Where has the week gone? I hope you all had a wonderful, long holiday weekend. I barely took any photos over the Christmas holiday, and I didn’t take any of food. It’s been nice to take a little step back from blogging as I figure out my new role at work, juggle side projects, and spend the holidays with family. Besides holiday eating, we’ve been ordering a lot of takeout and eating simple meals like salmon and Brussels sprouts, nothing too blog-able!
Luckily, I have a few Ireland and Italy posts left to share before I launch into cooking and actually writing about restaurants again! Our visit to Ireland happened to fall at the same time it did seven years ago when we got engaged. We decided to celebrate our engagement anniversary with a trip West to Connemara where it all happened. Since we wanted to spend time with family, we brought them along and made a few other stops along the way.
One of our stops was the beautiful Kylemore Abbey, a stunning castle that is currently home to a community of Benedictine nuns, a group that has lived there since 1920 when their Belgian abbey was destroyed in World War I. The abbey has an interesting history and plenty of legends that surround it, making it feel like a magical, mystical, and sacred space.
Kylemore is a hauntingly beautiful part of Ireland filled with rugged mountains and lakes, rocky fields, and winding roads. The quiet is often unbelievable; there are times when all you can hear is the baaaaa of sheep in the distance. Driving on to the property is always one of my favorite parts of the visit, as is the cozy cafe that serves hearty, simple lunches and delectable sweets. My husbands aunts and uncle have worked at Kylemore for many years, so I’ve had the chance to visit on several occasions, sometimes eating in the cafe and other times getting a fun, behind-the-scenes look at the property and eating incredible sandwiches made by the sisters living there.
When we arrived at Kylemore this past trip, it was late November and so everything was decorated for Christmas. We all had the creamy vegetable soup and brown bread, and then my husband’s auntie spoiled us with a bunch of sweets including scones, apple cake with custard, and meringues.
Then we took a little wander around the majestic property, starting with the castle.
The attention to detail inside is incredible, and it’s easy to imagine living in a time gone by in such ornate surroundings. It also made me excited for the return of Downton Abbey!
Next we made our way to the Gothic church, truly one of my favorite little buildings. We had talked about getting married here, but it didn’t end up working out. Luckily, we get to come back and visit. Inside the Gothic church, there is an intense feeling of peace and spiritual connectedness, something I have lately realized is missing from my life.
It’s really quite special, even if the rain-smudged camera lens kept me from taking great photos!
Columns of Irish marble are both decorative and musical; if you run your hand across them they make a lovely sound. The green marble represents Connemara, where Kylemore Abbey is located.
Our final stop at the abbey was the Victorian Walled Garden which, in summer, is filled with plants and flowers.
Even in the off-season though, the sisters living here keep the garden perfectly groomed and maintained. In addition to the garden, they also do some farming nearby.
After saying our goodbyes to my sweet auntie-in-law, we visited another favorite place, Ballynahinch Castle, a family tradition for my husband and a new one for me.
By the time we arrived at Ballynahinch, which is a castle hotel and restaurant, it was dark and cold so I could not take photos of the surrounding grounds which are breathtaking.
The inside of Ballynahinch was exactly what the evening called for. It’s a well-known spot for fishermen and outdoors enthusiasts, and the pub welcomes everyone in from the cold with a roaring fire. Rainy, dark views from the restaurant part of Ballynahinch show just a peek at what diners on a fine evening might enjoy.
We stuck to warm-up drinks, hot Port and for some of us, hot whiskeys, a mix of hot water, lemon with cloves, sugar, and Irish whiskey. This drink is a cure-all that will definitely make you feel a little warmer anytime and a little better if you have a cold.
Ahh yes, relaxing with a hot whiskey by a fireplace in a castle in Ireland after a fun day of wandering the Connemara countryside; it’s a very good thing.
We’re still enjoying Christmas through January 6, Three Kings Day, and are looking forward a quiet but festive New Year’s Eve at home. Are you still enjoying the holiday spirit?