Tuesday 23 May 2017

How major tourist site almost became home for Windsors

Brian McDonald

ONE of the country's biggest tourist attractions almost ended up in the hands of the British royal family.

If the deal had gone through, Queen Elizabeth II would no doubt be travelling west on her visit to Ireland next week to stay in Kylemore Abbey in Connemara.

Her great-grandfather, Edward VII, was so taken with Kylemore -- then known as Kylemore Castle -- that he sailed in the royal yacht to Connemara in 1903 to view the property.

Accompanied by Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria, he sailed into Killary harbour, arriving in the village of Leenane to cheering crowds on July 29.

It was widely believed that the king was considering buying the castle as a royal residence.

Eventually the proposed purchase fell through, apparently because of its enormous size. The £40,000 estimated annual cost for the upkeep of the castle and its extensive grounds was too rich -- even for a king.

Later that year, the Duke of Manchester bought the property for £63,000. He and his wife spent little time there and his gambling problems contributed to the property being back on the market in 1914. A London banker took it over until a new buyer was found in 1921.

The Benedictine nuns were the surprise purchasers and Kylemore Castle was transformed into Kylemore Abbey, an international boarding school. The school closed last year.

Irish Independent

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