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We are heading out to Connemara in the west of Ireland, a region of scenic coastal views, rolling farmlands, open meadows, winding country roads and the big attraction, Kylemore Abbey, which is one of Ireland's great castles, that was a former private estate, then a girl school, operated by Benedictine nuns. Following is the text of the movie. Photos, videos, links and maps will be added later.

Kylemore Abbey has become the most popular visitor attraction in the west of Ireland, famous for its beautiful mansion on the lake and extensive gardens all around. Certainly one of the prettiest sights you can ever experience.

On the map you see the route we' re taking today driving north from Galway through this central part of Connemara, over to the west by Clifden and around the Sky Road and stopping, especially at Kylemore Abbey, and then making our way back on a slightly different route back to Galway.

The Abbey is easily reached on a daytrip from Galway City, which makes an ideal home base for exploring the majestic attractions of this area. You'll find that Galway is a great town for strolling along its pedestrian main street with many shops and restaurants, including numerous pubs with live Irish music on offer. There are many fine hotels in Galway in a variety of price ranges to give you a good place to rest.

It's just a quick look at Galway for now, which we show a lot more than are other Irish movies and that will take you on a drive through Connemara, including the famous Sky Road with some of the best views in Ireland.

Our guide, Charlie Rutherford, was absolutely magnificent. He was funny, friendly, knowledgeable, native Irish and very skilled driver to get us around to all sorts of extra attractions that were surprising us every day.

Were they going to do was call Sky Road, which is an interesting drive. There are good pictures all the way along Sky, and then from there down into Kylemore.

You could drive this ride yourself. Remember they drive on the other side of the road than most places. The roads are in good condition. Sometimes narrow. There's some oncoming traffic. But generally very safe to drive. It's a lot easier, though to let somebody else do the driving. So that's where the small tour comes in handy, and there are many tour operators in Ireland.

One of the best that we been using is My Ireland Tours, who made all of the hotel arrangements and driver-guide and various destination admissions on our trip.

Typical of the Connemara scenery, you'll pass lots of bogs and open meadows and lakes along the way and not much traffic on the road or homes scattered across the landscape, but you will see several rural towns along the way.

Moycullen is typical of the small villages, with a few shops and houses scattered along the road, many of them with stone walls built around as you get further into the countryside,  with an endless supply of beautiful scenery.

Oughterard is the next village we pass through. And notice the thatched roof sheltering a popular pub.

There's also the Connemara Lake Hotel here. A good base if you're spending time in Connemara.

Then Charlie took us on another one of his scenic detours to visit a five-star deluxe  castle hotel.

The name of the castle? This one, Ballynahinch. Ballynahinch, I see. Ballynahinch Castle.

If you go down this side of the castle and then around to the front you can see the views from there, which are quite thrilling.

Stopping at the castle gives us a nice chance to get some fresh air, stretch our legs, take a little break, and enjoy the scenic vista.

The hotel provides flyfishing lessons in the stream offered by the gillies, if you're staying at the hotel.

Set among 700 private acres, Ballynahinch was voted number one castle hotel in Ireland by readers of Condé Nast Travel magazine.

Then back on our minibus to resume the journey. We' re heading for the Sky Road and Kylemore Abbey.

Of course along the way you want to stop in at some of the high quality gift shops and have a look at Irish woolen sweaters and scarves, and various kinds of handmade crafts available, especially here in Connemara, including variety of jewelry made from the local green,  granite stone.

We're driving down to the town that's considered the capital of Connemara, the town of Clifden.

It's a quaint place. It's got wide sidewalks, a lot of shops and cafes. We're here on a weekday in the month of May, so it's not very busy.

We continue driving just beyond the town of Clifden out onto the peninsula for one of the great scenic highlights of Ireland. It's the Sky Road.

All along the  west coast of Ireland you'll find a number of these scenic peninsulas jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean and the Sky Road offers one of the best vistas of all.

Our guide Charlie was able to get us there at just the right time of day, with perfect lighting and not crowded.

We did quite a bit of stopping and getting out of the van while driving through Connemara to enjoy the landscape, take a good look and snap some pictures.

There are a couple of inhabited offshore islands.

This routing is just 12 miles long and's part of the much longer Wild Atlantic Way that runs the entire west coast of Ireland.

Bagging our trophy photos to lock in the memories and then we're back on our minibus and on the way again -- a stunning site with lush, rolling green hills and stone walls, dotted with sheep.

Driving very close to the shoreline with some wonderful views looking out into the coves. It was a calm day.

Very fortunate with beautiful blue skies and white clouds and the scenes reflected in the water, (pause) providing one of the highlight moments of the entire Irish tour.

We're showing a highlight summary of this drive now through this wild Irish landscape.

And at the end of this program  we will present more of the scenery  in a kind of extended musical video postcard.

Charlie's driving is through the little town of Letterfrack marking the end of the Sky Road, as we approach the main destination of today's wonderful itinerary, which is Kylemore Abbey.

Kylemore Abbey is one of the great highlights of Ireland.

Western Ireland's number one visitor attraction. It does get busy, but it provides a serene and beautiful experience – a former private mansion, then a Benedictine Abbey, a private school for girls, and now it's a major tourist attraction, as you can see, because it's so beautiful here on the lake.

There's also a large flower garden spread out over 6 acres that we will take you through. Two places to eat cafeteria style with quick service and surprisingly delicious homemade foods, and lovely walking paths to explore the extensive grounds and stroll along the lake shore.

It's a wonderful spot that you really should see if you are staying near Galway in your visit to Ireland.

Probably the best part of the visit is simply looking at the Abbey across the beautiful lake.

But you also get to go inside and tour the former mansion, and there is a beautiful landscape garden that's been created that for many people would be their favorite activity, half of which grows flowers and ornamental shrubs,  and the other half grows vegetables, fruit trees and has an herb garden.

You could walk from the Abbey to the gardens, but it is about half a mile,  and so they provide a shuttle bus to bring you from the Abbey over to the garden walk. You can walk around and then take the bus back again.

If you are riding the bus, be sure to have a look out the window at that gorgeous scenery as you drive past a couple of small ponds with lovely reflections in the water.

Or if you're walking, you'll have that same view but from a more peaceful and slow perspective, so either way, getting from the Abbey up to the garden is quite a delight. There is no extra charge for the bus ride or for entering the garden, or for that matter anything additional inside. Your one admission fee covers all the attractions, except for the restaurants and the gift shop. After a stroll in the gardens, come on back to the teahouse for some refreshments.

As described on their excellent website the Victorian Walled Garden is an oasis of splendor in the wild Connemara countryside. First developed in the early days of the castle, during the late 1800s, it once boasted 21 heated glass houses and a workforce of 40 gardeners. In the middle, if you look, you'll find a shaded fernery, an important feature of any Victorian garden, with a stream flowing through it. In earlier years the garden fell into decline and became completely overgrown with brambles and trees hiding all its traces of former glory. The Benedictine nuns began an extensive program of restoration in 1995 and in the year 2000, the garden was opened to the public.

You'll find that the staff is quite friendly and knowledgeable about all of the different plants here, so feel free to ask them any questions you might have. You can read their monthly blog on the website describing the seasonal changes in the garden.

Is there foods here and herbs? Yes, exactly, yes. Most of what we're seeing here are flowers, and there are herbs as well here.

It's one of the last walled gardens, built during the Victorian period in Ireland. Today a full-time garden staff works hard to maintain it. You can see the garden is well worth exploring in its entirety. Don't just come in and take a look and take a picture and turn around and walk out again.

Strolling all around gives you those different perspectives and the complete experience.

You'll find the teahouse conveniently located right next to the garden – a great spot for a light snack or a sandwich, a salad, or soup – really good food here, with seating indoors and out. And it's right next to the bus stop, so you can keep your eye on your shuttle back to the Abbey. They arrive about every 10 to 15 minutes.

If you feel like taking a stroll and work off those luncheon calories, then walk back to the Abbey. It's all downhill, so it's much easier walking back than walking up to the garden – half-mile, just takes you about 15 minutes.

If you did not eat at the teahouse you have another chance at the main restaurant, Mitchell's Café. It's a modern self-service restaurant that maintains a tradition of good food and warm hospitality. The hot buffet serves lunch, including vegetarian dishes, a selection of quiche, pasta, fish, and traditional favorites such as Irish stew

You can never get too much of the main view of the castle as it's framed across the  lake, like that picture postcard come to life. It is almost a visual cliché, but it's the real thing, 150 years old.

And yes you can go inside – that's part of the visit. There are several rooms open to the public with friendly staff people to tell you about it.

This is 150-year-old building, so there are a lot of attendant problems – electricity, we're just now facing the electric, and of course it has to be up to fire safety codes. Were the materials brought in from elsewhere? They were certainly brought in from a long way away. So, all the granite blocks on the façade of the building that extend throughout the castle, or the Abbey as is known today, in some places the walls are up to 3 feet thick, so. Is it Irish stone? It's Irish stone. It's from Dalkey in County Dublin, all the granite out there. The limestone around the exterior, the windows come from East County Galway, so it's all 100% Irish. The materials outside, anyway. Inside, of course some of this mahogany oak would have been brought from England, and in fact in the vestibule area and the entranceway there, a lot of that oak paneling is from the Duke of Manchester, his properties in England. So. But a lot of the building materials on the exterior anyway, not local, all from other parts of Ireland. Built as a private residence? Private residence exclusively by, for Mitchell Henry and his family. He had nine kids. So this is more of a summer home. The family winter home was in the Knightsbridge district of London, it's a very, a very tony part of that city in the UK, so. This, course, you got a day like this, this is in the perfect summer spot – it's a beautiful lake, mountains and woods and all that out there. And then the Duke of Manchester purchased from him? Yes, right in 1903, because Mitchell Henry was essentially bankrupt. Okay. He spent his fortune trying to maintain this place out here in the west of Ireland, very difficult.

And how long did the Duke control? He was here for 10 years with his wife, the Duchess of Manchester, and then they lost it because he was very much into gambling, apparently, and lost it in some, we are told, insane poker game which was a winner take all affair, and so. And then the Benedictine mothers took over after that? In 1920, because there Abbey had been bombed out in Belgium during the first World War – completely leveled by shells. So we have seven nuns who are active, the other three are basically retired. They busy themselves praying five times a day, for everyone. They pray for us. They're also working away. We know the motto of the Benedictine is in Latin -- ora et labora -- which means prayer and work. And so women are praying, they are certainly trying to do administrative work, charity work, and also they run a farm, and they work in the factory behind the visitor center making chocolates and soap, all of which are on sale in the craft shop up here.

We had a chance to speak with Sister Magdalena who told us some more about the Abbey.

Yes, Sister Magdalena from Kylemore Abbey here in the west of Ireland in Connemara, and a well-known busy spot, I think, in the west of Ireland.

Well, it's such a lovely place. I think it's such a natural beauty spot. It is where one sees creation all around us. God, himself, the maker of this lovely this place, unspoiled. And this is what we, this is where we chose to keep the place, and to share with others. And we're deeply grateful to God for that. And then there is shares with in our prayers, so that the new outreach we have which we are very happy to be able to reach out a bit more and share more of the space with visitors when they come. And hopefully the important thing is the community will grow, so when we, we have planning permission to build a new monastery, and we hope to build the right in the center. So the ethos of the Benedictine community was spread to us, the entire estate. Do wonderful things, we hope, for God, for Kylemore, and for this local community.

Tell me about the Benedictine precepts. What are some of your philosophies?

I think peace would be the most important thing. We can be peaceful among ourselves, and that we can give peace to the people who come and visit here at Kylemore. It's one of our main mottos, that's peace.

It's a challenge with a number of visitors that you've got here. It's very successful, isn't it?

It is rather, but it needs to be, to maintain the place. This is the problem, it's keeping this place is a challenge. But we chose not to sell it a few years ago, and now we have the task of trying to maintain this. Indeed, our castle has been leaking, and still leaking, but we have restored some of it.

Well the nuns are going to be building their own new monastery at the end of this year on the lakefront, where the flagpoles are, essentially right in front of the visitor center. They'll be right next to the new church. When they get that monastery built, or new Abbey built, they'll move in there, probably in a couple of years when it's completed. The mother abbot, this is her building, and so an abbot in the Benedictine order has no mother superior. She only answers to the Pope. So whatever she says happens in this building, happens. And the Benedictines are teaching order of nuns, and so when the school was active year, all the way up until 2010, they were, some of them were teaching. We get lots of visitors, hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.

We compete, of course with other attractions in the west of Ireland. The one that's the King, really, in my mind, out here in the west, are the Cliffs of Moher down in County Clare. But in terms of Connemara there's very little that can rival us in terms of numbers. Certainly some of the local towns, Westport, Clifden, get lots of people but in terms of an exclusive area this is one of the prime locations to come.

Along with the new monastery they'll build, the Abbey is planning to expand the number of rooms in the castle that are available to the public, nearly doubling in size the interior space.

They'll be restoring and opening up to public visit the former library of the nuns, the kitchen, some sitting areas, making the visitor experience even more rewarding.

And finally, there is one more site to visit – the church built in a neogothic style in the late 19th century by Mitchell Henry in honor of his wife, with the typical Gothic style of architecture,  pointed arches, rib-vaulted ceilings and stone columns everywhere.

You can see that Kylemore Abbey and Connemara make the perfect daytrip in the West of Ireland.

And Galway is the ideal city to stay in for your visit.

Driving back to Galway from upper Connemara is another wonderful part of the day's activities, with more of this lovely, rolling scenery visible out the windows of our minibus.

We were very lucky with the weather because it was a perfect day – sunny with blue sky and white clouds and nice temperature in the upper 60s. We're traveling in the middle of the month of May which really is an ideal time to be here in Ireland.

Of course you're always taking a chance in Ireland because it's often a very rainy place, but today it was perfect.

After all, they do need the rain to keep it the Emerald Isle, nice and green, which you are seeing as we roll by these farmlands with sheep grazing and lined with stone walls. It's a wonderful sight.

This day in Connemara is part of a longer trip that we've been taking through England, Scotland and Ireland.

It was 18 days altogether and we were so lucky because there was 16 days of sunshine. And we will be bringing lots of that to you as the series develops.

The time flies by, with more of this lovely scenery out the window.

In a short while we're at the suburbs of Galway in Salt Hill beach area, and then downtown at the pedestrian mall listening to some music.