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Easter Escapes for the Chocolate Connoisseur: Ryedale’s Seven Heavens that’ll tantalise your taste buds

While many country villagers might feel lucky to find their favourite brand of chocolate bar locally these days, in the heart of rural Ryedale - one of the most sparsely populated parts of Yorkshire – chocolate-lovers can enjoy a 20-mile golden circle of Wonkaesque chocolate micro-workshops, all independent, all highly individual, where thousands of extraordinary Easter delicacies are handcrafted each year.

What’s more, chocolate doesn’t just come ready-wrapped on the shelves: visitors to Ryedale’s chocolate shops can see and smell the artisans in action, get hands-on during chocolate masterclasses with experts – or even request their own unique chocolate combinations, making this a gourmet getaway that’ll seduce all of the senses.

“Over the past 20 years, Ryedale has developed an extraordinary appetite for and mastery in chocolate,” says Phillip Spurr, Programme Director of Place and Resources for Ryedale District Council.  “It’s a mystery how it all began in our rural area, or why it inspires such enormous creativity, with every micro-factory having their own signature style or new twist on a classic, and chocolate even appearing in local beer and liquor!

“Perhaps it’s the abundance of locally-sourced ingredients to experiment with, the bounty of the area’s uniquely balmy micro-climate.  Perhaps the area has inherited the sweet tooth of neighbouring York, once home to confectionery giants like Terrys and Nestle.  Perhaps it’s part of the wider ‘good food’ movement that’s been growing in the area, culminating in Malton being dubbed ‘Yorkshire’s Food Capital’ and the North York Moors as ‘Britain’s Capital of Cake’, and attracting some of the UK’s top chefs and makers.  For locals and visitors alike, it’s certainly going down a treat!”

Enjoy these seven heavens of indulgence on a tasting trip around Ryedale:

  1. Birdgate Chocolatiers of Pickering is one of Yorkshire’s premier artisan chocolate shops. In their wonderland of a workshop behind the shop, they handcraft exquisite and unusual chocolate creations, unique chocolate cakes, and luxury chocolate ice-cream using local ingredients – like North York Moors heather honey and Yorkshire rhubarb - and specialising in original ‘secret’ recipes for a distinctively delicious flavour that you won’t taste anywhere else.  They’ve just released an exclusive curious collection, with combinations including Absinthe & Elderberry, and Preserved Lemon and Olive Caramel – while their Garlic & Marmite has already sold out.
  2. On a ramble down a quiet country bridleway near Ampleforth, you’ll discover state-of-the-art chocolate studio, Park House Barns where master chocolatiers hand make mouth-watering chocolate creations to unique recipes, using the freshest, local ingredients. You can pop in the barn shop to explore their astonishing range and visit the studio by pre-booking (find out more via social media or live chat on their website), but they’ll also ‘make anything in chocolate’ and love people to get in touch about designing a personal or special occasion gift.  Most importantly, it’s an Autism Plus social enterprise supporting and raising funds for people with disabilities – including offering placements in the chocolate studio. 
  3. Florian Poirot is not only UK Pastry Champion and winner of the sugar Prize at the World Pastry Cup, he’s also an exceptional craftsman of irresistible handmade chocolate bonbons, using the ‘best ingredients in the world’. You can see the man in action in his Patisserie at Malton’s Talbot Yard.  Or take part in one of his new expert chocolate master-classes, where groups of up to 8 people can learn how to make their own truffles, from tempering to garnish.
  4. In a sleepy village a stone’s throw from stately Scampston Hall, you’ll find 5*-rated Farmhouse Bakery and Chocolate Shop, home to the joyous Elli Rose - an artisan chocolatier and pastry chef. For the past 18 years, she’s been hand making devilish delights from chocolate for her patisserie’s ‘naughty cabinet’, alongside exquisite Easter Eggs, original novelty figures, bonbons that are so pretty you could frame them, her own secret-recipe hot chocolate, and bespoke Chocolate Heaven celebration cakes.
  5. Hutton le Hole is a tiny chocolate-box village that’s a genuine chocolate-box!  It’s home to master chocolatiers Christopher and Gareth, who have been hand-crafting award-winning chocolate in their Chocolate Factory for 20 years – you can see and smell them at work, before buying their mouth-watering confections, made with fresh cream, real alcohol, and pure Belgian chocolate. Their menu is a wish-list of favourite flavours, but their real speciality is their loaded bars, chock-full of slabs of superb, quality chocolate.  They’re also passionate about making sure nobody misses out, with an amazing range of diabetic, gluten free and dairy-free chocolate.

The brothers also have a chocolate shop in Thornton-le-Dale, a village on the outskirts of Dalby Forest.

  1. The family behind medal-winning Ryeburn of Helmsley make the country’s best ice-cream, and heavenly handmade Belgian chocolates.  Dairy farmers for over 100 years, the Otterburn family started out by experimenting with ice-cream in the kitchens behind the café (located at the start of the Cleveland Way National Trail in Helmsley).  Now the tiny kitchens are an inventive ‘lab’ of yumminess for the family’s champion confectioner, David who’s created a giant menu of over 48 lip-smacking ice-cream flavours (and growing) and has recently recruited equally-imaginative master chocolatier and family friend, Andrew Thwaite to handcraft the very best-quality Belgian chocolates.
  1. Two local micro-breweries handcraft chocolate-flavoured beer: multi award-winning Brass Castle in Malton has teamed up with a high-quality cocoa provider in Trinidad & Tobago to create their new chocolate craft beer Trinitario, which can be tasted in their new tap-room; while the Great Yorkshire Brewery’s chocolatey ‘blackout’ stout has been a decadent favourite for nearly a decade – you can even find out how it’s brewed during brewery tours at their pub, the Cropton Inn near Pickering.

If that wasn’t enough, look out for these firm favourites: you can’t buy these locally-made chocolatey treats on the premises, but they’re stocked in Ryedale’s many farm shops and delicatessens in Helmsley, Malton, Pickering, or Kirkbymoorside and are well-worth seeking out during your trip around the area:

  • Guppy’s Chocolate - one of the UK’s top artisan brands – has been handmade by the Guppy family in the village of Sheriff Hutton for almost 10 years. The luxury bars and bags are  made from the finest ingredients, in addition a portion of the proceeds go towards the Cocoa Horizon Foundation.
  • Wildlife-friendly distillery, Sloemotion make delicious gins and liquors from fruits foraged from local hedgerows, but if there are any sloes left over from the harvest, they’re steeped in gin, blended into a ganache and turned into award-winning rich, dark chocolate truffles.
  • Julia Medforth started making gins in her farm house kitchen nearly 15 years ago from local spring water and hand-picked ingredients, now her distillery Raisthorpe Manor is one of the top UK luxury brands, handcrafting award-winning gins and liquors for stores and restaurants nationwide, including 3 chocolate-flavoured vodka liqueurs – ‘wild’ chocolate, chocolate orange and mint chocolate.

If you’re tempted to book an Easter break or take a trip to Ryedale for a chocolatey day-out, visit www.visitryedale.co.uk.

Visitor information

Information about where to go and what to do in Ryedale is available at www.visitryedale.co.uk – part of the destination development initiative from Ryedale District Council.