Discover a Landscape of Winter Wonder

With winter's chill upon us, shorter days and long dark evenings are brightened with seasonal cheer. Gardens glow in the gloaming, tombs light up to mark the solstice, highly-decorated historic houses and cosy Christmas markets beckon. Plan a visit at this special time, and experience the festive magic of Ireland’s Ancient East for yourself...
Visitors at Yulefest Kilkenny
Butler House Christmas Garden
Left: Visitors at Yulefest Kilkenny | Right: Butler House Christmas Garden

Yulefest | Kilkenny

Celebrate the season at Yulefest Kilkenny, a curated and inclusive Christmas festival that invites all to enjoy and participate in fun and festive events. Yulefest Kilkenny is also putting a spotlight on sustainability this year; working in collaboration with social enterprise ReCreate Ireland and four-time Oscar® nominated Kilkenny-based animation company Cartoon Saloon, selected shop fronts in Kilkenny have been transformed into magical storyboards through the use of recycled materials.

From the Victorian carousel, ice skating rink and Santa’s Grotto to festive workshops and shopping galore; from castle parklands and seasonal dining to concerts, theatre and open air music; a wide range of delights await. For a full listing, visit the official Yulefest Kilkenny website  here's a few highlights to get you started...

Butler House Christmas Garden

Dec 2-23

The gorgeous grounds of Butler House in Kilkenny City are transformed at dusk as light installations illuminate their wonderful Butler House Christmas Garden. Children will love the reindeer, toy soldiers and frosty pond, not to mention the new Butler House Express miniature train! There will be a chance to take an 'Elfie' with friends in Santa’s sleigh, or meet the big man himself in his outdoor grotto. A walk through the Glittering Trees leads to a special Christmas Post Office, where little ones can send their letters direct to the North Pole (via a magic post box of course). For gift browsing and buying, the Christmas Craft Fair is also open every Saturday and Sunday between 12 and 6 pm with loads of lovely unique gift ideas to choose from – including jewellery, fashion, art and more.

Kilkenny Christmas Tree Festival

Dec 5-10

Some 120 trees of all shapes and sizes will fill St Canice's Cathedral, each one a unique work of art. Local schools, businesses and organisations all show off their creativity alongside imaginative individuals, and the results are a sight to behold. Light refreshments will be available, and a stall selling seasonal goodies will provide scope for extra treats at this annual event. As part of the festival, you can get hands-on with workshops and gingerbread decorating – or tour the belfry, a fantastic opportunity to see this 'hidden' space which is usually not part of the visitor’s experience to this Medieval Mile landmark.

A Magical Woodland Christmas

Dec 7-23

Embark on an enchanting adventure to visit Santa Claus at Castlecomer Discovery Park. Depart from North Pole Station and take a train ride through twinkling enchanted woodlands on board the Santa Express. Explore the Christmas Village, make your own tree decoration in the arts and crafts area or sit back and warm your hands with a steaming mug of hot chocolate from the Canopy Café. Children can burn off excess holiday energy in the elf and fairy village, where imaginative playgrounds feature bouncing nets and a Junior Woodland Adventure Course.
The carousel at Winterval
Posting a letter to the North Pole at Butler House Christmas Garden
Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens light Show
Left: Santa greets the crowds at Winterval | Middle: Posting a letter to the North Pole at Butler House Christmas Garden | Right: The Enchanted Garden illuminated

Winter Solstice at Newgrange | Meath

Dec 21

Each December in County Meath, the Newgrange passage tomb in the fertile Boyne River valley becomes a place of legend and mystery. Crowds gather to witness a very special event – the illumination of its passage and chamber by the chill winter solstice sun. Fickle weather permitting, at dawn shafts of sunlight appear through a specially-designed roof box, dramatically lighting the rear of the chamber.

Access to the chamber of Newgrange – part of the Brú na Bóinne world heritage site – is decided by a lottery which has already taken place (with an astounding 30,500 entries for Solstice 2019!), but don’t worry: there’s plenty of fun and a magical atmosphere to be found within the crowds that stand outside the monument.

Winterval | Waterford

Fri to Sun from Nov 23  |  Daily from Dec 18-23

Winterval in Waterford City offers a big bundle of Christmas spirit, all wrapped up in a bright shiny bow. As the month-long event illuminates the Viking city with light shows in Cathedral Square and a slew of happenings, take it all in on the horse-drawn Winterval Sleigh; aboard the Winterval Express Train; or on high from The Waterford Eye.

2019 will see Santa’s Grotto returning to the enchanting 750-year-old Choristers Hall and Undercroft, located at Waterford Medieval Museum. Ireland's Christmas Capital also provides a hub of cafés, bars, restaurants, shops and markets where revellers can browse, warm themselves with delicious festive food and drink and enjoy live performances. Some events run on non-Winterval dates (and beyond December 23rd, until January 5th) – check the Winterval website for full details when planning your visit. 

The Enchanted Garden | Waterford

Dec 6–Jan 5

Just up the road from Winterval, The Enchanted Garden Winter Light Festival at Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens – Ireland's bridge to Japan in Tramore, County Waterford – comes to life in December to dazzle with its spectacular illuminations each evening. It's an unmissable event for families who enjoy a touch of outdoor magic, and anyone that appreciates a garden walk with a difference – whet your appetite by watching a video of the spectacle. Visit the Fairy Dome, and enjoy a glass of mulled wine or hot chocolate to warm up this winter wonderland experience.

Shoppers enjoying the Christmas Market
Yulefest Kilkenny at Kilkenny Design Centre
Meeting a friendly snowman at GLOW
Left: Shoppers enjoying a busy Christmas Market | Middle: Yulefest at Kilkenny Design Centre | Right: Meeting a friendly snowman at GLOW

Lullymore Christmas | Kildare

Nov 30–Dec 23

Lullymore Heritage & Discovery Park in Kildare brings you its 14th annual traditional Lullymore Christmas – a special experience for both young and old. Take a magical trip on the 'Christmas Express' road train through ancient woodlands and watch the beautiful peatland surroundings unfold. The old-style thatched cottage and magical Fairy Bower have seasonal surprises in store – and donkeys, goats and miniature horses will be in paddocks beside the centre. Top off your day by meeting Santa and his merry band of elves!

Wonderlights | Kildare

Dec 27–Jan 4

Another treat can be found in County Kildare at Palmerstown House Estate in Johnstown with the enchanting Wonderlights. Immerse yourself in a night walk experience for all the family, with twinkling, glowing and glittering surprises around every corner. Ireland’s first-ever multi sensory outdoor trail, Wonderlights captures the imagination and transports you into a world of wonderment.

Deer in the woodland at Wonderlights
On a carousel at GLOW in Cork
Left: A deer in the woodland at Wonderlights | Right: On a carousel at GLOW in Cork

Wicklow Christmas Market | Wicklow

Nov 23rd, 24th, 30th  |  Dec 1st, 7th, 8th, 14th & 15th

Set in the magical and historical Abbey Grounds in Wicklow Town, the Wicklow Christmas Market is bursting at the seams with local artisan foods, decorations, gifts and workshops. An abundance of fun and sparkly activities quickly get you and your family in the Christmas mood – for an extra touch of excitement, plenty of music and entertainment is on offer, along with a festive family funfair. Young and old can also enjoy a magical journey on the Santa Express to Santa's Wonderland, and a wooly, wonderful Alpaca Experience!

Winterland | Wexford

Nov 24–Jan 5

The Wexford Winterland Festival brings the magic of Christmas to Wexford Town with an action-packed programme of events which includes The Winterland Parade and The Christmas Express. Get the complete experience with a wander through The Enchanted Forest and a visit to The Elves' Village, The Workshop and Santa’s Reindeer Stables – before meeting Santa himself. Get your skates on at Wexford on Ice (with stability aids on hand for less steady or novice skaters). With dedicated sensory friendly sessions available at Wexford on Ice and Santa’s North Pole Experience – along with wheelchair family skate sessions – there really is something for everyone at Wexford Winterland.

GLOW | Cork

Fri to Sun Nov 29-Dec 1  |  Fri to Sun Dec 6-8  |  Fri to Sun Dec 13-15  |  Fri to Sun Dec 20-22

Holiday spirit abounds as GLOW - A Cork Christmas Celebration, returns to the Grand Parade in Cork. Soar high above the city on the giant Ferris Wheel and gaze down upon the lights all a-twinkle below – and that's just one of the many seasonal treats on offer. Walk through Bishop Lucey Park, magically lit and transformed into the National Elf Test Centre, where aspiring elves must pass thorough tests to be part of the Christmas team; sip a mug of mulled wine and sample handmade treats as you browse the Christmas Food Markets. If all of that doesn't put you in a festive mood, the live entertainment definitely will.


For more attractions and activities
 check out the See & Do section