Notre Dame brings a bit of that Indiana ‘can do’ to Connemara

Notre Dame Irish Studies Kylemore Abbey

A leading US Catholic university, home of the Fighting Irish, has branched out to Galway

The University of Notre Dame is extending its successful Irish studies programme with a new partnership with the Benedictine Community at Kylemore Abbey this summer.

The Indiana-based Catholic university has a Dublin campus, which has been home to an Irish studies programme at the Keough-Naughton centre in Merrion Square, since 1998, where some 2,000 students have completed the course. Through here the Institute supports undergraduate and graduate students in their pursuit of Irish Studies and provides opportunity for language study, travel classes, semester and summer study in Dublin, internships in Dublin and conference support.

This summer about 40 students will travel to Connemara as part of their studies ‘to advance their shared spiritual, cultural and educational missions’. It is to help encourage students to join the exodus to Ireland’s west coast and to sample the culture and landscape. It is the start of a 30-year lease with the Benedictines which will entail renovating almost a fifth of the Abbey’s floor space for the specialised use. It comes six years after the nuns there closed the boarding school they ran out of the Abbey since the 1920s.

Father Tim Scully, co-founder of the Alliance for Catholic Education at Notre Dame, said: “We really could not have picked a better place than Kylemore to open our latest international center for education. Through our shared Catholic ethos, Notre Dame and the Benedictine community are committed to educational excellence. Notre Dame prides itself on its close relationship with Ireland. Kylemore Abbey is located in a breathtaking setting on the majestic Atlantic coast of Ireland, and we look forward to opening an exceptional educational facility there.”

Notre Dame Irish Studies Kylemore Abbey

The Kylemore programme is being supported by Glen Dimplex owner Martin Naughton, one of Ireland’s richest businessmen, who has been a major benefactor to Notre Dame over the past 20 years, but ownership will remain in the hands of the nuns.

“The programmes offered by the centre will draw both upon the rich tradition of Benedictine spirituality and the academic rigor of Notre Dame. Programming, which will include courses of varied length and span a variety of academic disciplines,” said a spokesperson for Notre Dame.

The partnership expands the University of Notre Dame’s international engagement of six Global Gateways— Dublin, Beijing, Chicago, Jerusalem, London, and Rome—which aim to act as academic and intellectual hubs at which scholars, students and leaders from universities, government, business, and community gather to discuss and debate topical issues of enduring relevance. Mother Maire Hickey, the Abbess of the Benedictine Community at Kylemore Abbey, said: “I am delighted that the University of Notre Dame has responded favorably to our invitation to join our community in advancing our educational and spiritual mission. I have high hopes that this partnership will yield rich fruits for generations to come.”

Thomas G. Burish, Charles and Jill Fischer Provost, said: “The University of Notre Dame is honored and grateful for the invitation by the Benedictine Community at Kylemore Abbey to join this mission. We are hopeful that our mutual engagement will contribute to the tradition of educational excellence to which both the Benedictine Community and the University aspire.”

Notre Dame Irish Studies Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey’s hidden gem: a Victorian walled garden

The west of Ireland’s windswept coast brings to mind images of a rugged rocky coastline, heather covered mountains and sparkling crystalline lakes. But, just a mile from the coast nestled in dense woodland you will find Kylemore Abbey, and it’s stunning Victorian Walled Garden.

Kylemore Abbey, which was built as a private home in the late 1800s by the very wealthy English businessman and philanthropist, Mitchell Henry, is one of Ireland’s best loved and most iconic tourist attractions. The striking image of the fairytale castle draws a steady stream of visitors from all over the world. The Walled Garden, located one mile from the Abbey at the end of a beautiful tree-lined avenue can be reached by foot or on one of the regular shuttle buses.

Surrounded by its original granite and red brick walls, the Garden is an oasis of ordered splendour in the wild beauty of Connemara. Entering the Garden the visitor is met by the stunning sight of immaculate Victorian bedding set on green velvet lawns with a backdrop of beautiful original buildings and glass houses.

The extensive vegetable, herb garden, and rockery create an equally attractive vista divided by one of Ireland’s longest herbaceous borders. On all sides, the Garden is surrounded by sheltering mountains including the glittering Diamond Hill in the nearby Connemara National Park.

In the time of Mitchell Henry the Gardens and their 21 heated glass houses were tended by a 50 strong team of gardeners. The glass houses provided the kitchens with exotics such as figs, nectarines, grapes, bananas and pineapples much of which were shipped to London to be enjoyed at extravagant dinner parties there. Over time the gardens gradually became neglected and overgrown. A major period of restoration and renewal brought the gardens back to their former glory, and they were opened to the public in 2000.

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