In part one of this series, we traveled to County Clare where we found the charming seaside village of Doolin and took a visit to the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s most visited natural attraction.
In part 2, we will see that this western county of the Emerald Isle has even more natural beauty waiting to be explored along with some special treats to be enjoyed on the way.
County Clare is home to western Ireland’s only UNESCO Geopark, the Burren. This wide expanse of rocky, limestone mountains is known for being a fertile home to a wide variety of flora and fauna despite its lack of soil. Families, who typically have lived in the area for several generations, privately own all mountains in the Burren other than the small portion of this area that has been set aside as a national park. This leaves much of the area inaccessible to tourists. Fortunately, for those looking to explore the interesting landscape of the Burren, some of these families have opened their doors to tour groups. One such family is the Connolly’s. They have lived and farmed on their land in Oughtmama for about 300 years, but in recent times they have expanded their operations to make a visit to their family farm a unique experience.
After an introduction to Billy, the family’s pet goat, and a walk through the farm to meet the many cows that live there, a trip to the Connolly family farm really begins with a hike up the Burren mountains. Most tours in the area only offer visitors the opportunity to admire the limestone formations from the foothills of the Burren. The Connolly’s, however, allow guests to trek up their lands and enjoy the view from up top. All along the way a member of the Connolly family will serve as your highly knowledgeable guide as he tells stories of the Burren’s history.
As a reward for making it through the hike, a warm and cozy cottage awaits guests at the bottom of the mountain. Granny’s Cottage, the farmhouse kitchen on the Connolly family grounds, is a charming white home with pink window shutters and a pink door. Inside, the décor is as enchanting as the exterior as it transports guests to a different time period with its classic vintage furniture and old school fireplace.
Like the home of any grandmother, a variety of sweet treats are available at Granny’s Cottage. From pies and cakes to pastries and hot chocolate, everything for sale at the farmhouse is fresh and homemade by the Connolly family. As you sit on the couch by the fireplace and munch on some warm fruit pie with a side of freshly whipped cream, you will feel welcomed and at home as if it were your own grandmother’s house.
The supply of sweet treats, however, doesn’t end there. Hazel Mountain Chocolates, the brand of handcrafted chocolates that the Connolly’s have established, can also be found on their family farm where one of the buildings has been transformed into a boutique shop and mini chocolate factory. Guests can catch a sneak peak into the factory where the masterminds behind Hazel Mountain Chocolates use fresh ingredients, some of which are harvested from the Burren, to make chocolate bars, truffles and pralines. With everything from classic milk chocolate to hazelnut and juniper berry truffles, there is something satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.
There may be many ways to see the Burren, but a visit to the Connolly family farm allows guests to enjoy their time in Oughtmama with people who have a deep connection and history with the land. Add in the warm and welcoming comforts of Granny’s Cottage and the mouth watering candy of the Hazel Mountain Chocolates factory and boutique and you have all the ingredients of a truly unique experience.
Travel Tip: Although hiking tours of the Burren and visits to Granny’s Cottage and the Hazel Mountain Chocolates boutique can be arranged directly with the Connolly family, unless you plan on renting a car, it could be difficult to find your way to Oughtmama. Lally Tours, which departs form Galway, and MacCoole Tours, which departs from Dublin and was actually founded by two cousins in the Connolly family, both include a visit to the Connolly family farm as part of their one-day trip to the Cliffs of Moher.