It’s been a positive start to your Wild Atlantic Day with West Coast Cycle Tours. You’ve explored the heart of the Burren and discovered some of its unique flowers in the morning, you’ve seen Father Ted’s house and you’ve hiked along rugged and charming trails. Now, you find yourself cycling through a moonlike landscape on quiet, almost deserted roads. You have no idea what awaits you at the next stop. All you know right now is it’s peaceful, it’s comfortable and it’s fun. But, let’s be honest, you’re in need of a little something. A treat perhaps. Afterall, bikes, no matter how comfortable, do require some manual labour!
“It’ll be worth it! I promise!” the tour guide said after giving us our directions.
But what is it? What is this mysterious next stop?? You could guess a thousand times and you wouldn’t get it! How could you? How could anyone guess that nestled into the rocky mountains there would be a place so unique, so remote, so charming and so… so… so full of chocolate!
Worth. Every. Pedal.
Since opening in early 2014, Hazel Mountain Chocolate has enjoyed huge success and has won great acclaim. For example, it has been listed in ‘Ireland’s Top 10 Cafes’ (Irish Times), been awarded ‘Top Foodie Destination’ (Irish Examiner), earned a ‘Great Taste Award’ for its Madagascar Chocolate and is a Bronze Medal Winner in the ‘International Chocolate Awards’ (Venezuelan Chocolate). The list goes on. And on.
What they do here at the foot of Hazel Mountain between Ballyvaughan and Kinvara is rare. So rare, in fact, they are one of less than a handful of chocolate makers here in Ireland. This means they control every step in the chocolate making process in their beautiful and visitor-friendly chocolate factory. They call this Bean To Bar, meaning the roasting, cracking, stone-grinding and winnowing all takes place along the Wild Atlantic Way, in the most unlikely of locations! And if you don’t understand any of those chocolatier terms – don’t worry, they give visitors a quick lesson in chocolate making, as well as some little samples. You’ll be telling your Costa Rican chocolate from your Madagascar chocolate in no time!
But it’s not only about the chocolate.
Step into the Farm to Fork Cafe and you can enjoy their treats in the cosy and quirky dining rooms. With vegetables grown on a family-run farm, all produce is fresh, unprocessed and wholesome. It’s suitable for gluten free and dairy free diets too so there really is something for everyone! On the Wild Atlantic Day, we like to pop in for something small to give us a boost for the bike – and what better than my favourite the 55% Venezuela Hot Cocoa. The ultimate indulgence. Go on, you may as well, you’ll be cycling it off!!
The West Awaits
– Enda (April ’16)