Five of the best Christmas events for the whole family this winter
From meeting Santa in a magical Kilkenny woodland to ice-skating across the country
Magical Woodland Christmas at Castlecomer Discovery Park
Magical Woodland Christmas
The woodlands of Castlecomer Discovery Park in Co Kilkenny have been transformed into a magical, Christmas wonderland with giant igloos, dazzling adventure playgrounds and an elf village nestled in amongst the trees.
The adventure starts at the North Pole Station, where visitors board the Santa Express – led by a large, brightly-lit tractor – and brings us through a spectacular light display of Christmas trees, snowmen, elves and more.
Arriving at the Christmas Village, there’s loads of time to play and jump around on the giant bouncing nets or do some climbing and balancing at the junior adventure course. There’s also an arts and crafts area and a miniature village to explore with elf houses and tiny fairy doors.
At the Red Post Box, Mrs Claus meets visitors to bring to her special, warm igloo for a few funny stories about life with her mischievous elves, trying to get Santa to take some vitamins – and she has a few tips on the right food for children to leave out on Christmas Eve for the reindeers.
Two fathers are also plucked from the crowd for an amusing present-wrapping race, egged on by all the children.
Next up is a visit to Santa in his own lovely igloo with eye-popping piles of presents. Rather than any long queues, we all sit around on tree stumps, Santa calling the children in small groups, which all makes for a very, unrushed and calm experience.
Afterwards there’s hot chocolate – or mulled wine for the parents – while the children go back for more playing, which is always extra fun in the dark, under twinkling fairy lights.
Castlecomer Discovery Park, is a not-for-profit community enterprise and is about 90-minute drive from Dublin. If you fancy making a mini-break of it, stay at the cosy, family-friendly Lyrath Estate hotel, where there’s a super pool and spa, excellent food for children and - most importantly - cookies and milk at bedtime.
– Sorcha Hamilton
Make your way to one of the many ice rinks open across the country this weekend for some festive fun, beginning in Mullingar, where Winterfest welcomes visitors to try their hand at skating in the town park.
In Cork, Little Island and Mahon Shopping Centre both host rinks, while in Waterford, ice skating at the the annual Winterval festival is becoming somewhat of a tradition. Lace up at Galway Skates in Salthill or at Dundrum on Ice.
Visit iceskating.ie for more venues
Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa in West Cork celebrates 20 years this year, and to celebrate the hotel is launching a special experience for guests.
The Happiness Comes in Waves package includes a two-night break staying in a guestroom with its own private balcony, a glass of bubbles on arrival, a delicious West Cork seafood platter in Dunes Restaurant, and dinner on one evening in the Gulfstream Restaurant.
The getaway also includes a Thalassotherapy spa treatment in the Island Spa, and unlimited access to the Thalassotherapy pool and relaxation areas.
From €299 per person sharing, inchydoneyisland.com
Smartbox has launched in Ireland, a new way of gifting loved ones a break away or special experience.
Head to smartbox.com and choose from a selection of getaways, dining options, spa breaks and adventures from between €29 to €300.
The gift you choose will then be sent in one of their 18 decorative box to your chosen recipient, perfect for wrapping under the tree.
Visit smartbox.com/ie for more
Lough Erne Resort has created a special festive package celebrating the cult 1990s Home Alone movies.
Guests can live like Kevin McAllister for the day in the Enniskillen hotel, enjoying an in-suite trolley laden with bowls of Glastry Farm ice cream, a cheese pizza deliver to the room and a viewing of both Home Alone films in one of the resort’s Loughview suites.
They’ve even teamed up with Belleek Pottery to create a special Turtle Dove Christmas tree ornament. Stay any night between now and December 23rd and enjoy all these treats, B&B and access to the Infinity Pool at the Thai Spa starting from €298 per person sharing.
Visit lougherneresort.com for full details and pricing