A Guide to Visiting Ireland in December


If you are interested in having a Christmas get away somewhere or maybe take a vacation before the festive season then Ireland could just be for you. There are many things during December that you can experience in Ireland such as:

● Winterval in Waterford City

● Portmagee’s Traditional Old Year Festival

● Kildare Village

● Carlow Culinary Christmas Food and Drink Festival

● Visiting Western Northern Ireland

Visit Winterval in Waterford City

For a week on the run up to Christmas, Waterford city transforms into the centre of Christmas celebrations in Ireland. The week is known as a Winterval and is a must visit if you plan to come to Ireland in December.

The first day of the festival focuses on the turning on of Christmas lights. The event is hosted by some big names in Ireland and the atmosphere is ecstatic.  Prepare yourself for Christmas markets, ice rinks and Santa grotto’s during the week of festivities.

Waterford is an accessible city to get to. Like anywhere in Ireland, it is only a couple of hours drive away from anywhere else. There is a well-connected train station, where you can make journeys from Limerick, Cork and Dublin as well.  The train station is near the center of the city, just across the river that flows through Waterford. As for bus services there are numerous bus routes serviced by Bus Eireann. The Dublin Coach bus company also runs buses from Dublin to Waterford at very affordable prices. A bus route also runs to Cork city by that company.

While enjoying the Winterval festival there are other thing you can enjoy in the city if you interested in something non-Christmas related. The House of Waterford Crystal is a fun place to check out in Waterford city. Located at the Mall in the city centre, Waterford Crystal produces some of Ireland’s most famous crystal. The business has its origins in the 18th century and still produces some of its crystal at the Mall. With the factory tour (which is available Monday to Friday in December) you will get to see crystal created before your eyes. The procedure is fascinating and includes glass blowing and extremely precise craftsmanship.

Waterford is well known for its Viking roots. During Winterval you will easily be able to find out more about this aspect of Waterford’s history from several different sources. During the ninth and tenth centuries A.D. Vikings pillaged Ireland. Eventually they began to make permanent settlements in coastal areas. Waterford city was one of these settlements. Part of the city is still known as the Viking Triangle. It is called this because of walls dating back hundreds of years surrounding it. There are many sites and buildings in the area that have Norse and Anglo-Norman routes. The area also hosts the King of the Vikings Virtual Reality Experience. This activity is held inside a copy of a Viking house. There you can experience what Viking Waterford was like.

In all Waterford is a great spot to drop by to in December. Not only do you have the Winterval celebrations to enjoy, but you also have many cultural and historical places to visit.

Go to Portmagee’s Traditional Old Year Festival

In the small village of Portmagee every December 31st, probably the most interesting New Year’s Eve celebration in Ireland takes place. It has its origins in an incredible event that took place back in 1727. That year a couple of days after Christmas a vessel flying the French flag landed in the area. On the 31st of December the crew of the boat began to march up the village with torches in hands. They were parading around an old disheveled man who looked like he was on his last few breathes of life. They parade made a lot of noise, with a piper leading the pack. This drew the bewildered villagers out from their homes and onto the streets. The men marching made their way back to the pier. Suddenly a shot fired out and it’s sound echoed throughout the village. The old disheveled man laid on the ground as if he was now dead.

Moments later a different man emerged. He made his way back through the village with the boat men marching behind him and the piper again leading the way. This second man however was young and wore cleaner and more extravagant clothes.  This man spoke to the villagers and told them that the old man represented the old year and that he was no more. This new many represented the new year.

The tradition has continued to this day and the whole village gets involved. Instead of spending the New Year looking at fireworks in Dublin or have a few glasses of wine in Cork, this could be a far more memorable experience of ringing in the next twelve months.

Portmagee is right at the Western coast of county Kerry, just across the water from Valentia Island. There are many Bed and Breakfasts and other accommodation providers in the area, particularly a few minutes’ drive away in the town of Cahirciveen. You won’t regret visiting this amazing experience that is the Old Year Festival.

Buy some Christmas Gifts at Kildare Village

Kildare Village is a designer outlet about an hour’s drive from Dublin city. It offers some pretty good offers on high quality clothing and is also a delightful shopping experience. If you want to get some presents for yourself or others during the festive season then this could be a great place to stop by in December.

Kildare Village is part of The Bicester Village Shopping Collection Villages. These villages amount to nine in total, with the sole Irish one being in Kildare village. They are renowned for the shopping experiences that they provide. Some brands that have designated stores in Kildare Village include Armani, Lacoste and Levi’s.

The Village is right beside the M7 motorway, so you can fly down to it from Dublin or even directly from the airport. Additionally, the outlet is serviced by the Dublin Coach bus service. A bus leaves every half hour to Kildare village most of the day from Dublin city center. If you choose to return by Dublin Coach from Kildare Village then make sure to give yourself some time on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. This bus service proves very popular on weekends in December, due to the crowds of people who flock to Kildare on the lead up to Christmas. Dublin Coach also have buses going to and from Limerick city and Killarney in County Kerry. So, if you are in either of these places and want a shopping break then Kildare Village could be the answer.

Visit the Culinary Christmas Food and Drink Festival

For three days every December a Christmas themed food and drink festival takes place in Carlow town. There a numerous different events that occur over the course of the festival. Some of these include live food demonstrations hosted by famous Irish chefs. You will also have access to a spectacular food village where you can indulge in some local artisan food produce.

Workshops also take place at the festival. These are Christmas themed so you might pick up some festive cooking skills such as baking the perfect Christmas cupcake. There will also probably be masterclasses, cook offs and live entertainment. The event is usually hosted at Visual Carlow. Visual is a beautiful art space that has a 320 seat performance area. It is also Ireland’s largest art gallery. If you do have some time free around the festival and need a break from all the mouth-watering food on offer, then you can take a stroll and view some amazing art. The art on display is contemporary and comes from artists both based locally and internationally.

The space is also situated in the centre of Carlow town close to several accommodation providers. Carlow is less than a hour and thirty minute drive from Dublin. It also is linked to Dublin by a regular train service that takes about an hour to and from Hueston station in Dublin.

If you would like a trip away to somewhere near to Carlow town then Baglenstown is a good choice. This town is home to the Carlow Brewing Company, owned by the O’Hara family. The O’Hara’s have a very popular craft beer that is critically lauded. If you would like to see how craft beer is made, then this could be the place to go.

If you just want to check out something in Carlow town during the festival and don’t want to take a drive somewhere then the Carlow County Museum is a also great decision. Carlow town and county are areas steeped in history. And although it is the second smallest county in Ireland after Louth, it is not short on a fascinating pass.

Check out Western Northern Ireland

If you love car racing and want to do something different for the Christmas season then the Turkey Run Rally could be for you. It is hosted by Maiden City Motor Club and is one of the best road rallies’ in all of Northern Ireland. It’s a one day event that takes place between Christmas day and New Year’s Day every year.

It happens in Ballykelly Village in County Derry, Norther Ireland on the western side of the state. It draws in some of the best racers in all Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

A lot of places both North and South shut down around the Christmas and New Year period, however if the nearby Ulster American Folk Park is open then you should drop by. The park is only an hour drives south of Ballykelly and is also in western Northern Ireland. It gives you some amazing informative experiences where you will learn more about migration from Ulster to North American.

Although both Catholics and Protestants have massively emigrated from Ireland over the last number of centuries, Ulster is known for the specific periods when large amount of protestants (who a couple of generations before settled from mainly lowland Scotland to Ulster) went to North America is search of a better life. Unlike many Irish Catholics who migrated mainly to the North East of the United States to places like Boston and New York, Ulster Protestants or Ulster Scots as they are popularly know, migrated further south, particularly around the Appalachian mountains. Many people in Norther America who have Ulster Scot blood aren’t aware of this in comparison to Americans who have Irish Catholic ancestry.

If you are from central or southern eastern states and have a Scottish last name, then it would be worth your while checking out the park to learn more.

The park contains replicas of structures that were built in both North America and Ulster during the 18th and 19th century. These structures along with actors dressed colonial attire and a reconstructed ship will be used to teach you about the life of people in Ulster at the time. You will also be taught with these aides the reasons why thousands upon thousands left Ulster , how they made their journey over to states such as Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia and what life was like for them there.

If an hour’s drive is too far for you from Ballykelly then there is another interesting site you can go to that’s only about a 25 minute drive away. Musseden Temple stands high above the Atlanic ocean. Visiting it you will be greeted not only by spectacular view of the water stretching out to the horizon but also of the Downhill Strand beach below.

The temple was built in 1785 and was dedicated to Frideswide Mussenden. Frideswide was cousin of the Church of Ireland Lord Bishop of Derry at the time. The Lord Bishop once owned the lands where the temple is located. Originally the structure acted as a library and has increasingly moved closer and closer to the edge of the coast due to erosion over the centuries. If you are lucky with the weather around December then this site is definitely worth a visit.

All in all, the Turkey Run Rally in Ballykelly and some other attractions in Western Northern Ireland act as great little holiday destinations in and around the Christmas period in December.

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