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

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

Kylemore Abbey Holy Week and Easter Ceremonies


Holy Thursday

Midday Prayer:12.15 

               Mass of Holy Thursday: 6.00 p.m

Good Friday:

 Midday Prayer: 12.15

            Liturgy of Good Friday: 3.00 p.m.

 Holy Saturday

 Midday Prayer: 12.15

Vespers: 5.45 p.m.

  Saturday Night:  

Easter Vigil: 9.00 p.m.

  Easter Sunday:  

  Mass   9.00 a.m.                

Vespers  6.00 p.m.


All services take place in the Monastic church beside the Visitor Centre

Visitors are welcome to join the Benedictine Community at any service.     

kylemore castle history  

Easter Sunday Fun at Kylemore Abbey

We are planning a great day of family fun at Kylemore Abbey this Easter. The Easter Bunny and friends will be on hand to help with the celebrations and they will be handing out lots of treats and hugs too! Come and follow our Easter themed quiz trail in the Victorian Walled Garden and discover bunnies, chicks, bonnets, ducks, fairys, teddys, and lots more. You will have to find the clues, solve puzzles, make wishes and even get finger printed! We have 300 yummy chocolate bunnies for the first 300 children. Enjoy lunch with Mum and Dad in Mitchell’s Café or the Garden Tea House. Our pastry chefs will be creating lots of delicious Easter treats and bakes and adults will be treated to a free Kylemore Irish Country Cream Coffee! After lunch  take your time to explore all that the Kylemore estate has to offer! The trail is open from 12 pm to 4 pm, don’t be late!

The quiz trail is fun for all ages. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

The usual entry fee applies.