Day 3. Hiking & Chocolate Making, Northern Ireland

We awoke refreshed at The Willows after sleeping on such comfortable mattresses in our delightful Aspen bedroom.  Drawing back the curtains we were dismayed to discover it was raining heavily, not a good sign for a planned hiking trip!

View of Bineveagh Mountain from The Willows
View of Binevenagh Mountain from the breakfast room

To lift our spirits we wandered down to the dining room to be greeted by the cheerful host Annie who was in the process of preparing breakfast and what a feast it was!  We started the day with a granola and yoghurt compote served in cocktail glasses followed by a fresh fruit platter and delicious bacon and portobello mushroom baps.

Breakfast at The Willows, Limavady
Breakfast at The Willows, Limavady

Whilst sipping our coffee we took in the views of Binevenagh Mountain and the surrounding countryside from the window and were pleased to note that the rain was easing for our trek up the mountain.

Hiking Binevenagh Mountain, Northern Ireland
Walking up Binevenagh mountain

After packing up the car and bidding our farewell to Annie and her little dog we drove the short distance to Swanns Bridge where we had arranged to meet Angie from Binevenagh Adventures.  We then followed her car up the narrow Leighry Road to a lay-by opposite a gate where our walk would commence.  Miraculously, it stopped raining just as we were putting on our hiking boots which made all the difference as the prospect of plodding up a mountain in heavy rain didn’t hold much appeal!

Binevenagh Mountain, Northern Ireland
Rocky face of Binevenagh mountain

Our guide, Angie made us feel very welcome, walking at our own pace and leading us along forest trails and gravel tracks.  It was muddy and quite slippery in places but apart from one tiny stumble I managed to stay on my feet during the ascent which surprisingly I didn’t find at all difficult as there were only one or two steep sections.  The slopes are home to numerous rare alpine plants and birds and it is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Binevenagh Mountain, Northern Ireland
Views over the River Roe & Lough Foyle

Before reaching the summit we passed a trout stocked artificial lake popular with fishermen.  This then led us towards the cliff edge and at the summit we were rewarded with breathtaking views stretching for miles across Lough Foyle to Inishowen and were able to see the path of the River Roe winding its way through the valley floor.

Binevenagh lake, Northern Ireland
Passing Binevenagh lake

Angie explained that the cliffs were created from molten lava millions of years ago with the resulting basalt precipice being very impressive.  I had to hold on to her on the cliff top as we were having our photo taken for fear of being blown over as the gusts of wind were so strong.

Binevenagh Mountain, Northern Ireland
View from the summit with our guide Angie

Just below the summit we found a sheltered spot to eat our packed lunch and warming cups of coffee before returning to the car along the road as it would have been too slippery to return the way we had come.  Our looped walk was 4.5km (2.8 miles) and not only did it blow the cobwebs away, it gave us a sense of satisfaction for climbing a mountain!

View from the summit of Binevenagh Mountain, Northern Ireland
View from the summit of Binevenagh mountain

Back in the car, we changed out of our hiking gear and then drove on to the pretty seaside village of Castlerock on the Causeway Coast.  There was free parking on the seafront so we left the car there and enjoyed a gentle stroll along a boardwalk path through the sand dunes to the beach.

Castlerock Beach
Castlerock Beach

It was then time for our next activity, a Taste Causeway Chocolate Experience.  We’re both chocolate lovers, I wonder who isn’t and had been looking forward to our introduction to the wonderful world of chocolate at The Chocolate Manor.

The Chocolate Manor, Castlerock
The Chocolate Manor, Castlerock

We were warmly welcomed into the purpose built workshop space by the owner and artisan chocolatier Geri Martin and after washing our hands and popping on our aprons we were ready to begin.

Taste Causeway products used at The Chocolate Manor
Taste Causeway products used at The Chocolate Manor

Over two and a half hours under Geri’s expert tuition we learnt how to temper chocolate and handcraft a delectable selection of chocolate truffles and moulded chocolate treats.  We were introduced to local artisan products from Taste Causeway and paired several of these in our chocolate making process.

Developing my skills with a piping bag at The Chocolate Manor, Castlerock
Developing my skills with a piping bag at The Chocolate Manor

We used Mussenden sea salt which is harvested off Castlerock to create salted caramel chocolate and paired Bushmills Irish Whiskey with milk chocolate.  It was suggested that we might like to use a little rhubarb jam from the nearby Dundarave Estate to add to our white chocolate moulds and some Causeway Coffee to compliment the dark chocolate.

Truffle making at The Chocolate Manor, Castlerock
Truffle making at The Chocolate Manor, Castlerock

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience learning so much and it gave me the confidence to have a try working with chocolate back at home.

Making Irish Whiskey truffles at The Chocolate Manor, Castlerock
Making Irish Whiskey truffles at The Chocolate Manor, Castlerock

Whilst the chocolate was setting we were treated to mugs of delicious hot chocolate which we stirred into hot milk from a solid cup shaped piece of dark chocolate handmade by Geri.

Our creations at The Chocolate Manor, Castlerock
Feeling proud of our finished truffles

As we were packing our sweet treats into boxes at the end of the lesson it was hard to believe that we’d produced such professional looking chocolates, though it wouldn’t have been possible without Geri’s guidance.  If you are planning a visit to the Causeway Coast  then I would definitely recommend considering joining one of her chocolate experiences as we found it to be both a fun activity and an opportunity to learn a new skill.  Her artisan chocolates are on sale in her shop and also available online for special treats with personalised greetings.

The Causeway Hotel, Bushmills
The Causeway Hotel, Bushmills

It was approaching 7.00 p.m. by the time we returned to the car and just over half an hour later when we arrived at The Causeway Hotel located beside the Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This historic hotel is managed by the National Trust with the main part of its building dating from 1841.

The elegant restaurant at The Causeway Hotel, Bushmills
The elegant restaurant at The Causeway Hotel, Bushmills

It was too dark to be able to take in the stunning views but a treat to look forward to the next morning.  The hotel is full of old world charm and we received a warm welcome from the receptionist who insisted on arranging to take our luggage up the staircase leading to our comfortable room with its own private terrace.

Goat cheese tartlet, Causeway Hotel Restaurant, Bushmills
Goat cheese tartlet, Causeway Hotel Restaurant, Bushmills

Dinner is served in the elegant restaurant with its large bay windows and chandeliers.  Service was faultless and the menu uses locally sourced produce wherever possible.  I selected a goat cheese tartlet to begin and neither of us could resist plates of fish and chips freshly caught along the coast to follow which were mouth-wateringly delicious.  We then relaxed over glasses of wine and cups of coffee reflecting on the wonderful day we had just experienced.

 

If you have enjoyed reading this post, you may also like:

Exploring Derry, Northern Ireland

Belfast: Top things to see and do

 

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Hiking and Chocolate Making, Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

 

71 thoughts on “Day 3. Hiking & Chocolate Making, Northern Ireland

  1. When (not if!) I get to Northern Ireland, the chocolate making experience and the Titanic exhibit are top of my list, thanks to your wonderful posts! I studied contemporary Northern Irish poetry in my first masters and since then have had a fascination with the country. You’ve provided excellent insights into places to stay, where to eat, which tours to take, what to do. Thank you for your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so nice to hear! I’m certain you will have a wonderful time and enjoy every minute of your trip. I’ve several more NI posts coming up in this series and if you’re heading to Belfast you can hopefully find some inspiration on my blog as a I visited there last year. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. It’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What a fabulous day. You really do come up with the best ever itineraries. I’m tracking your route as this post reminded me my cousin’s family came from Loughaghery, which I discovered when I did his family history for him. So I’m wondering where to for you – north, south or east. Don’t tell me – I’ll find out in the next instalment 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Gwen for your continued interest in our Irish road trip. The mountain hike helped to burn off some calories as well as provide us with some stunning views before the chocolate experience. We made so many yummy chocolates that we’re still enjoying them now we are home. Hope your week goes well. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So much beauty photographed here. Loved the view of those farmlands on the coastal plain as my father used to buy and sell rural properties after improving them so we lived in that tranquil environment in my early childhood. The chocolate creations were a surprise. Usually Belgium is the place to go for chocolate but these creations look yummy 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What a lovely time! You got to have a nice balance of adventuring outdoors to indulging in good food indoors– exactly how the ideal vacation should be! I was especially interested in the chocolate-making course, and I’d gladly eat the whiskey-infused chocolate, as it sounds delicious! The Causeway Hotel’s interior is lovely, and it looks to be another good time visiting Northern Ireland. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re right Rebecca, it was a perfectly balanced day with the morning hike followed by an afternoon of chocolate making. Irish Whiskey paired with dark chocolate was delicious and probably tasted even nicer because we made it ourselves. I’m going to try making some truffles at home when I have time! Thanks for commenting, Marion.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Although I’m a ‘fair weather creature.’ I felt you deserved your wonderful chocolate visit after your strenuous climbing- Full marks for making the very best of your trip. It sounded great! And what a lovely hotel and yummy food to finish! Safe traveling! Cheers. x

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Definitely, it was such a treat to have an opportunity to learn some of the skills of chocolate making, not to mention to eat quite a bit of it too after our hike. I was so pleased I made it to the top and it didn’t rain. Thanks for your welcome thoughts Joy, they are most welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for taking an interest in this post on our tour around Northern Ireland’s north coast. We were so fortunate that the mist cleared just as we were setting off on our hike and making (and eating) chocolates was great fun too.

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    1. Yes, I didn’t hurt myself just got the bottom of my coat smeared in mud so no problem there. Making chocolates and eating them afterwards was definitely a treat made in heaven! Thanks so much for your welcome thoughts. Hope you are enjoying a relaxing weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So glad that the weather did not change your plans. I often find that if you stick to the plan, either the weather changes or you change to adapt to the weather. The views from the top were worth it. Great work on the chocolates, so nice to learn a new skill from an expert. Thanks for sharing Marion. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, we were delighted the weather changed lifting the mist and rewarding us with such wonderful views. The chocolate experience was great too as not only did we get to make lots of yummy treats, we also got to eat them too! Thanks for reading and commenting. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  7. How lucky that it stopped raining just as you were putting on your hiking boots. The views of the surrounding area from the mountain look beautiful and it’s a nice way to get a different perspective. What better way to reward yourself for your efforts than by making and tasting some chocolate. Dinner looks delicious as well!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Linda. It was a splendid day with our morning hike, chocolate making and tasty fish and chip dinner. I was so pleased it stopped raining and the low cloud disappeared for our walk. We had plenty of sweet treats and sandwiches as a reward with us to keep us going on the steeper sections. Marion

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It was such a great day Corna and yes we were so lucky that the rain clouds disappeared as we were putting our boots on. Creating those chocolate delicacies was such fun and taking them back home and sharing with the rest of the family delicious too. Hope your weekend is going well. Marion

      Liked by 2 people

    1. The day worked extremely well with our morning hike followed by our chocolate experience. Both totally different but equally enjoyable. We made so much delicious chocolate that we’ve only just finished munching our way through it back at home. Thanks for commenting Leighton, it’s appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. We adored every minute of our trip to Ireland and can’t wait for another opportunity to return. Our hiking trip was great and I’m so pleased we made it to the summit for the stunning views. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly, definitely a great idea for local businesses to work together to showcase their products. The chocolate making class was both interesting and fun and gave me confidence to try at home. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

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