How the Benedictine Nuns have run Kylemore Abbey for the past 100 years - despite all the odds

They say that when you’re in Kylemore you are only two feet from heaven, and given the beauty one finds all around there, it could well be true. 

Kylemore Abbey, home to the Benedictine nuns, is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. 

Surrounded by some 3,000 acres of woodland and lakes, the impressive Kylemore Castle sits at the base of a mountain, majestic, and in serene splendor. 

This has been the home to the Benedictine nuns since 1920 when they fled for safety from Ypres, Belgium, during the First World War, their monastery there having been bombed by the Germans.

The nuns came to Ireland for safety, living in Wexford initially while trying to source a permanent place to live. When Kylemore came on the market it was acquired on behalf of the nuns who have cared for it since. 

In more recent times, regretfully, the famous international school was closed due to dwindling numbers and higher costs. With the appointment of a new Mother Abbess, plans are being finalized for the future.

Mother Marie Hickey OSB, the Mother Abbess, has outlined her plans for the future of the monastery in preparation for the centenary celebrations of the arrival of the nuns to Connemara. 

Some of the priorities of the development plan include a complete interior reconfiguration of the Castle itself in order to bring it and its facilities into the 21st century. New wiring, plumbing, and upgrades, are essential and necessary in order to facilitate the students of the future. 

Plans are also being prepared for an education center which offers residential accommodation and a varied program of education and training opportunities. 

Many Catholic universities around the world, and particularly from the United States, have expressed an interest in sending students to Kylemore in order to significantly enhance their education.

A proposed new church was just completed in April, 2913. This is for the nuns and the visitors to share some quite time in prayer and adoration, and participate  in the mass. 

Another important part of the development plan is to build a new “fit for purpose” monastery that is more appropriate to the monastic life of prayer and work. 

This new monastery will be able to cater for and facilitate up to 40 nuns, with en-suite bedrooms, day rooms, chapel, and monastic choir, there will be facilities for guests and for the soon to be founded Benedictine Oblates who will expand the Benedictine family in the area. New Community enterprises will be initiated to give local employment in energy, crafts, food, forestry, and tourism. 

These new developments will build on the already successful projects undertaking by the nuns, including the restoration of the Victorian Walled Gardens which won the prestigious European “Europa Nostra” award in 2002. 

Other successful projects include the extensive restoration of the Neo Gothic church, a miniature of Chichester Cathedral which Henry Mitchell, the original owner, had built for his wife. 

The Craft Center and Tea Rooms-Restaurant has always been very successful and have catered well for the some 250,000 tourists who visit Kylemore every year. 

Kylemore Abbey plans to have these multi-million euro developments completed by 2020 when it becomes a center of excellence in learning through education and catechists. 

Currently a campaign to raise funds for the Education Center at Kylemore Abbey have been initiated in the New York City area, with a local campaign. A December 18th VIP concert event is being planned to raise additional funds for the US campaign,

For further information here in the US on how to make a tax deductible donation visit or contact Mary Reed at  


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Mary, mo chara, I will be over in either May or June of next year. Kylemore is at the top of the list for photographing. I look forward to following the rebirth.

Interestingly, we have a Benedictine here in Tucson. I went this past Wednesday to light a candle for a friend. One of the Nuns and myself shared a cup of tea. She discussed how she once had been given the choice of Ireland or Arizona. To my incredulous "You chose Arizona over Ireland?" she replied "I went where my prayers told me I should be."


The nuns are the best for a cup of tea. When you go over in May or June, let me know and you can have a cup of tea with one of the sisters there. The sister in Arizona probably wanted some nice weather :-)


The best view is from above the abbey after a climb up Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park.

Hi Mary, I enjoyed reading your post. My son and I were both educated by the Benedictine Priest and Nuns through high school. We have Mount St. Scholastica, St. Benedict's Abby and Benedictine College located in Atchison, Kansas. The Benedictine Nuns of the Mount have also been a very resourceful group. Thank's Don

Hi Don,

Thank you for the nice reply. I use to live in Kansas City so I do know about Mount St. Scholastica!  

The Benedictine Nuns at Kylemore are so wonderful. If you can ever visit the Abbey let me know and I will set up a visit with the sisters for you, their hospitality is unbelievable!

Also if you would like to help us with our campaign for the Education Center for college studies, please let me know.

All the best,


They make a fortune from tourists and the shop most definitely charges tourist prices. At the house itself most of the rooms are inaccessible and the staff somewhat abrupt in dealing with people. The walled garden is  also very average compared to other gardens on the island. An elderly lady in one of my groups  lost her camera. After two days of phoning them  they finally located it but were only willing to send it on when they had her credit card details. anywhere would have sent it on free of charge but not them.

Dear Ronan,

I can assure you that they are not "making a fortune". The nuns lease out the tourist side of the operation. I am sorry you had a bad experience. The staff working at the visitor center, restaurant and walled garden are employees of the commercial operation, that is who you dealt with. Having said that the lost camera was not handled right, I will pass on your comments.

all the best,

Mary Reed

Dare I say it? It takes a woman . . .

Dear Mary,

I enjoyed your piece on Kylemore Abbey.  Never been there but I'm aware that a former Ballymore Eustace native is a nun there.  Her name outside religion is Noirin Gallagher.  Met her sister Eithne O'Brien, Eithne's husband and daughter at a Gathering function in Ballymore Eustace last Saturday.  Noirin's parents were teachers in Ballymore Eustace and Hollywood up to 1955.  Sadly both are now deceased but while her mother was in her eighties when she died her father,Donal, lived to 96. Glad to see the nuns have plans to do up Kylemore Abbey for its centenary celebrations.

Matt Purcell


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