Saturday 24 February 2018

Ice-cold remedies: Get out and get active this weekend

You've stuffed yourself with turkey and the very last chocolate from the Roses tin has mysteriously vanished. So just what are you going to do to burn off all those extra calories? Áilín Quinlan rounds up the best activities from St Stephen's Day onwards to get you and all your family up and moving again

1. Skating

Cut a dash on one of Ireland's many ice rinks - whether you're a champion skater or a complete novice who's barely able to stay standing once you hit the slippy-slidey stuff, it's worth giving it a go. Dublin, Galway and Cork all have large rinks - and what better way to work off all those Christmas calories than shooting around the ice for an energetic 45 minutes or so?

Parents with smallies can avail of the popular Kiddy's Rinks - most ice-rinks have one. Depending when (peak or off-peak), where and how you book your sessions, expect to pay from about €12 upwards for adults and €11 for children, though this usually includes the cost of skates.

Sessions usually last for 45 to 50 minutes and are usually held on the hour. Don't forget to wear thick socks and some gloves - and remember, it's safer to skate whilst wearing a helmet.

Visit,, and /

2. running

The now hugely popular Fields of Athenry 10km road race will take place tomorrow (St Stephen's Day) from 11am. In recent years this Co Galway event has earned the reputation of being one of the country's leading road races - but remember, you have to be over the age of 18 on Christmas Day to enter the race and it costs €20.

The Fields of Athenry has sold out for the last few years - last year more than 1,100 people finished the event.

For more information visit

3. Horse-racing

What better way to blow away the cobwebs - and maybe win back some of that money you blew on all those Christmas pressies - than going to the races. It's the ideal way to socialise with family and friends in the enjoyable post-Christmas calm.

Christmas racing takes place at Leopardstown from tomorrow (Saturday) to Tuesday 29th and at Limerick Racecourse, which hosts the Shannon Airport Christmas Racing Festival, also from December 26th to 29th.

A not-to-be-missed traditional highlight of the Irish horse racing calendar (not to mention the social calendar), the annual Leopardstown Christmas Festival offers National Hunt racing at its best over four spectacular days.

Its famously seasonal flair always attracts celebrities and stars from across the music, sporting, corporate and political worlds, as well as racing fans from near and far.

The fun kicks off with Racing Post Day, continuing through with Paddy Power Day on 27th, the Lexus Chase Day on December 28th and Ryanair Day, Tuesday 29th.

Meanwhile Limerick's four-day event offers live racing action from 12:30pm each day, and some top-class racing.

Dates for your diary include Festive Most Stylish Ladies Day on Sunday 27th December and Family Fun Day on Tuesday 29th December which takes place in the Greenmount Grotto to include face-painting, party games and much more.

Children under 16 years will enjoy free admission to the races on all four days of the festival.

So get your race card ready…

4. Searching for 'the Wren'...

Every St Stephen's Day for the past 30 years, a wild and motley crew takes over the streets of a Co Cork village.

Numbering about 50, some members of the group are clad in eccentric straw ensembles and matching headgear, while others caper through Carrigaline's main street in bright costumes with their faces painted,

This year, the fun begins at around 11am when Carrigaline's main street is closed off to traffic and the local Wren Boys begin performing and dancing on a special Gig Rig.

They are traditionally watched by a very sizeable audience, many of whom actively participate in the fun.

Later in the day the Wren Boys visit local pubs and the hotel, collecting money for charity.

The Wren Boys tradition goes back centuries - in fact St Stephen's Day was also known as Lá an Dreoilín, or Day of the Wren. It is also marked in Dingle, Co Kerry and in Sandymount in Dublin.

Traditionally this innocuous little bird was ruthlessly hunted and killed because of its alleged treachery when it 'betrayed St Stephen' the first Christian martyr, by flapping its wings to attract his pursuers to his hiding place.

However, in Carrigaline, the little bird is perfectly safe.

The St Stephen's Day appearance of the Wren Boys - whose costumes are made by Carrigdhoun Comhaltas - is purely about family fun, ceol and craic, says local man Barry Cogan, who has been closely involved with the event for decades.

5. Hunting

This East Cork village is also the location of another hugely popular and extremely colourful St Stephen's Day tradition - the South Union Foxhounds hunt, which has been running in Carrigaline and the surrounding areas on December 26th now for more than 150 years.

Up to 100 people participate in the St Stephen's Day Hunt which begins, weather permitting, from the village bridge at 12 noon on St Stephen's Day.

Large crowds look on as The Master of the Hunt, The Huntsman and The Whip - clad in traditional pink hunting gear - chat with the remainder of the field, who wear black or navy hunt jackets.

The hunt lasts for up to three-and-a-half hours, after which many of the participants return to the village's well-known hostelry, Rosie's, for refreshments.

Locals estimate that every St Stephen's Day up to 2,000 people travel from all over Cork and even beyond to watch the gathering of The Hunt and the shenanigans of The Wren Boys.

6. Sing-a-long with Mary Poppins

Who better to enliven the anti-climactic mood that so often envelops us all on St Stephen's Day than the great lady herself - Mary Poppins.

Treat yourself and the kids to a fun afternoon out in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre for the multi-award winning hit musical, Mary Poppins, stage production adapted from the renowned PL Travers stories.

Sing along to old favourites like 'Jolly Holiday', 'Step in Time', 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' and 'Feed the Birds', as you enjoy a nostalgic re-telling of the renowned story about the arrival of the world's favourite nanny on picturesque Cherry Tree Lane.

You know you're in for a real treat - the story has been adapted by Oscar-winning screenwriter and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.

Tickets €25 to €68.

Visit or phone 01 6777999, Booking by phone - Ticketmaster telephone (24hrs a day): 0818 719 377

7. Riding the


And let's not forget the many thrilling attractions on offer at Dublin's Winter Funderland in the RDS.

Now celebrating 40 years at the RDS - for many families a trip to Funderland is an annual tradition - the Dublin attraction is one of the largest indoor events of its kind in Europe, with some of the best thrill rides and family attractions on offer anywhere on the continent.

With some 3.5 acres of attractions housed inside the Simmonscourt Pavilion - and many more located in the complex outside - Funderland this year presents an array of new rides, including Break Dance, Frisbee and Wave Swinger along with the Funderland Loop, Ireland's only looping roller coaster.

Funderland offers a Pay-One-Price (POP) Wristband option (adults and teens €28.95, children €21.50) that can be used for any 3 consecutive hours of your choice for unlimited rides - subject to the usual height and safety restrictions.

For more information visit

8. Digging out your

hiking boots...

If you don't fancy the St Stephen's day crowds at the many scheduled activities around the country, pull on your boots and wrap up warm for a brisk hike to walk off all the excesses of the festive season.

Whether it's around the Wicklow Mountains ( or bringing the kids on a fairy-hunt and winter picnic through an ancient West Cork forest, it's always good to get out and about.

Author of the best-selling To School Through the Fields, Alice Taylor is one of the guiding lights behind the Fairy Village now attracting large numbers of visitors to historic Dromkeen Woods outside the picturesque village of Innishannon.

Each of the 20 or so fairy 'dwellings' in the ancient wood - it dates from the 1700s - boasts its very own brightly-painted gothic front door tucked into the mossy bases of the trees… it's simply a matter of spotting them.

Afterwards, why not enjoy a simple family winter picnic of Christmas Day leftovers at the large flat table-stone at the centre of the fairy village.

9. Swimming

Of course, if you're in need of a post-Christmas wake-up - and feeling really courageous - why not try a quick dip in Dublin's most famous bathing spot, the Forty Foot, at Sandycove, a real Dublin institution immortalised by James Joyce.

Although if you do dare to brave those icy waves, it's always a good idea to have some flasks of hot chocolate or coffee, and a stack of thick sarnies on standby for when you stagger, wet and freezing, out of the waves and into the icy winter gale to start stripping off your togs… Co/Dublin/40_foot.html

Irish Independent

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