Killarney

Spring is in the air in Killarney. The weather has been kind, the sky is blue, the chill is minimal. A perfect day for a walk through Killarney’s National Park.  Killarney is a town in County Kerry, located in the south-west of Ireland.

Right on the shores of Lough Leane, Killarney is a charming town that is both modern and historic. It is also home to the vast and inviting Killarney National Park. Inside 10,236 hectares (or 26,000 acres) there are mountains, lakes, woodlands, waterfalls and even a castle to explore.

On this quiet spring day, there is a mystical air as we walk along the well signed paths. We pass greenery, colourful flowers in the gardens and woodland to reach Ross Castle. The castle was built in the 15th century by O’Donoghue Mór. It sits on the edge of the lake, with views out to the island of Innisfallen. Tourists can enter the castle for a tour; we opt not to do the tour and keep exploring the national park. In summer, you can take a boat trip across the lake to Innisfallen.

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The view is spectacular and we sat atop a hill to simply take in the beauty. Further down the path we can see walkers and a few people on horseback. Looking out to our right, the view is perfect. The lush green parkland and trees gives way to the blue waters of the lake which is rimmed by mountains. There are delicate wisps of cloud in the blue sky above. The soft green grass we’re sitting on is dotted with bright yellow flowers.

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It is a place to relax and recharge…and do a reel. Yes, I did indeed do a reel on the hilltop at the national park. It is my first time in Ireland and I simply had to do an Irish dance in Ireland. I learned to dance years ago just for fun and fitness; I am not a professional by any means but it was something I just had to do. It was just a few steps really, before I collapsed back on the grass, laughing. It’s exhilarating to be here. To be in Killarney, to see the landscape and enjoy the atmosphere.

Home to the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland, rising to heights of over 1000 metres. Just 6km from here lies Muckross House and Gardens with immaculate gardens, a lovely craft shop, traditional farms and a restaurant. You can admire the historic Muckross House with guided tours allowing you to step back in time and learn about the history, not just of the house but the local area.

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Nearby, the Torc Waterfall (approximately 70 feet high) awaits and is just a short walk from the N71 Killarney Kenmare Road. Walking through lovely woodland to see the waterfall, the gush of the water reaches your ears. Explore further by climbing the steps next to the waterfall (around 100 steps) to look out into the distance at the Killarney Lakes.

This is Ireland, a beautiful country with landscapes that simply take your breath away. There is no going home unaffected once you have seen and experienced a location as picturesque as Killarney. Perfect for hiking, enjoying scenic views, immersing yourself in the history of the area as you learn about Innisfallen Abbey and Ross Castle, taking a boat trip or kayaking on the smooth lakes, or simply relaxing in such a peaceful location.

As a writer, places with such outstanding natural beauty are inspiring. They inspire that spark, that creativity, the ideas that lead to anything from articles to full length books. Killarney is such a place. It is an experience to be re-lived and a place I hope to visit again and again. If you visit the Emerald Isle, Killarney is a place that should be on everyone’s list. Filled with the lush greenery that Ireland is so well-known for, a charming small town to explore and a natural beauty that is breathtaking.

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The best chocolate I have ever tasted!

I am a chocoholic, no doubt about it. In moderation of course but I definitely enjoy both milk and dark chocolate. I thought I knew chocolate, at least eating it! Then I took a trip into a remote region of the Burren, County Clare where a small, inviting chocolate factory can be found. It is set in amongst the beautiful scenery of the Burren region, little more than a cottage from an exterior view. But inside, delicious smells and sights await you. Hazel Mountain Chocolate is a boutique chocolate factory, one of the smallest factories in the world and one of the most remote. This makes it a unique place to visit – one that impressed me and tantalised my taste buds.

The pure chocolate produced from Hazel Mountain is the best chocolate I have ever tasted. They use rare Trinitario cacao beans and raw cane sugar for the dark chocolate and Irish milk from grass-fed cows in the milk chocolate. It is a bean to bar factory, something that is clearly identified on the tour.

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The tour is not only delicious but informative. I had no idea of what went into the chocolate making process or the difference I would so clearly taste. All of the stages of chocolate making are explained and the tasting session was a highlight for the taste buds. After indulging in the sweet, smooth taste of the chocolate – the milk chocolate with almond became my favourite.

This isn’t Cadbury or Lindt, the taste is different. Not that there’s anything wrong with Cadbury or Lindt (don’t sue me!), it’s simply a way to identify that the chocolate at Hazel Mountain is not the same. For me, it is better. It is richer and tastier. Well, in my humble opinion! The difference is that at Hazel Mountain, it is not compound chocolate that is used nor are cocoa beans mixed. Only one type of bean goes into one bar of chocolate. The beans at Hazel Mountain come from Cuba, Madagascar and Venezuela. The chocolate produced from each bean has a unique flavour and texture.

I also indulged in the best hot chocolate I had ever tasted – I wish I had more! I naturally had to bring some chocolate home with me and brought a packet of dark chocolate bars home. They disappeared rather quickly! I couldn’t even feel guilty for indulging, it’s just too good.

P.S. Hazel Mountain Chocolate is not paying me for an endorsement, they don’t even know I’m writing it. I’m just a chocoholic wanting to share an amazing experience I had in Ireland. However, if they come across this blog and feel like sending me a supply of chocolate, I won’t say no! 😉