Five reasons why Westport's Winter Wonderland is a must-see this Christmas
Garry Toal takes his family to Westport for a taste of Christmas and a stay at the Wyatt Hotel.
1. An authentic Christmas experience
Westport House is a more fitting abode for jolly old Saint Nick than the plastic pop-up grottoes erected in shopping centres up and down the country.
Set in the historic, 18th century pile, there’s a real sense of authenticity to the experience that ties in nicely with the age-old story of Father Christmas.
Logs glow and crackle in the cosy open fire as Mrs Claus reads Christmas stories to spellbound children, and the smell of pine needles from the giant Christmas trees fills the air.
An army of cheerful elves are on hand to help with everything from decorating your gingerbread man to serving up tasty treats of delicious mulled wine to parents and juice to thirsty children. Our kids loved it.
2. A fun-filled day for all the family
Your average visit to Santa can leave you feeling somewhat underwhelmed - all too often it’s over in the blink of an eye, which is disappointing for the kids.
This is where Westport Winter Wonderland really stands out from the crowd, with a jammed packed list of activities like storytime with Mrs Claus, musical statues with the elves, face painting and much more.
It can easily take over four hours to cover everything - the only part of the experience a time slot is allocated for is the visit to Santa’s grotto, which makes sense.
My advice? Get there early and really soak up the atmosphere.
3. Get creative with a memento of your visit
A trip to the elves’ workshop helps bring out that spark of creativity in both children and parents. Here, you can decorate their own gingerbread man, a delicious snack to help fuel all the fun and games. Or, under the watchful gaze of Santa’s Chief Elf, create your own yule log to take home as a memento of your visit.
4. A magical visit to Santa’s grotto
Of course the highlight of every child’s visit is the Big Man himself.
The children spread out on the floor, eagle-eyed, at the feet of Santa Claus. Each child is warmly greeted with a handshake; he then proceeds to go through their Christmas wishes, and most importantly whether they are on his naughty or nice list.
We were impressed at Santa's his level of engagement with the awestruck children. He knows all about each child - whether they're into Toy Story or Peppa Pig, sport or books, and even remembers what he brought them last year.
Finally, each family gets to sit alongside Santa and have their photo taken to make sure you will always remember the visit.
5. Ride the Santa Express
The Westport House miniature railway has been transformed into the Santa Express. A lap of the lake allows you to take in some great views of the House and surrounding grounds, and is the perfect way to end your visit. Wrap up warm though - as the train carriages are open and the last thing you want is to catch a chill.
Where to stay
There are plenty of hotels and B&Bs in Westport, but the 4-star Wyatt is situated in the very centre of Westport, with easy access to the grounds for a scenic 15 minute walk to Westport House.
The Wyatt has a number of special Santa & Stay offers starting from €150 for a family of four, all of which include a family pass to Winter Wonderland at Westport House.
For more information visit wyatthotel.com.
The Winter Wonderland experience at Westport House (westporthouse.ie) costs €25pp for children aged 2 and up, with a small gift included. Adults cost €10pp.