A beautiful Autumn morning and a perfect day for a day trip but to where? Checked the Citylink Multi-Stop timetable and with over 20 stops along the old Dublin Road from Galway there were many options to choose from. Deciding on Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath I board the morning service. Citylink make brief stops in the towns along the way where passengers are welcomed aboard by the friendly driver. Greetings exchanged of ‘Crisp Morning’ and ‘Not a bad one out there’ are echoed as people take a seat. As we travel east nearing the outskirts of Ballinasloe one sees the mist rise from the frost covered glistening fields heated by the morning sun and it is a breath-taking sight.
In the two-hour journey to my destination, I avail of the free on board wi-fi to research more of what I should see/do. On arrival, I venture into a small café ‘The Loft’. There is a presentation case of various chocolates and on the counter, displays of Chocolate Bars – Kilbeggan Handmade Chocolate to be precise and one cannot help but admire the packaging with the beautiful eye-catching image of an elegant lady in a high neck period costume dress complete with feathered hat. Speaking with the proprietor and chocolatier, Michael Donegan, he tells me that the chocolate is made on premises and that he is one of very few companies in the country who makes chocolate ‘Beans to Bar’. It is evident that this is a man who loves to share his passion for the product and after purchasing a bar I can safely say the packaging only compliments this rich delicious home-made chocolate.
Following, just a stone’s throw away is the town’s No. 1 recommended attraction – The Kilbeggan Distillery Experience. Kilbeggan is Ireland’s oldest licensed distillery dating from 1757. The Distillery offers 3 Guided Tours from the Apprentice Tour to the Connoisseur Tour varying in Time, Cost and Inclusions. Choosing the Apprentice tour, we were informed by our wonderful guide Jessica about the history, the process and the product. It’s a small distillery producing only two casks a day with its main manufacturing operated by Cooley Distillery in Co. Louth. She tells us in a jovial tone that opposed to the regular spelling of Whisky the Irish uniquely add an ‘e’ as in Whiskey because the ‘e’ stands for the excellence of Irish Whiskey. During the tour one of the distillery terms that I found most enchanting was explained that as whiskey matures a small percentage evaporates thru the wood to the heavens and this portion is known as ‘The Angel’s Share’. Overall a charming tour and how wonderful it is to see that the 260-year-old heritage of whiskey making here in Kilbeggan is still alive and flourishing.