Monday, June 01, 2009

Kylemore Abbey


One of the must-stop places in Ireland is Kylemore Abbey.  The grounds are graced not only with the Benedictine abbey itself, but a gothic church and a Victorian Walled Garden.  The interior of the abbey has some interesting artifacts.  Part of the building isn't accessible, because it's still in use, but the areas that visitors are allowed in are plenty to hold a history buff's interest.

A lakeshore walk through woods took us to the gothic church, a small but ornate and lovingly-kept piece of architecture.  Although I was impressed by the building, especially the incredible interior colors and ceiling, I have to admit I was distracted by the birds.  This is a bird-watcher's paradise, and I really wished I had a zoom lens and tripod with me.  Their songs surrounded us.  On the path, signs help bird watchers and folk who appreciate wildlife identify what they might be looking at.  I really wished I could have seen a badger, but alas, the only one we saw in all of Ireland had been killed by a car.  I spoke with a local about wildlife and she lamented that hedgehogs had declined lately and she hardly ever saw them anymore.  Again, sadly, we saw a hedgehog, but only a roadkill.

Those of you involved with a horticulturist, be prepared to sit back and spend some time here, because the gardens are a work of art-in-progress.  We walked, but there's a bus for visitors who don't want to hike the not-insignificant distance up to the Victorian walled garden.  One of the most fascinating things about this garden is the painstaking restoration process its undergoing.  Horticultural archeologists are analyzing leaf and other plant deposits to determine what originally grew where.  The greenhouses are being rebuilt.  This particular garden had some innovative design features, including piped heat, that must have made it a wonder to behold in its time.  Right now the garden is very young, but I can see in my mind's eye what it will be when it's all grown up and I'm thrilled to consider its future.  For avid gardeners, they provide plant lists, which I had to take home of course.

The gift shop deserves special mention.  It has some quality artwork and handmade goods at reasonable prices.  If you see something at this shop, don't resist if you really want it.  There's a possibility you'll find some of the items there for slightly less somewhere else, but chances are you won't find these things anywhere else at all.  I looked, because there was a statue I wanted, but I never saw the artist's work displayed anywhere else we went.

Having said that, the cookies were not to our taste.  The birds at the bed and breakfast we stayed at that night, however, loved them.

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