September 27: This might have been called a “Catholic” day. Our first stop was at Clough Patrick, a shrine dedicated to St. Patrick. Even in this off-season, pilgrims were starting the arduous trek up the steep quartzite mountain seeking spiritual relief.
Our second stop was Kylemore Abby and Victorian Walled Gardens. The Abby has been home to an order of Benedictine Nuns since 1920 when they fled Ypres in Belgium in the wake of World War I. It was originally constructed by the wealthy Mitchel Henry in 1867. But unlike the evil lords who built the castles on our previous visits, Henry was a forward-looking caring individual. The four-year construction of his home provided well-paid work for 300 men at a time of terrible famines in the country, and the maintenance of the estate kept others and their descendants working to this day. He built a school for his tenant’s children, reclaimed 3000 acres for farmland, reforested the mountain and 1892 built a small hydroelectric power plant to supply the estate with electricity.
His gardens are the largest walled gardens in Ireland with 800 meters of wall around them. He had 21 “glass houses” for growing fruits and vegetable in the cold months. Restoration of the gardens to their original plan began in 1994.
Our hotel was in Salthill just outside Galway. We spent a long time on the promenade people-watching until the sun set over Galway Bay. It seemed like half the town was either walking or fishing on the promenade.