03 Feb Glenstal Abbey , County Limerick
No building could look less like an Abbey , for when it was built in the 1830s for the Barrington family , Glenstal was designed as a castle in 12th century style. It has a great gate and a massive drum tower that resembles the one at Windsor Castle. The Barringtons moved to England in the 1920s , and in 1927 sold the castle and lands to the Benedictine Order. It became an Abbey in 1957.
The Abbey itself is not open to visitors , but the public are admitted to the beautiful 17th century walled and terraced gardens , ablaze with rhododendrons in May and June. The church , built in the early 1950s , can also be visited. Its traditional exterior belies the modernistic interior , with a dappled red and green ceiling and four stained glass windows installed in the 1960s.
Glenstal Abbey is a real hidden gem and is worth a visit on your tours of Ireland.