Nestled inside the breathtaking hills of County Clare, you’ll find Hazel Mountain Chocolate Factory, the most remote chocolate factory in the world! Or at least I did, and quite by accident…
Making my way from Galway to Tralee, the landscape stunned. Broadly speaking, County Clare can be separated into two geographical regions. The south is comprised of gentle rolling countryside which courses alongside the River Shannon while the north is a rugged, limestoney land marked by vertiginous coastal cliffs. Wonderfulness.
As I cut across the county northwest to southeast, I couldn’t help but notice the crooked little sign jutting out from the side of the road: ‘Hazel Mountain Chocolate Factory’. Intrigued, I hit the blinker on my little red rental and made the left turn off the main road and soon found myself winding deeper into the Burren.
Hazel Mountain is a quirky cafe offering a dazzling selection of scratch-baked gluten-free cakes and pastries set in a 1950s cottage front bean-to-bar chocolate factory.
Consistently short-listed among the top ten food attractions in Ireland, it was founded by Burren walking tour guide John Connolly and his wife, esteemed pastry chef Kasha.
Beans are imported from Cuba, Venezuela and Madagascar and the same techniques employed by the monks who once occupied nearby Corcomroe Abbey are used here. John thoughtfully explained the long, arduous process of making chocolate from beans, and the remarkable results speak for themselves. You can buy bars made with vanilla, lemon, rhubarb and seaweed or handmade truffles in the shop where you will also find Kasha’s book ‘Burren Wild Baker’ for sale.
As I made the turn to rejoin the main road, I watched Hazel Mountain slowly slip out of my sight. At first, I didn’t understand why a chocolate factory would choose to be so remotely situated. But, after spending time here, I realized that the stark beauty of the land perfectly mirrors the pure, simple flavors of chocolate they create, making it an outstanding place to stop on your next trip through the Burren.