travel

Day 3- Scenic drive, Kylemore Abbey, Castle

Monday, March 14:

My sister planned a full day “out” on Monday, just us, my parents, her youngest and her (while my nieces went to school and brother-in-law worked). She had mapped out a scenic driving route, with several stops along the way.

Starting out- it was gloomy/rainy at first, but the weather was supposed to clear up and be nice. This is my sister’s family’s church on the right.

The drive for the first hour or so was just beautiful!!!

Blue skies coming out

We drove through some little towns:

But it was mostly all rural, hilly terrain with water and rivers and/or ocean views mixed in in many places.

We passed many, MANY sheep!! It’s funny how they are just out along the side of the road. Sometimes they cut it a little close, in my opinion. 😬

In some regions of Ireland there are more stone walls than others. These are very old and kinda cool to see. 🙂

Some areas were actually almost “desert” looking!! It was interesting.

My favorite spot along the route is this spot where the hills kind of converge and there is a big lake in front of them. It’s just so beautiful- I’m not sure the pictures do it justice.

Here, we pulled over and got out of the car for some better pictures (and to just enjoy the view up close).

An old roadside monument
It was dry, but it was windy and chilly at this spot!

I was riding in my sister’s car, but I snapped a pic of my parents in the rental car. My dad has successfully been driving on the opposite side of the road, even driving manual (which he normally doesn’t, anymore) and shifting with the “wrong” hand. Haha. It is different!!! I *think* I could do it (in an automatic), but I would definitely be nervous for a while. Even crossing the streets, I have to keep thinking about which way the cars will be coming from. Old habits die hard! Our brains are just soooo hard- wired for right sided driving.

Dad in the driver seat.. on the RIGHT side of the car!
Me and Asher!

The boys have gotten into taking lots of their own pictures, and have been texting some to their friends or making notes in their phones to remember things about what we are doing.

Asher photographing the scenery

A little more driving… and then we stopped off briefly at this pretty little waterfall:

Nice family shot 🙂

Before too much longer, we made it to our main destination.

Kylemore Abbey

This place is gorgeous. It’s one of Ireland’s most iconic sights. The castle is beautiful, but the whole setting is incredible, and I just love how it’s nestled down into the bottom of the hillside.

Without getting too into the history, basically it’s a huge home that was built in the 1800’s by a wealthy Englishman (but born to Irish parents) and his Irish wife. The couple had honeymooned in the region, the wife loved it and said she wanted a home there! So, I guess when the wife said “jump”, the man said “how high?” and built this massively impressive home. Maybe I should try asking Ivan for more things and see what I get! 😁

The grounds have winding trails and paths along the water, and there’s a Victorian garden too (which we didn’t see- it was rather chilly out, plus not really the best garden season quite yet).

The couple actually didn’t even live in the home for too many years, because the wife tragically died at the age of only 45. Since the 1920’s, the residence and grounds have been turned into a monastery for Benedictine nuns (to this day! Nuns still actively live and work here).

A small exhibit about the transition from private residence to monastery/history of the Benedictine nuns. I liked this quote on the wall!

If you’re interested, here is the timeline of events:

We paid to get inside (can only tour the lower level, unfortunately) and walked through the various (beautiful) rooms. The views from the big windows were stunning!! They definitely picked an amazing location for their castle.

I would have liked to have an audio guide or something to learn more! They did have placards and info but I felt I could have used even more. Oh well.

After touring the house, we walked down the path to the Chapel.

Mitchell Henry, the owner, had the chapel built after his wife died, in her honor.

About a 5-10 minute walk down the path from the castle. Gothic style- beautiful.
The nuns don’t actively use this chapel- I think they have their own spaces within the monastery. But they do host special events, live classical music concerts, and maybe some services in this chapel.

Down the path a little further we came to the mausoleum where both the husband and wife’s remains are buried.

Just behind this, there is a big stone that, per legend, is called the Giant’s Wishing Stone. I don’t recall the whole story, but basically if you stand with your back against the stone and throw three stones up over your head (clearing the top of the stone) and make a wish, it will come true.

Of course we all took turns trying this. Can’t pass up an opportunity for good luck!
Walking back – chapel in the distance behind Ethan

We had lunch at the adjacent cafe (a pretty basic “tourist location cafeteria”), but it got the job done and was perfectly tasty.

The boys taking a little break from “touristing” to… play on their phones, I think.

A few more pics of this beautiful place, and then we continued on our drive!

I love this picture!

More driving with random stops along the way:

The next destination was supposed to be the ruins of an old castle.

Aughnanure Castle

We parked and walked the winding path to the front….

(A random dog from the neighboring farm jumped the stone fence and joined us…. I kept joking that he was saying, “And on your left, we have the entrance to the castle…” as our little tour guide. 😉

Just trotted along with us as if he were part of the family 🙂

But then, bad news. The castle was closed!! We drove out of our way to get here (and according to the internet, it was open…), but turns out they are doing some renovations and it wasn’t planning to re-open until Thursday (St. Patrick’s Day). Boooo.

Still took some exterior photos, at least.

The farm next door:

We got into a long conversation with the owner, who told us all about the very pregnant white horse. (Said she’d likely deliver that evening or the next day). My 2 year old nephew decided to have a massive tantrum right then over the fact that he couldn’t go IN the castle. hehe.

We just stretched our legs and chatted with the Irish horse owner while my nephew waited out his time out in the car. 😄

By this time it was getting later in the afternoon and we had quite a long drive back. We took a very “off the beaten path” route home over a mountain- which had amazing views the whole way! The road was very, very remote and desolate most of the time. Definitely not a road most other tourists would ever travel!! I didn’t get the best photos, but in some spots you could see the whole ocean out behind us (hard to get pics out rear window though).

There was not much around!
Little house out in the middle of nowhere.

It was quite windy and curvy and Ethan ended up falling asleep- as did my little nephew. Thank goodness, because the kids were getting a little queasy I think from all the bumpy, curvy country roads.

Finally- we made it back to Westport, where we needed to stop for a couple of grocery items.

The kids came inside too too check out an Irish store. This was a Lidl, so basically like an Aldi.

Looks almost exactly like an Aldi at home 🤣 But, everything in Euros… and they weren’t overly impressed with the snack, cookie or candy selection. Ha. I guess we are kings of the snack food world back in the U.S. lol.

Then we just had a little drive (15 minutes or so) back to my sister’s house, where my brother-in-law made burgers on the grill.

The rest of the evening we all just relaxed at home… I think I read to the girls again, the boys played around on their phones a little and we just hung out and talked. The boys have been playing a lot of chess too with their uncle. 🙂

It was a full, busy day, so I think we all felt a little sleepy/lazy by night time. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Day 3- Scenic drive, Kylemore Abbey, Castle”

    1. Yup!!! The weather here would not be for me!! I mean, it certainly gets cold in Wisconsin, but we also have many months of very warm, hot, sunny weather, too. And even in the winter, it’s sunny a lot at home. I don’t think I’d like it to be so cool/damp/cloudy/rainy so much of the time!! But yes- it’s sooooo beautiful here!!!!

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  1. These are such great posts, Kae! And those views are gorgeous (reminds me of the Cape Breton Highlands here in Nova Scotia, which translated = New Scotland).
    I love castles. There is just something so mysterious and romantic about them. And chapels. I love chapels and churches and cathedrals. The architecture always blows my mind.

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    1. My sister studied abroad in Ireland during college in Galway and loved it… then later she and her (American) husband did a big Ireland trip as their honeymoon years ago now. Several years later, when he graduated with his PhD and was looking for an academia job, I guess he ran across a perfect fit opening at the university in Dublin. They didn’t have kids yet and decided go for it. They’ve been here ever since- maybe 10-11 years now?? They now live out in the country on the western side of Ireland and he commutes in by train when he needs to to Dublin. Lots of his work is done remotely now anyway but sometimes he will go stay in Dublin for several days at certain times during the semester when he needs to be in person more. My sister is actually a lawyer, but isn’t working currently, with 3 little kids plus it’s complicated for her to practice law here as a foreigner/not a lot of job options anyway.

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  2. So beautiful! Seeing all the sheep and experiencing driving on the left side of the road remind me of my trip to New Zealand when I studying abroad in Australia. I went with 3 other girls but I was the only one old enough to rent a car (21). So I did alll of the driving and OMG it was hard in cities. Out in the open road it was fine but figuring it out in a bustling city is tough. I ended up driving on the wrong side of the road on my first day in Christchurch. I was like – oh crap this is a one way! And then realized that it wasn’t a one way, I was just on the wrong side of the road! That was our only scary experience and it turned out fine but was stressful in the moment!! They also have TONS of sheep in NZ – I think something like 10 sheep for every person? But I do not recall the sheep being THAT close to the car!!

    That castle you were able to tour looks really cool. I was thinking 4 years wasn’t bad for that time – it prompted me to look up how long it took to build the Biltmore in Asheville, NC – that took 6 years and that was the late 1800s. If you haven’t been to the Biltmore, I think you’d like it. They bring you through on tours so you get a lot of information about the home from the guide. I had a season pass when I lived in Charlotte so I went several times.

    Had to groan over the 2yo tantrum! I bet that brought back memories of that stage of life for you guys! But for your sister, I bet it was nice that it happened around people who understand it’s a developmental phase. Tantrums are most stressful (for me and Phil) when you are worrying about what other people are thinking but I”m thinking she wasn’t worried about that w/ you guys around since you’ve been through it before…

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