Things to do after Christmas day: Seasonal walks, swims and street festivals

There’s more to Christmas activities than the ‘12 Pubs’ crawl. Here are some things to do from Christmas Day to early January


Sea swimming

If you’re a year-round sea swimmer, there are plenty of opportunities to join in open sea swims (or dips) over the holidays. Most regular sea swimmers know where to go but if you’re holidaying in an area, it isn’t always obvious where the local swimmers take their dip in the freezing waters around our coastline. If regular swimmers aren’t in the water on the day, don’t go there.

In Cork, there are plenty of swims at scenic spots along the coast. There is a midday swim on Christmas Day on Garryvoe Beach (just off the road from Ladysbridge to Shanagarry).

Other midday swims in Cork on Christmas Day are on Ballycroneen Beach (a small rocky beach near the village of Cloyne) Robert’s Cove (near Minane Bridge, Carrigaline) and Myrtleville, near Crosshaven, (where swimming begins at 10am).

Sea swimmers will also swim in Kinsale from the marina to the slipway at 1.15pm on Christmas Day in aid of Kinsale Lions Club, and at Baltimore Pier at 12 noon in aid of the Baltimore Community Swimming Pool.

In Dublin, the Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club is hosting a Christmas Day swim at 12.30pm in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (

In Galway, Voices for Down Syndrome Galway speech and language therapy project has organised a charity sea swim on Christmas Day at 11am at Blackrock, Salthill. See or call 087-6448277.

In Sligo, there are annual sea swims on Mullaghmore Beach at noon on Christmas Day and at Rosses Point at noon on Christmas Day and at 1pm on New Year’s Day.

In Waterford, sea swimmers will swim from Guillamene Cove in Tramore Bay from 12 to 1pm on Christmas Day. There is also a sea swim at noon on Christmas Day at Kilmurrin Cove about 10km west of Tramore, Co Waterford. And, sea swimmers are also welcome between noon and 1pm on Clonea beach, Dungarvan, Co Waterford on Christmas Day.

In Wicklow, there are sea swims for charities on the South Beach in Greystones on Christmas Day at noon and in Bray on New Year’s Day at noon. See


Winter walking

Getting outdoors over the Christmas holidays can lower tensions as well as getting that essential physical exercise. Coastal walks and forest and mountain trails nearby are the best choice for shorter walks.

Check out for maps of walks or hikes throughout the country. Remember, if it’s more than a casual stroll and a bit of fresh air, you’ll need to wear warm layers of clothing and well-worn waterproof boots. It’s essential to bring a waterproof jacket and trousers, hat and gloves, water and hot drinks.


A Christmas four-hour walk on December 27th starts at the Brockagh Centre in Laragh at 9.30am and follows part of the Wicklow Way in the valley of Glendalough. The route passes the Lower Lake, rising towards Pollanass Waterfall into Lugduff Forest and then joins another trail that leads on to the Spinc and from there on to Lugduff Mountain. Cost €20.

If you’re an early bird and want to listen to the silence of the dawn on January 1st, join a sunrise walk, starting at the Brockagh Resource Centre in Laragh at 6.45am on New Year’s Day. The route goes through Ballard forest on to Trooperstown Hill for the sunrise, back down through Trooperstown Woods and along the Avonmore River with bus transport back to the Wicklow Heather Restaurant for breakfast at 9.30am/10am. Cost of €30 includes breakfast. Booking for both walks on 0404 45152; 087-2698659;

For those who prefer to walk later in the day, there are two full-moon walks on January 3rd starting at 6pm. One starts from the Clock Tower in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, and the other walk, to Muckross Lake in Co Kerry, starts at Molly Darcy’s. Both are organised by Hilltop Treks. Cost €25. Booking on 087 7849599 or


Setting out on New Year’s Day, at 10am, there is a moderately difficult four-to six-hour coastal hike in an area of Connemara known locally as Letter Hill. Over the following three days and each following Sunday in January, there are more strenuous hikes suitable for experienced hikers. These guided walks can be cancelled at short notice due to weather or inadequate numbers so it’s best to check in on


Boys The Wren Boys tradition, where people dress up in rags and wear masks or straw hats, pre-dates Christianity and is strongly linked to a similar tradition of the Mummers in Northern Ireland.

In pre-Christian times, birds were seen to be intermediaries between this world and the next but the wren’s reputation for treachery led to it being hunted and nailed to a pole at the head of the Wren Boys procession.

Nowadays, the processions are usually more good-humoured, if sometimes boisterous events and the tradition continues in a few strongholds around the country. These include Dingle, Co Kerry; Sandymount in Dublin; and Dunleer in Co Louth.

In Dunleer, the Wren Boys performances on December 26th are part of a wider effort to keep the tradition alive. In early December, there was a competition for boys to perform and dress up at the Féile an Dreoilín as part of Scoraiocht Lannleire. These boys will perform in their neighbourhoods on December 26th, while a group of adults also perform and sing in houses in the village. See

In Dingle, the Wren Boys draw huge crowds on to the streets to watch and partake in the street procession of musicians and performers on December 26th. See and

In Sandymount, the Wren Boys tradition on St Stephen’s Day is in its 30th year. Festivities begin with poetry readings and traditional music at 11am in Gus Ryan’s pub and continue on an outdoor stage at Sandymount Green from noon to 2pm.

Funds raised will go to the maternity hospital in Bethlehem run by the Knights of Malta.


On Ice

We may not have the below-freezing temperatures of some countries but that hasn’t stopped ice skating from becoming one of the most popular seasonal things to do with family and friends. And, many of the ice rinks remain open into January.


Cork on Ice This popular ice rink is back in the Mahon Point Shopping Centre for an extended run. Various times until January 26th – €15/€13 adults; €14/€12 children peak/off peak, 021-4217641;


Dundrum on Ice Now in its fifth year, the ice rink in the Dundrum Town Centre is an energetic alternative to shopping – €14/€12 adults; €13/€11 children peak/off peak until January 11th, 01-5242101;

I-Skate On Ice at the RDS

Part of what’s billed as Ireland’s biggest Christmas experience at the Winter Funderland, this rink draws big crowds to partake and watch, RDS, Simmonscourt, Ballsbridge, until January 11th – €15/€13 adults; €14/€12 children peak/offpeak. And, right beside the ice skating are all the funfair rides which are open from noon to 10pm during school holidays. Admission is €2 with rides priced individually,

Swords on Ice

Opposite the Wrights Cafe, behind the Pavilion Shopping Centre, this ice rink is back this year – €14/€12 adults; €13/€11 children peak/off peak until January 4th, 01-5242322;


Galway City On Ice on Dock Road runs until January 4th – €14/€12 adults; €13/€11 children peak/offpeak, 091-394504;


Dundalk on Ice is back again in Market Square but with a bigger ice rink. Until January 4th – €12 adults/ €10 children,


Now in its fifth year, this Kilkenny ice rink is renowned for its huge ice slide and bungee trampolines. The Hub at Cillin Hill, Carlow Road, Kilkenny. Until January 11th – €14 adults/ €12 children,


Waterford Winterval on Ice Part of a wider celebration of all things Christmas, this ice rink promises lots of thrills. Until January 5th – €14/€12 adults; €12/€10 children peak/offpeak,


New Year Festivities in Dublin

Dublin City Council and Fáilte Ireland have joined forces to draw people into the capital from December 30th to January 1st at all hours of the day or night. Check out the full programme on Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot.


The colourful digital displays on the front facade of Trinity College, the sides of Wolfe Tone Square and buildings in Dublin Castle certainly draw attention to these historic buildings. Luminosity works with audio-visual artists, AVTEK, to light up these and other historic buildings and statues from 5pm to midnight from December 30th to January 1st.

Dublin Castle Food Village

The upper yard of Dublin Castle will be filled with artisan food stalls from noon to 7pm from December 30th to January 1st. There will also be contemporary music and spoken-word performances.

New Year’s Eve People’s Procession of Light

Now an annual feature, this free family-friendly event encourages people to carry lanterns through the Dublin streets from St Stephens to Dublin Castle at 6.30pm/7pm on New Year’s Eve.

The 3 Countdown Concert

The Bank of Ireland on College Green will be transformed into a stunning stage for this wonderful concert countdown to the new year. The much anticipated headlining acts are Kodaline, James Vincent McMorrow, Dublin Legends, Walking On Cars and The Whereabouts. It costs €25.40, (over-18s only).

Meeting House Square New Year’s Eve Concert

New this year is a concert in Temple Bar headlined by Le Galaxie, whose DJ sound-system concept Laserdisco nights wowed audiences at Electric Picnic earlier this year. Also features a DJ set from Kelly Anne Byrne. From 9pm – €22.90 (over-18s only).

New Year’s Day Big Brunch in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar

This community event brings music, song and dance to the heart of Temple Bar. Time to hang those New Year’s resolutions on the resolution tree and join people of all ages in an optimistic start to 2015. There will be plenty of food stalls and children’s entertainment – 11am-5.30pm on January 1st.

New Year’s Eve Gala Concert at Christchurch Cathedral

The Dublin Gospel Choir will lead the singing, which is followed by a post-performance champagne reception before the countdown to midnight – Christchurch Cathedral, Dec 31st from 8.30pm. Cost €50

Spoken Word Festival

Threading through various cafes and outdoor spaces on December 30th and 31st is this lively literary feast. Featuring emerging talents in poetry and the spoken word alongside our best loved poets, debaters and provocateurs. It includes ‘Soundings – Holy Trinity’ with Dylan Haskins and Lisa Hannigan at City Assembly House; “food poetry” with Tom McCarthy at Dublin Woollen Mills; Leviathan with David McWilliams at the Button Factory; Lingo: Poets vs Rapper in Sweeny’s on Dame Lane; and the NYF Dublin Poetry Slam.

First Fortnight Festival

The aim is “challenging mental health prejudice through creative arts” and the programme from January 1st-14th is broad in its reach. Starting with ‘Trailblaze: Resolution’, a 90-minute conversation with people who have faced challenge and adversity in their lives, takes place in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, at 7pm on New Year’s Day. It continues through to ‘Stories from the Front’, personal stories of mental illness, at Liberty Hall on January 14th at 7pm. And lots of dance, discussion, visual arts, poetry and theatre in between. Check out the full programme on


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