This is the final article of a three-part series on the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce’s trip to Ireland. Part one appeared in the Jan. 29 issue and part two in the Feb. 16 issue of The Yadkin Ripple.
Another great breakfast and on the road to the monastery of Clonmacnoise, founded in 544 AD. The site includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, three high crosses and a large collection of Early Christian grave slabs. Several of the Celtic Crosses have been restored and are now located in the visitors center. On to a tour of Galway City, including the magnificent Galway Cathedral, one of the largest and most impressive buildings in Galway, and in for the night.
Next morning after breakfast, we started our tour of the beautiful Connemara Region, an area of lakes, rivers, bogs, mountains and small villages where Gaelic is still the spoken language. Connemara is a vast peninsula and part of the “Wild Atlantic Way,” bordered by the rocky coastline of Galway Bay to the south. To the north, the land is harsher and offers spectacular views of the ocean, the fjord of Killary Harbour, and steep mountains overlooking numerous lakes and large bogs. We then went to one of the favorite stops of many of our group — Kylemore Abbey and Gardens.
Kylemore Castle, built in the late 1800s by the Henry family, and included “all the innovations of the modern age.” The magnificent Walled Garden, constructed along with the Castle, had 21 greenhouses spread over six acres. In 1878, work began on the neo-Gothic Church, built as a beautiful and lasting testament to Henry’s love for his wife, who passed away after a brief illness at age 45. The Henry family continued to live at Kylemore until it was sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1903, who embarked on a massive remodeling of the castle. They lived in the castle until 1914.
Kylemore was then purchased by the Benedictine nuns, who have been in residence here since 1920. A school for girls operated on the grounds from 1923 until its closing in 2010. During the 1960s to 1990s, the gardens fell into decline and was overgrown. Efforts began in 1995 to restore the gardens to its former glory, and was reopened in 2000. Today, Kylemore is not only a tourism destination, but is the permanent home of 11 nuns. Notre Dame University is developing an education facility for up to 50 students, who will spend two-week periods at Kylemore between late May and September. After leaving Kylemore, we traveled back to Galway for a group dinner and the night.
Next morning, we had breakfast and headed back to Dublin. We enjoyed lunch and shopping in Downtown Dublin — with many interesting pubs to choose from. A tour of the Teeling Distillery was next, along with a history of Irish whiskey and samples. Then over to our lodging for the night — The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel. Built in the 1800s and now a full service hotel, we were able to roam about and enjoy the peat burning fireplaces and piano in the main parlor. Wish we had more time to enjoy the castle! The castle staff was very accommodating to have breakfast selections for us for our very early morning departure. Our flight back home to Charlotte was uneventful and we arrived back in Yadkinville in time for a good night’s sleep.
The Irish people are extremely friendly and welcoming, and Ireland is a beautiful country with lots and lots of history. Our guide, Gerry Ronayne, and our coach driver, John Ryan, were fantastic hosts, and gave us lots of information and insight on Ireland. They made our trip much more enjoyable. Our group had a wonderful visit and came back with lots of great memories of our experiences!
Next up for the chamber — An Alaskan Adventure, coming up this July! Call the chamber office for more information if interested. As always, we appreciate the staff of The Yadkin Ripple for allowing us to share our adventures!
Bobby Todd is the executive director of the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce.