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‘Offaly’ Good Ideas for Christmas

From festive events and Christmas markets to ‘Twixmas’ breaks, there’s a variety of experiences across Offaly for all the family to enjoythis Christmas.

Here are just some top ways to spend the season of joy in Offaly: 

Take in the festive cheer at the Christmas markets

There’s no doubt that visiting a market is one way to make the Christmas atmosphere come alive. Christmas markets are a great way to start the festivities, and to discover gift ideas.

There are a variety of Christmas markets to explore in and around Offaly this year, including a special indoor market taking place this Sunday, 3rd December in Clonfanlough Hall (N37 FH29), just an eight-minute drive from Clonmacnoise. There will be arts and crafts stalls, food stalls and entertainment between 3pm-6pm. 

On Wednesday, 6th and Thursday, 7th December, the County Arms in Birr are hosting a Christmas Winter Fair from 12-8pm. Organised by vintage jeweller, Wendy’s Way of Life, the Winter Fair will feature a wide selection of unique stand holders from all around the country including: antiques, vintage interior, arts and crafts, Christmas continental style floristry, designer jewellery and more! 

On Saturday, December 9th from 4pm to 9pm, the Ballycumber Christmas Market will take place in Gavin’s car park in the village. There are over 30 stalls confirmed for the market including baked goods, crafts, mulled wine, hot food and more. There will also be a live performance by St Manchan’s choir and the Ballycumber Christmas lights will be turned on at 8.30pm.

On Sunday, 10th December, Mount Briscoe Organic Farm is hosting a Christmas Food & Wild Wreath Fair from 10:30am. The fair will feature everything from festive hampers and foraged foods to gifts created with sustainable materials and processes.

And every Saturday until 16th December, from 11am-3pm, you can visit Edenderry’s Artisan Market and Food Fayre. Here, you’ll find a range of handmade items by crafters and artists, deliciously fresh baked goods and an assortment of local delights.  

Meet Santa Claus! 

It’s not truly Christmas without the kids meeting the main man himself, Santa Claus! Well, Santa will indeed be coming to town this Christmas! On Friday, 8th December, from 5pm-8:30pm, Santa will be making an appearance in St Joseph’s Community Centre, Kilcormac for the Christmas Fayre and Santa’s Grotto event. Enjoy a day filled with exciting activities and surprises, as well as a crafts and gift market.

Every weekend (Thursdays through to Sundays) until Sunday, 17th December, children can also meet Santy at SOLAS Eco Garden Centre in Portarlington, on the Laois-Offaly border. With a €10 pass, kids can visit Santa’s Grotto and meet Santa himself, meet the garden centre’s sheep, receive a small eco-friendly gift, post a letter to Santa, and have the options to include a family photobooth or to add a tasty treat and hot chocolate.

SOLAS are ringing in the festive season with a host of other on-site events too, including: Christmas night markets (Thursdays 4pm-9pm), Craft Markets (Sundays 11am-4pm), carol singing, a Christmas Shop and more. 

Let somebody else do the cooking!

Why not book a dining experience as a treat and to avoid worrying about the clean-up after? The Central Hotel is offering a great choice for those who want to take it easy around the Christmas season and let someone else cook. They have a two-course lunch offer for €21.95 per person, with mulled wine on arrival, tea or coffee, and mince pies. Or try their Christmas Afternoon Tea for only €13.95 per person, which includes a cup of soup; turkey, stuffing and cranberry finger sandwiches, mini scones, mini Christmas-themed treats, mince pies and Christmas cake.

Or, completely avoid the hassle of cooking a big dinner on Christmas Day – the Central Hotel is also offering pre-cooked dinners, ready to go in the oven and with heating instructions per dish. Call (057) 934 9300 or email for more details. Enjoy turkey and all the trimmings!

Relax on a ‘Twixmas break’

Speaking of hotels, a nice way to completely unwind during ‘Twixmas’ – the week between Christmas and New Year’s – is with a stay at one of Offaly’s fantastic accommodation options, many of which will be decorated beautifully for the festive season.

Sit back with a nightcap in front of a cosy fire in Kinnitty Castle Hotel, before taking in the fresh air and exploring the forest grounds and the surrounding Slieve Bloom Mountains the next morning. Or, experience a warm Irish welcome and authentic bed-and-breakfast experience at Ardmore Country House, also in Kinnitty.

Rejuvenate with a spa break at the Bridge House Hotel in Tullamore. The hotel’s lobby is always beautifully decorated around Christmas time. Or, visit the picturesque village of Shannonbridge and stay at Laurel Lodge Farmhouse. Explore the area’s historic treasures, including the Shannonbridge Fortifications, stroll along the River Shannon and end the day with a pint in Luker’s Bar!

From 4-star hotels and self-catering to intimate B&Bs, there’s a stay for everyone. For more accommodation options across Offaly, click here

Christmas outings

There are also plenty of fun attractions and activities for all the family that you can visit during Twixmas. To keep younger kids entertained, Playtown in Tullamore is a must-visit. At Playtown, the children explore their own miniature town complete with over 30 themes and can delve into two creative rooms called the I.C.E Rooms (Imagine. Create. Explore). Pre-booking is essential.

Open now until December 2023, join Birr Castle Demesne in their Copper Tree Gallery for an exhibition from artists including Birr native Tina Claffey. ‘The Peatlands’ is an immersive film imagined and curated by Charleen Hurtubise, involving various artists with a passion for our peatlands. The purpose of the project is to raise awareness of the importance of our peatlands, and to describe their stunning beauty through photography, video, soundscape and painting. Admission to the Experience is free, however general admission rates apply to those visiting the gardens and parklands of Birr Castle Demesne.

Michelle O’Donnell of Glasshammer Studios is hosting a glass-painting workshop in Lough Boora Discovery Park on Thursday, 14th December from 10am-1pm. Enjoy the relaxing process of painting, while also getting the opportunity to create a special handmade gift you can give to a loved one!   

A taste of Offaly – Christmas gifting

Along with there being a wide range of things to do in Offaly this Christmas, there are also many incredible options for gift-buying. Christmas is the perfect opportunity to buy local. This not only helps to support small Irish businesses, but you’re also guaranteed to discover unique treasures!  

For those who love thrilling experiences and something a little different, consider a voucher for sky-diving with the Irish Parachute Club in Clonbullogue Airfield.

Only if you dare! But the Irish Parachute Club has 56 years’ experience parachuting so you’re in good hands.  

Or give the gift of Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland (RHSI) membership. Founded in 1816, RHSI is Ireland’s leading gardening charity and membership gains you entry into partner gardens which includes the wonderful RHSI Bellefield, Shinrone, access to the RHSI Journal, e-Bulletins, Zoom talks, Garden visit and tours and much more.

From vouchers for cafés, restaurants and local stores, to homegrown cuisine and handmade crafts and jewellery gifts, there’s options across Offaly to suit all interests this Christmas.    

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