grant Scheme. This new conservation plan will build on much valuable work already carried out on the Kylemore Abbey estate. This latest initiative provides a pathway to the future – while cherishing the legacy of what has gone before,” she added.

Donough Cahill, CEO of the Irish Georgian Society added: “A Conservation Plan is an essential tool in guiding works to architecturally significant structures such as the neo-Gothic Church and Walled Gardens at Kylemore Abbey. Through the support of IGS London, the Irish Georgian Society’s grant will play a role not just in developing the Conservation Plan for these buildings, but also assist the Kylemore Trust in maintaining the high conservation standards they previously achieved and were duly recognised for.”

In acknowledging the support of the Heritage Council and the Irish Georgian Society, Kylemore Trust’s Head of Development, Liz McConnell thanked both organisations for their “commitment and support for Kylemore’s legacy of heritage conservation.  With this encouragement, Kylemore Trust can properly scope out the next phase of conservation and restoration at Kylemore.  We are delighted to be able to look to the future at this time and to begin to plan for future enhancements at these two distinctive national treasures.”

Funding for this Conservation Plan was provided through the Heritage Council’s Community Heritage Grant Scheme 2020 and the Irish Georgian Society’s Conservation Grants Programme 2020, with additional funding from Kylemore Trust.

The Story of the Victorian Walled Garden Restoration

The Beginning

The Walled Garden was established and developed around the same time as the castle between 1867 and 1871. The Garden was at the height of its splendour between 1880 and 1890. See black and white photos to the left of the door).

Mitchell Henry poured an enormous amount of investment into the Garden. The best Head Gardener that money could buy supervised a team of up to 40 gardeners and groundskeepers.


The Duke of Manchester

When Mitchell Henry sold the estate in 1902, it was taken over by the ninth Duke of Manchester. The Duke did not have the resources of the Henrys to invest in the Garden, and staff numbers were drastically cut. The slow process of decay had started. Following the Duke’s departure, the Gardens stood empty for seven years in which time nature wreaked havoc on the glasshouses and the once immaculate grounds.


The arrival of the Benedictine Nuns

Once the nuns arrived in 1920, the Gardens were brought back into use but this time as a working garden where fruit and vegetables were grown to supply both the needs of the nuns and the girl’s school. Local gardeners, notably John Joyce and Michael (Mikey) Thornton, under the supervision of Sr. Benedict, carried out this work. Sr. Benedict also ran the nearby farm with its beef, dairy cattle, and poultry farm. The Garden and Farm were extremely productive, and Kylemore was an almost fully self-sufficient estate for many years. In this extract from an interview with John Joyce in 1993, we can see the extent of the garden at that time.

“We had all types of vegetables, carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes; the early potatoes were number one, we used to sow them in March. Then cabbage was next, all different types of cabbage.” John Joyce former Gardener


The Secret Garden

However, as time went on less and less land was given over to gardening.  Nature began to encroach further and further on the Garden. By the 1990s most of the Garden was hidden under a deep layer of shrubs and brambles with large trees growing a where once formal flowerbeds were found. The glasshouses had disappeared, and most of the Garden buildings had fallen in. It seemed that the once majestic oasis was being forgotten. It was at this time that Sr.Magdalena Fitzgibbon took on the project of bringing the Garden back to its former glory. Partial fundraising became available through the Great Gardens of Ireland Fund, and Sr Magdalena set about raising the necessary support for her project to restore the ‘secret garden. Working with great faith and foresight, she managed to catch the collective imagination of the right people.

“the restoration of the garden was a dream: a place where one could dream, reflect and find peace. Pax-peace- is our Benedictine motto and it all springs from the stillness of silence.” Sr. Magdalena FitzGibbon OSB



The Restoration Begins

 In 1995 an advisory team of historical restoration consultants, garden archaeologists and architects was brought together to ensure the success of the ambitious project. A new Head Gardener, Ann Golden, was appointed and a team of local workers and student gardeners recruited so that the project could begin in earnest. Much of the early work was akin to an archaeological dig as the long-hidden structure of the Garden was painstakingly revealed. As very little historical documentation Bothy House and other garden buildings.  At an early stage, it was decided that Kylemore would be a Heritage Garden where only plant varieties from pre1901 could be used. This was a crucial decision in giving authenticity to the project, although it also meant research and hard work! In 1995 following five hard years of investigating, digging clearing and reimagining the Garden was once more ready to be viewed by the public.


The Grand Opening

On 13th October 2000, the Garden was opened with great fanfare to a delighted public. Sr. Benedict was on hand to place the key in the grand entrance gate, and Kylemore’s last original gardeners John Joyce and Mike Thornton were invited to plant a ceremonial tree. The formalities took place in the newly built Garden Tea House which had been designed to beautifully complement the restored Garden. In 2001 the Garden restoration project won the prestigious Europa Nostra, a fitting accolade for a job well done.


The Victorian Walled Garden Today

In the years since the Garden was reopened to the public, it has beautifully matured, and we are constantly searching for more clues about its past. The Garden continues to be a work in progress and under the guiding hand of Head Gardener, Anja Gohlke and her team it has once more emerged as a Garden that even Mitchell Henry would be very proud to call his own.



Pony Blog: Weaning our foals

Weaning our Foals


As the days start getting shorter and the leaves fall from the majestic trees on the Kylemore Estate our thoughts turn to preparing our foals for the weaning process. This Spring three foals were born here, two colts and one filly, Peaceful Pascal, Peaceful Reailtín and Peaceful Alfie, all purebred Connemara Ponies. Generally, when foals are about six months old weaning takes place. Weaning is the process of separating the foals from their Mothers. Up until now the foals have been suckling their Mothers but they have now reached the stage where they are less dependent on the mares milk, the quality of which has lessened since Spring and Summer.

The young foals learn by copying their Mother’s behaviour so we have started feeding meal to our mares and foals. The foals quickly learn that this meal is a lovely treat and look forward to feeding time. Feeding the foals also allows them to get used to human contact. Even though our foals at Kylemore are well used to human contact due to the large number of admirers they get every day and they will quite happily pose with visitors for a “selfie”.

Over the coming weeks as the foals become more independent of their Mothers we will start the gradual weaning process. This involves taking the foals away from the mares for a short period of time initially and then gradually increasing the length of time each day. Using this weaning process ensures everything is done in a stress-free manner for both the mare and foal.

When the foals are completely separated from the mares, they will be stabled at night time for the Winter. During the day they will be let out to play together in the sheltered paddocks, where hopefully they will get to enjoy some winter sunshine. Ponies are herd animals and enjoy company. They will be fed a balanced diet of coarse mix and haylage which was produced here in the meadows on the farm in Kylemore. The educating of these foals will continue over the Winter and they will learn to stand quietly to be groomed, have their feet lifted, to walk and trot in-hand and to load in a horsebox. This education will ensure these foals grow up to be kind and well-mannered ponies and in time will make the breaking process a lot easier.

What about the mares? After the weaning process when the mares’ milk has dried up, they will live outdoors for the winter in their natural environment. All our mares are safely scanned in foal for next year so the care of these mares over the Winter will be paramount to give them the best chance possible of delivering a healthy foal in Springtime.

Over the Winter months at Kylemore, we will be busy developing our outdoor pony area with new informative signage so visitors can learn about our Native pony during their visit to Kylemore. If you are visiting Kylemore Abbey and Gardens when we reopen, make sure to call by the Pony Paddock in front of the Tea House at 12 noon on Mondays or Fridays to see our mares and foals being fed. Also, keep an eye on our social media where we regularly post photos of our Connemara ponies.

Kylemore Abbey Closure

In line with updated public health guidelines, Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Gardens will remain closed until we return to level two of the Government’s Living with Covid Plan.
Thank you to everyone who has visited and supported Kylemore over the last few months, while we are sorry to be closing again especially as we were about to embark on a new autumn/winter programme, we understand that the health of our Staff, Community and Visitors comes first.
While we remain closed, the team will be working hard behind the scenes to ensure a wonderful, safe and fun day out for you and your families in Kylemore once it is safe to welcome you back.
Until then, stay safe and stay well.