12 getaways of Christmas
Santa Claus is coming to town so you may well wish to get out of it. Here are some options
A group tour of Salzburg in Austria, birthplace of Mozart and setting for The Sound of Music, also includes a visit to a ski resort and a concert
A Wales of a time
If you’re looking to take the kids away somewhere not too far, but still a world away, bag yourself a luxury lodge at Bluestone resort in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales. With spruce trees and log cabins, the resort is very festive looking at this time of year and has an adventure centre and water park. In December there’s a fair with roasted chestnuts and lantern-making and guests get free tickets to its Kingdom of the Elves, where the kids assist Santa’s little helpers in getting ready for Christmas. A seven-night stay, all inclusive, for a family of five costs from £1,553 (€1,830).
Lap it up
Push the boat out with an action-packed day trip to Santa’s Secret Grotto in Lapland, including rides in husky-drawn sleighs, snow-mobiles, sledging and mini-skidoos, before visiting Elf School, helping to decorate gingerbread cookies and, of course, meeting the boss. The daytrips take place on December 6th and 13th and cost €629 per adult and €549 per child, including flights, transfers, lunch and thermal clothing.
Much closer to home and far less costly is Santa’s Magical Trail to the Clanard Court Hotel in Athy, Co Kildare, where Mrs Claus is on hand to guide you through her home before you head off through the magical forest to see her famous hubby and his busy workshop, followed by a Magical Carriage ride and a Christmas farmyard visit. Stay for a sleepover and you get dinner with the elves, an evening of fun and games at the elves’ party den and a wind-down in front of a Christmas movie. Then it’s up with the lark to feed the animals. Priced €85 for adults and €49 for kids.
Waterford has a developed a real Christmas cracker with its Winterval Festival (November 29th-December 31st), when the city’s streets are transformed into something from Mitteleuropa with a traditional Christmas market, adult-sized snow globe to get your picture taken in, complete with snow, giant Christmas carousel and Winterval Illuminates, the 3D light and sound show. Whether you opt to take the Winterval Express train or the horse-drawn sleigh through town, make sure to get your skates on for Winterval on Ice. Faithlegg House Hotel has special Winterval rates from €109 per person sharing including breakfast and a Christmas dinner menu.
Fancy telling the turkey to get stuffed this year? Then let someone else do it, at the Westport Plaza in Mayo. Long lie-ins, late breakfasts and all the mince pies you can stomach, it’s about washing down libations not washing up dishes here. There’ll be live music and entertainment with Christmas movies and festive table quizzes plus an entirely optional Christmas day swim at Bertra Beach. Festive three-night breaks, beginning Christmas Eve, include breakfasts, bucks fizz brunch, afternoon tea and Christmas dinner from €435pps. For those who want a festive break on a budget, its sister hotel, the Castlecourt in Westport, is offering two nights’ B&B midweek for two plus a free bottle of wine when you dine, from €99 in December and January .
If what you really want this Christmas to be free from of all the usual traditions, then stow yourself away on Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas. Its seven-night Western Caribbean Cruise departs Florida on December 22nd, bound for Jamaica and Cozumel, with prices starting at €998 for an interior cabin. Sure there’ll be Christmas fare – all you can eat of it – but where else are you likely to spend St Stephen’s Day rock-climbing, flow-riding and sitting in a whirlpool cantilevered three metres out the side of a ship.
Maybe all you want for Christmas is your two front teeth, or maybe it’s two weeks on a sun lounger with nobody suggesting it might be time to make turkey curry. Clickandgo. com has 14 nights half-board at the four-star Barcelo Lanzarote Resort in Costa Teguise, departing lucky December 13th, returning just in time for the new year’s festivities. The hotel has swimming pools, tennis courts, spa services and a human-sized foosball table and costs from €775 per person sharing, including flights.
The Sound of Salzburg
What could be more atmospheric than the snowy streets of Salzburg at Christmas time? Explore them on your own, but in company, with Just You, a group tour which includes a walking tour of the city, famous for The Sound of Music, plus a visit to the picturesque ski resort of Kitzbühel and, on St Stephen’s Day, a concert of music by Mozart, the city’s other musical claim to fame. Optional extras include a tour of southern Bavaria, with all flights, own-room accommodation, guide service and drinks get-togethers included, £1,049 (€1,236) per person not sharing.
The Wow House Company is a holiday rental company specialising in stunning properties around the world, with cooks and housekeepers available for the full Downton effect. King John’s Castle in Wiltshire, 45 minutes from Bath, dates to 1080, has a ballroom, drawingroom, diningroom and library, and is the perfect spot for big gatherings, sleeping 13 people in serious luxury. Five-night stays over Christmas available from £10,000 (€ 11,788).
What better than a girls’ day of festive pampering to prepare for the onslaught of Christmas? Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa in west Cork is offering a “Spirit of Christmas Ritual” which includes a body exfoliation using diamond powder reinforced with mandarin oil, and a pampering body wrap which combines ass’s milk and Christmas spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Afterwards a complimentary glass of mulled wine and a homemade mince pie in the hotel lounge. Costs €99 from December 1st.
Woof it in Donegal
Want to get away for the holidays but don’t want to be in the doghouse with Fido as a result? Pets are welcome at Harvey’s Point Hotel in Lough Eske, Donegal, which is also offering non-doggy treats such as fireside sing-alongs, wine tastings and cookery demos – plus a dog show. Christmas packages include three nights’ accommodation with full Irish breakfast, two gourmet dinners plus Christmas Day lunch and supper from €695 per person sharing. A complimentary overnight stay on December 23rd with breakfast on Christmas Eve is part of the deal. No shortage of doggy bags here.
Pose in Morocco
Ditch Christmas altogether – and all the big dinners and cold weather it entails – with a surf, yoga and spa holiday in Morocco. Fly to Agadir and transfer to the four-star Paradis Plage Surf, Yoga & Spa hotel in Imi Ouddar for four nights, nurturing your mind, body and spirit, followed by three nights in the four-star Kenzi Farah Hotel, just 10 minutes from the old city in Marrakech, to stimulate your senses. The Santy-free package costs €1,169 per person sharing.