Monday, June 02, 2008

Kylemore Abbey

This was not my first visit to Kylemore Abbey although it was my most successful trip there. On my first venture to Ireland I had made plans to see it, because it had a working pottery and I was on a bus man's holiday. Tourism was not then what it is now and since it was closed in early May, definitely the "shoulder season" in those days, I made do with this very same view. I had no idea then of how large an estate it was nor how incredibly beautiful it would remain for the many years that had passed between trips to Ireland.

It's open all year long these days and allows for limited tours of the house and full tours of the gardens. Set on a lake, man made I believe since it is basically a reservoir for the property, it is stunning as you approach. Like Botticelli's Venus Rising From the Sea, the Abbey is an ageless beauty.

The lower floors were available for viewing. I'm certain it was a lavish lifestyle in its day since the dining room was massive and the china and silver service on display were lovely, but I really would have preferred to see the living quarters and especially the kitchen. Luckily, when touring the gardens we were able to see how the grounds manager and his staff lived; quite a bit more modestly I should say.

The reservoir is vital to the grounds, but also provides an appealing venue for recreation; swimming and rowing were two of those activities. I believe the girls who were schooled here had few complaints about the grounds.

The gardens were divided into aesthetic and functional areas. Some were left to look wild and others were well manicured for social functions. The kitchen garden was a world unto itself and was completely surrounded by garden walls.

In the visitor center, Kylemore Abbey has a group of shops, as well as a cafeteria. We decided to spring for a "cuppa" and a light snack. My associate first made a beeline to one of the shops, a very uncharacteristic activity for "himself", and purchased an Irish Aran sweater. It was cold that day and he needed more comfort than a cup of tea. I spotted a cookbook the Sisters had published and discovered a brown bread recipe that I just have to try. No one makes bread like the Irish! So what was our "light snack?

Himself ordered the most gooey pastry he could spot, and it was outstanding. I, being on a mission, purchased a slice of brown bread. Not merely to taste first hand the recipe I would be using, but to accompany the Cooleeny cheese I had purchased earlier in Westport. The cheese had time to cool to room temperature; it was perfectly ripe and luscious spread over the brown bread.

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