Kids are already counting down the days to the arrival of the big man in red. Excitement is in the air. Tomorrow, as the first day of December dawns, the festive season begins in earnest. Christmas lights are illuminating cities, towns and villages. Ireland is magical this time of year. From city chic with shopping, art, theatre and culture galore. To the market towns and villages that form the essence of rural living. Every destination has its own particular brand of enchanting appeal this month. December is a great time to grab a few days away.
In the coming weeks, you can choose to escape to peace and quiet before the big rush begins. Or decide to be completely looked after during the Christmas period itself. No cooking. No washing up. Just the pleasure of being waited on hand and foot. And the knowledge that every dining opportunity at this special time of year is going to be an unforgettable gourmet experience. From warm mince pies and mulled wine by the fire, to the grandeur of the Christmas Dinner and beyond, Good Food Ireland establishments get Christmas right in every mouthful. At New Year, ringing out the old and seeing in the new comes with cork popping razamatazz and a real Irish party feel!
Be dazzled by the bright lights in the north this festive season. Here’s a choice of stunning locations to show off Northern Ireland at its best this time of year. The region offers the tranquillity of the country, exciting discoveries on the Causeway Coastal Route, and for culture vultures, a brilliant array of things to do in and around the city of Belfast, accompanied by some serious gourmet therapy in our culinary accommodations.
Newforge House in Magheralin, Co. Armagh, is one of those unforgettable places. You’ll walk through the front door here and wish you never had to leave. Trust us. We’ve done it ourselves. At Christmas, this beautiful period family home and country house accommodation becomes a welcoming cocoon of festive bliss. If it snows, the gardens at Newforge are idyllic, picture postcard perfect.
This is just the place for a Dusk till Dawn Christmas Escape in the weeks before Christmas. This includes one night’s stay in one of the luxury bedrooms here, plus mulled wine or apple juice with mince pies by the fire on arrival, pre-dinner cocktails and a dinner of seasonal fresh local produce cooked by the super talented John Mathers, whose family have owned this house for several generations. Say goodnight with a delicious Nippy Sweetie Nightcap with chocolates, and look forward to a dreamy night’s sleep in your luxurious bedroom. Hurry through because dates are fast booking up. Check the Newforge website here for availability and prices.
The Bushmills Inn Hotel in Bushmills offers the perfect stop for visitors to the Causeway Coastal Route and Giant’s Causeway this month. A good time to visit, when roads are quieter and you get the place all to yourself! Stay in this time honoured historic inn, conveniently based for a tour of the amazing scenery of this area, plus a visit to the Bushmills Distillery. Expect a friendly welcome and seasonal home cooked fare in the Bushmills Inn Restaurant.
At Culloden Estate and Spa have your Christmas cake and eat it. A complete Christmas Getaway two day package will take you from the 24th to the 26th of December – with the choice to add on another night’s stay for Boxing Day if you wish. Check in from 3pm on Christmas Eve. Enjoy mulled wine and carol singing before a four course dinner, followed by a Christmas story from Mrs Claus, then a festive movie with popcorn, as Father Christmas prepares to make his rounds.
On Christmas morning, relax with a leisurely sumptuous breakfast in the Mitre Restaurant. If you’re feeling energetic, stroll the estate grounds after breakfast, taking in far reaching views of Belfast Lough. Or stray a little further in the area with the Culloden walking map, to work up your appetite for a delicious buffet Christmas Lunch of traditional foods and all the trimmings. Afterwards, retire to the lounge with a good book and a roaring fire. Maybe even enjoy a traditional Christmas afternoon snooze as the flames crackle. A Tapas buffet is served on Christmas night, with classic Christmas TV or board games to finish off a superb day. A good night’s sleep is followed by breakfast and departure on Boxing Day.
In sassy Belfast, an iconic hotel awaits. The Europa Hotel is perhaps Belfast’s most famous place to stay. It was once the home of the world’s top news journalists and media, during the height of the troubles. Today it is a fully international destination, which celebrates its colourful history with pride. New Year’s Eve will see a glamorous crowd gather for The Europa’s traditional Black Tie Gala Ball, with a Champagne reception, five course dinner, and live music, to dance the night away as the clock strikes midnight, with a DJ spinning the sounds and a Dolly Parton tribute act to take you through to the early hours. Ball tickets are available with optional accommodation at special rates, which include a hearty breakfast in the Causerie Restaurant on New Year’s Day. You’ll need one!
Belfast offers an exciting experience for tourists. In the run up to Christmas the city will be bedecked with twinkling lights. Sights include the not to be missed Titanic Belfast exhibition. Take a stroll around the grounds of Queen’s University, the Cathedral Quarter, or the beautifully restored Saint Malachy’s church. As well as browsing the many shops, galleries, restaurants and pubs of the city centre.
CHRISTMAS IN ROSCOMMON
Roscommon is a rural town surrounded by rich agricultural lands. Superb livestock farming in the midlands produces some of the best beef and lowland lamb in Ireland. Roscommon town centre is lively and buzzing, a traditional market town which caters for a thriving permanent population plus many visitors passing through. Slap bang in the middle of town, Eamon and Mary Gleeson wait to welcome you to their wonderful restored family home, now Gleeson’s Townhouse and Restaurant.
A traditional four course Christmas Feast will be served here from the 1st of December, and will be available throughout the month. Home cooking and baking is a speciality and local produce is always prioritised. Make the feast part of a two night stay at Gleeson’s, with special offer rates available on selected dates this month up until the 22nd of December. Check the link here for more information.
While you’re in town, don’t forget to explore Gleeson’s Artisan Food shop. This shop is packed with local and speciality produce and is certain to provide inspiration for Christmas gifts if you haven’t ticked off everyone on your list. Roscommon Castle and Roscommon County Museum are also worth checking out while you are there.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS IN CORK
The Rebel City comes into its own at Christmas. St Patrick’s Street lights glitter as darkness falls. There’s a lively buzz on the streets. Trad bars and pubs come to life. An impromptu session is bound to spring up somewhere or other! That’s Cork for you.
Going to a pantmime is a Christmas traditions for many families. There’ll be plenty of ‘he’s behind you!!’ moments in this year’s performance of Beauty and the Beast at Cork Opera House. A magical festive production of music, merriment, mayhem and mystery! Make the most of it with a Pantomime Package at the River Lee Hotel. From €180 per night on selected dates from the 11th of December to the 3rd of January, a family of two adults and two children can enjoy accommodation in a family room, with a family ticket to the panto, a €40 euro voucher to spend in the hotel’s Weir Bar or Restaurant, complimentary parking and use of NRG Leisure Centre on site, plus 20% off treatments in the hotel’s Vanilla Brown Spa. Great value beckons.
Hayfield Manor’s Ultimate Christmas break includes three festive days and nights of unadulterated luxury on the 24th, 25th and 26th of December, in a spacious Manor Room. The Hayfield Manor hotel team has already decked the halls of this five star hotel with holly, and decorated a magnificent Christmas tree in the lobby in preparation for the holidays. Walking distance from the city centre this is just the spot to lap up a bit of luxury during the main Christmas period.
Start with Afternoon Tea on Christmas Eve and an evening carol service with a local choir. Pre-dinner mulled wine is followed by dinner in Perrott’s Garden Bistro. Wake up on Christmas morning to the famous Hayfield breakfast. Champagne precedes traditional Christmas Lunch. Santa Claus will pop in with gifts for the younger guests. Open fires beckon for a cosy evening-in on Christmas night.
St Stephen’s Day features breakfast followed by a bit of practice with the vocal chords before the rousing sing-along in the Manor Bar. If you can knock out a tune, you’ll be rewarded with a hot whiskey or port afterwards! Enjoy a stunning four course meal in Perrott’s on your last evening at Hayfield.
Getting away between Christmas and New Year is also made easy. Getting away between Christmas and New Year is also made easier. Grab a Hayfield manor Merry Twixmas break. Two nights’ accommodation plus dinner on one evening and a choice between skating at Cork on Ice or sale shopping and lunch at Farmgate Cafe in the English Market on one day. There’s the option to extend your stay to include Hayfield’s New Year’s Eve Gala Ball – if you can’t bear to leave the city where the craic is mighty!