Kylemore Abbey
Visitor Center Opens

By Maggie Holland, Assistant Editor
August / September 2019

From Generation to Generation… The Story of Kylemore Abbey promises to take visitors on a vivid journey through the history of the iconic building, from its founding by Benedictine nuns who fled Belgium in World War I to the current mother abbess of the Benedictine Community, Marie Hickey.

The nuns, who had been based in Ypres for several hundred years, had been bombed out of their abbey during World War I. The nuns were rescued by men of the 8th battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers and after a time in England, purchased the lands and castle in Connemara from the duke and duchess of Manchester, who had gambling debts.

They soon set up an international school that for almost a century educated boarders and young girls from the area until it was forced to close in 2010.

The industrious sisters set about saving their home, running a summer school, fundraising in New York, and reaching out to former students.

On Monday, June 10, thanks to a €1.7 million grant from Fáilte Ireland, Kylemore Abbey unveiled its new visitor center.

The exhibition provides “a taste of life in the early 20th-century west of Ireland,” says Tourism Minister Shane Ross, who launched it that evening.

Archivist Damien Duffy and interior designer Joanne Smyth oversaw the creation of the visitor center, which includes a new suite of four authentically refurbished rooms, as well as a multimedia presentation evoking tales of romance, innovation, politics, and spirituality.

“The new experience embraces the contribution of the Benedictines to the survival of Kylemore as it exists today, and allows us to share our beautiful home with all who come to visit,” said Sister Máire Hickey OSB, mother abbess of the community. ♦

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