Kylemore Abbey is a beautiful, historical sight to see during a trip to Ireland for many reasons. It has a breathtaking landscape, an elegant castle and has a community of Benedictine nuns. In addition to the more well known features of Kylemore Abbey, they also have a craft and design gift shop. However, this is not your average souvenir gift shop, it’s a shop that sells handcrafted pottery, soaps and chocolates made by the Benedictine nuns. We visited Kylemore Abbey for not only the beautiful estate, but to tour their chocolate kitchen. Being able to visit the Benedictine nuns’ chocolate kitchen was a very “sweet” experience for us.
Full disclaimer – We were invited by Kylemore Abbey to tour their property and chocolate kitchen. As always, our opinions are non-biased and our own. Our post may contain affiliate links. When you click on the link you will have the option to purchase a product at no extra cost to you, but we would receive a small commission. We want to thank Kylemore Abbey for their generosity and for everyone following and supporting us on all of our sweet adventures.
Brief History of Kylemore Abbey and the Benedictine Nuns
The foundation for the Kylemore estate started in 1867 by Mitchell and Margaret Henry. There were a lot of rooms! To name a few: 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room and various offices and domestic staff residences. In 1903, the estate was sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester. They would undertake a massive renovation of the estate, which would change a lot of the building’s design.
Then in 1914, the estate was sold to a banker until 1920, when the Benedictine nuns purchased the estate. The Benedictine nuns previous abbey in Belgium had been destroyed after the early stages of World War I, thus they needed a new home. They ended up finding one of the most gorgeous homes in the world. After a few years of relocating, the Benedictine nuns opened Kylemore Abbey as a school from 1923 to 2010. To this day the Benedictine nuns still oversee the abbey and go about their day to pray and work.
Sights to See at Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey is a lovely estate that covers 13,000 acres along a lake in the Connemara National Park. Within their 13,000 acres, there is plenty to see and explore. So, Kylemore Abbey provides a complimentary shuttle bus that goes to and from the abbey and gardens. There are also daily complimentary guided tours on the estate. The History Talks does a 20 minute tour at the abbey during 11:30am, 1pm and 3pm. Guided garden tours are available at 12pm from June to August.
The Kylemore Castle features six rooms for guests to visit. The rooms include the Outer Hall, the Inner Hall, the Drawing Room, the Community Room, the Dining Room and the Rear Hall. All of the rooms were redesigned with the original furniture to portray a true insight into the abbey’s past.
This beautiful neo-Gothic church was built in the style of the 14th century and has been described as a “Cathederal in Miniature.” This church is a lovely place to say a prayer or to enjoy a musical performance. Kylemore Abbey hosts choir groups to perform inside the neo-Gothic church. To enjoy this glorious experience, click here to see a calendar of events.
The Old Mausoleum is a small brick building which holds peace, serenity and eternal love of Mitchell and Margaret Henry. Inside the mausoleum contains the remains of Mitchell and Margaret Henry, where they were laid to rest.
Victorian Walled Gardens
The Victorian Walled Gardens are another marvelous piece of Kylemore Abbey’s history. During the late 1800s, the gardens were created around the same time as Kylemore Castle. It was also one of the last walled gardens built during the Victorian era in Ireland. Today, the gardens are comprised of around 6 acres and divided into two sections, the eastern side and the western side. The eastern side of the gardens includes: the formal flower garden, glass houses, the head gardener’s house and the garden bothy. The western side of the garden includes: the vegetable garden, herbaceous border, fruit trees, a rockery and herb garden. With 6 acres and two sections to explore, guests can get lost in the tranquility of the Victorian Walled Gardens.
Handmade Chocolate by the Benedictine Nuns
For those who do not know, I am a pastry chef with a strong focus in chocolate. So this experience was extra special for me. With that being said, it is also a charitable and unique experience for all guests.
Sr. Genevieve Harrington started this chocolate program after the boarding school closed down. It was a way for the nuns to develop a new education and retreat activities. Sr. Genevieve’s handmade chocolate turned out to be a huge success. Using a slab of marble from the Kylemore Castle, she hand tempered hundreds of chocolate (not easy) to be sold to the surrounding communities. Today, the chocolate kitchen has its own tempering machine and two marble tables that were found in the lake from the castle – fascinating! Kylemore Abbey now produces at a high volume creating thousands of chocolate bars and truffles to be sold at the Craft & Design Gift Shop and online.
The chocolate kitchen is comprised of two rooms – one for producing chocolate and one for packaging the chocolate. The Benedictine nuns use only the finest chocolate from around the world, Valrhona. By using the best quality chocolate and local ingredients, the Benedictine nuns create masterful chocolate creations.
Since the chocolate kitchen produces ten times the amount of product from when they first started, they have hired additional help from outside the abbey. One local chocolatier helps Sr. Genevieve produce truffles, a variety of chocolate bars, and milk chocolate barks. Here is what we LOVED:
- Milk Chocolate Honeycomb Bark – This chocolate bark is divine. If you buy anything, it should be this one. Crisp honeycomb pieces are in every bite. Not only a crowd favorite, but also a finalist for the Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards in 2016.
- Milk Chocolate Coconut Macaroon Bark – if you love coconut, then you will love this chocolate bark. There are small bits of coconut macaroon in every bite of this bark.
- Luxury Box of Handmade Truffles – This perfect gift includes: Walnut Cranberry, Milk Chocolate Caramel, Hazelnut, Salted Caramel, and Almond Marzipan.
- Flock of Sheep – sheep are everywhere in Ireland, so it is no surprise that this is the cutest box of chocolate in the country. The sheep are solid white, milk or dark chocolate. We love the play of the black sheep box – pure genius!
Though I highly recommend everyone visit Kylemore Abbey in Ireland, you can purchase these beloved handmade chocolates online. They can ship almost anywhere!
Dining at Kylemore Abbey
As previously mentioned, Kylemore Abbey is a huge estate and sightseeing can be exhausting. So luckily, Kylemore Abbey recognizes that and provides guests with delicious dining options. There are three dining options to choose from: Mitchell’s Café at Kylemore Abbey, The Tea House by the Walled Garden and Henry’s Express Coffee Shop.
Mitchell’s Café at Kylemore Abbey
Mitchell’s Café at Kylemore Abbey offers guests a modern self service café. The cafe has something for everyone including: homemade soups, a healthy salad counter (featuring herbs and salad leaves from the Victorian Walled Garden), a wide selection of hot and cold sandwiches, Irish stew, savory quiche, fillet of salmon and more.
Make sure you try one of their award winning scones – they are delicious! And if you want something a little sweeter, they have a cake counter filled with freshly baked fruit crumbles, cream pastries, brownies, cheesecakes and more. Vegetarian and celiac options are also available.
The Tea House by the Walled Garden
The Tea House is a perfect dining option for families. Guests can enjoy a light lunch and refreshing herbal teas made from the herbs collected from the Walled Garden. It is located in a beautiful setting by the Victorian Walled Garden. This provides guests with amazing views of not only the garden, but Connemara National Park too. There are even cute regular sized and miniature picnic benches for adults and children to enjoy.
Henry’s Express Coffee Shop
If guests do not have time to sit and and relax for their lunch, then Henry’s Express Coffee Shop is the perfect choice. Guests can pick up and take-away beverages and scrumptious food. Options include tea, coffee, sandwiches, healthy salads, cakes, homemade Kylemore Abbey fudge, filled crépes and ice-cream.
Craft & Design Gift Shop
Before you leave the Kylemore Abbey estate, make sure you stop at the Craft & Design Gift Shop. It is more than a souvenir shop, but a place the Benedictine nuns sell their handmade products. We could not think of a better souvenir to take home than handmade chocolates, soaps, candles or pottery made by the Benedictine nuns. You can also purchase these gifts online!
We both thoroughly enjoyed our time at Kylemore Abbey and the tour of their chocolate kitchen was amazing. I hope you are able to experience this wonderful estate during your visit to Ireland.
Pollacappul, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland
November to March: 10am to 4:30pm
April to July: 9am to 6pm
July to August: 9am to 7pm
September to October: 9:30am to 5:30pm
Prices: Adults are €13, Seniors €10, Students €9 and children under 10 yrs are FREE
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