Kylemore Abbey, St. Brigit’s Garden, and a special event.
Today our new driver joined us. Pat, another Killarney man, continued to supply us with facts about Ireland and our immediate locale. Pat, a fisherman himself, described local fishing (especially for brown trout and Atlantic salmon). We passed several lakes (“loughs”) and peat bogs. At one point, we stopped to take photos and walk on the spongy peat and examine chunks up close. Another interesting topic involved the many black-faced sheep and their painted markings that indicate ownership and whether they have been bred.
The weather was cloudy, and we visited our first garden in the rain. Kylemore Abbey has about 2000 visitors a day and consists of a magnificent house, church, and grounds. The head gardener gave us a tour of the renovated gardens, which have been restored to Victorian times and contain plants that were only available during that era. Originally there were 21 glass houses (greenhouses) and 40 gardeners. We were able to see enough of the property and surrounding Connemara mountains to be impressed. At one time, these gardens had been compared to Kew.
Next, we rode to St. Brigit’s Garden, an award-winning Celtic garden set in 11 acres of natural woodland and wildflower meadows. Our guide, Sabrina, described the symbolism of flowers and garden art of the four gardens, which represent the four seasons. Most of us had heard of Samhain (pronounced “Sow-wen”) which occurs on Nov. 1; and we learned about the other three. She also demonstrated weaving a St. Brigit’s cross from reeds.
Back at the hotel, we opted for mostly easy meals, so that we could be ready for the short walk to attend “Trad on the Prom”, a performance of traditional Irish music and dance. The auditorium was packed with audience members from many different countries. We were honored to have the host announce special welcomes to some groups by name, including ours! The show itself was a hand-clapping, foot tapping melange of Irish music, and the performers included several world champions and members of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. We went home with a deeper, delighted sense of the Irish traditions.