Last-minute Christmas gifts: Conor Pope’s ultimate guide
From Andy Warhol socks to skydiving and Exploding Kittens: 37 ideas for every budget
Last-minute Christmas shopping. Photograph: iStock/Getty
The gloves Among the most traditional of Christmas gifts, but what we like about Dents Aviemore touch-screen gloves is – you guessed it – their touch-screeniness. The company is supertraditional, which make us more impressed with the way they have brought their heritage into the 21st century. Apparently, the leather is especially smooth, as the sheep it comes from grow hair, not wool. You should be able to pick up a pair at Arnotts for €70. And you can tell the person you’re giving them to all about the hairy sheep.
The wallet A couple of years ago the Secrid was a bit of a secret, available only from Avoca and a few other shops. But the credit-card-sized wallets, with their nifty way to store loads of plastic and some cash, are now in retailers across the country, and will make for a present that its recipient will almost certainly use. Arnotts has a big range, with prices starting at about €30 and ending, for a twin version, at more than €100.
The socks Socks are generally up there with Old Spice gift sets, talcum powder and petrol-station car fresheners as the worst Christmas presents, but here are two exceptions. Avoca’s alphabet socks are supercute, and if you buy two pairs you should be able to get the recipient’s initials for a total of €27.90. The initials should make them harder for other family members to steal. We are also fans of the Swedish Happy Socks people. Arnotts is selling a festive four-pack for €30 – or you could get a four-pack of Andy Warhol-themed Happy Socks for €45. Which is a lot to spend on four pairs of socks when you could get them at Penneys for less than €5 – but would those socks be happy?
The booze You can’t go wrong with a bottle of whiskey. But not all are created equal. We came across a very fancy-looking collaboration between the people at Ashford Castle and the master distiller of Midleton Very Rare a couple of weeks ago. A Signature Set – a single bottle with two handmade Ashford Castle Waterford Crystal tumblers, in a wooden box – costs €2,600. If that seems wildly excessive – which, let’s face it, it is – there’s a new kid on the block in the shape of the Sexton, a whiskey matured in oloroso sherry casks. We love the oddly shaped bottle and the fact that it is the brainchild of Alex Thomas, one of the world’s few women whiskey blenders. A bottle will cost you €45 at the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin.
The camera Now so many of us have a high-end digital camera on us all the time, and the ability to tweak photographs like a pro while sitting on a bus stuck in traffic, it is hard to stand out. The Polaroid OneStep+ camera definitely stands out. It is both retro and functional, and although the pictures might not be amazing – and, once they are taken, they are taken and can’t be edited – they are at least real. This camera will also look pretty funky on a shelf when it is not in use – which is more than can be said for your Instagram account. Argos sells it for €189.99.
The tracker Activity trackers have long been the Christmas present du jour, and it’s easy to see why: they make it more likely that you will take that extra step, and they have gamified fitness. Fitbits are the leaders of the pack; the Charge 3 costs €139 in black at Harvey Norman and a whole lot of other shops. There are all sorts of other funky colours and models, but you’ll not go far wrong with this.
The bracelet Looking for a present for your mammy? Alex and Ani have you covered with their Because I Love You Mom bracelets, which cost ¤38 at Arnotts. They also have a Because I Love You Sister, but we’re not sure that works quite as well.
The candle You can’t beat an auld candle at Christmas. We like the Candella range, which cost about €26.50 at Arnotts, the Irish Design Shop, Moo Market, in Stoneybatter, and the Chic Boutique, in Listowel, Co Kerry. Its website has a full list of stockists. We are also fond of Max Benjamin, which is selling all manner of lovely-smelling things in shops around the country for €24.95.
The glitter The Chupi jewellery shop in the Powerscourt Centre in Dublin is full of beautiful and beautifully thoughtful gifts. You could get a Worth Your Weight in Gold farthing coin necklace for €149. It is uniquely Irish and uniquely lovely. We also like the look of its gold initial-stamped necklaces, which vary in price depending on the number of discs included. A single disc with a birthstone costs €119.
The slippers Another Christmas perennial, but you could step it up a notch by going for Ugg slippers. The Scuffette looks pretty top of the range for the woman in your life, and although the €100 price tag means they’re not cheap, they should last for quite a while. There are also Ugg slippers for children (a lot less than €100) and for men (a bit more than €100).
The other bracelet Pandora has pretty much cornered the market with its sturdy, shiny and widely available charms and bracelets. A classic silver snake chain bracelet costs €59. We like the look of the Santa in Space charm, which you can add to it for €45.
The discounter There’s a lot to be said for a mad dash to the Aldi or Lidl middle aisles, in search of a present that looks more expensive than it is. The special buys at Lidl from tomorrow include heated back and feet massagers for between €30 and €40. Our eye was also caught by the old-school Topmove shopping trolley – the kind your granny might pull – for €35. Be careful who you give this to, as a light-hearted present might be taken with less than Christmas spirit.Aldi has cosy-looking sleeved blankets for €18.99, plush slipper boots for €7.99 and, er, quilted dog coats, also for €7.99.
If you’re really running out of time and can’t make it to a shop to buy an incredibly thoughtful present, and you don’t want to give a voucher, buy your loved one an experience instead. But follow three golden rules:
First, buy for the person who is getting the gift, not yourself – you don’t want to do a Homer Simpson and buy a bowling ball for someone who has never bowled;
Second, package the gift nicely. Never hand someone dull, boring envelope even if it contains a plane ticket. Instead buy a model plane – or buy a Big Ben jigsaw if you’re taking someone to London for a weekend, or blow up a few balloons if you’ve bought them a hot-air-balloon ride. It’s pretty effortless – and way more impressive;
And, third, ensure the gift happens, even if that means making it happen yourself. Buying someone an experience they never experience is worse than useless.
Extremesports.ie has a tandem-skydive experience for €280, a surfing lesson in Co Donegal for €35, tank driving in Co Wicklow for €179 and footgolf in Co Mayo for €24, plus kayaking, cliff climbing and all the rest.
We also like the look of Irish Country Quads, in Co Monaghan. It has quad biking, obviously, but also clay-pigeon shooting, archery and, weirdly, shuffleboarding, from €50 to €80 per person for combination deals.
Balloons.ie is selling hot-air-balloon vouchers all the way through the festive season. Its champagne flights take place from locations around Ireland, and its vouchers are valid for two flying seasons – scheduled flights run from April to September each year. A VIP package covers two passengers on their own – with a pilot, thankfully – plus champagne and chocolates. The price is pretty hefty, with a weekday sunrise trip costing €975 per couple. Weekday vouchers with no champagne or chocolate, leaving from Trim, in Co Meath, cost €149 for one person; the price for a couple falls very slightly, to €145 each.
There is also Delphi adventure resort, just outside Leenane, in Co Galway. When we looked it had two nights’ bed and breakfast with a three-course evening meal, €50 activities credit, and use of the thermal suite for €339 for two. Alternatively, a full day of adventure for two adults, without accommodation, costs €179. That covers everything from kayaking to coasteering, archery to zip lining.
Pure Magic in Dublin has a three-hour kitesurfing lesson on Dollymount Strand for €130, plus a two-hour stand-up paddleboarding lesson for €45. It supplies all the kit, and wetsuits are now so good you can take a lesson in the dead of winter without dying of hypothermia.
It you want something less strenuous, then spas.ie has all sorts of offers – or even just ideas – for treatments around the country.
And if you want something boozy, with the tiniest stretch of the legs thrown in, we can recommend a tasting tour of the Bushmills distillery, in Northern Ireland. Rather than just give someone a voucher for a tour, which costs about €10, you could throw in a night at the lovely Bushmills Inn, and a trip to the Giant’s Causeway, which is also lovely, as long as you haven’t just driven four hours to see it, in which case it can be underwhelming.
A trip away can be a brilliant present. Aer Lingus’s European sale has prices from €29.99, for flights before the end of February. Combine the airfare with a good-value Airbnb and you could get someone a memorable present for a couple of hundred euro. And you get to go, too.
Exploding Kittens The most important thing you should know about Exploding Kittens is that no kittens are harmed in the playing of the game. It’s a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions, and laser beams, and maybe goats. Think of it as a highly strategic, kitty-powered version of Russian roulette – one that can be all be done and dusted in 20 minutes. The wonderful Cogs the Brain Shop, in the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre in Dublin, sells it for €26.95. The game is suitable for over-sevens.
Monopoly Dublin Edition Okay, so some of the squares are occupied by the oddest of businesses, but Monopoly is still Monopoly, and the new Dublin version will be good for a bit of family-centred crack this Christmas. Expect to pay between €30 and €35.
30 Seconds This is an Irish quick-thinking, fast-talking board game suitable for any group, party or family, big or small. It’s easy to play and has broad appeal: players have to give hints to their team mate so they can guess the five names on the card in – wait for it – 30 seconds. If you like Articulate you’ll love this. It is selling at Smyths, among other places, for €25.
Nintendo Classic Mini The Super Nintendo Entertainment System – a gift for parents as much as for children – harks back to the early 1990s with 21 old-school games, including Super Mario World, Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda. We like that it’s entirely offline and easy to set up and play. It’s available everywhere from Smyths to DID Electrical to Brown Thomas. At Smyths it costs €59.
Curiscope Virtuali-Tee Not every T-shirt promises a guided tour of the inside of the body, but that’s what this one we found selling in the Brown Thomas Marvel Room does. It’s a regular T-shirt that comes to life when paired with a smartphone app, allowing the wearer to virtually dissect their own organs. What’s not to love about that? It costs about €35, and it’s both fascinating and gross.