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Your own winter wonderland at home

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Docklands festival in Dublin. Photo: Dublin regional tourism authority

Docklands festival in Dublin. Photo: Dublin regional tourism authority

Docklands festival in Dublin. Photo: Dublin regional tourism authority

An afternoon out can be magical at a Christmas market or fair.

The centre of Belfast is transformed as City Hall is the imposing backdrop to the Continental Market, which runs until December 21. There's a wide range of crafts, decorations, food and beverages on offer from across Europe and beyond. www.discovernorthernireland.com

TAKE THE DART...

If you live in Dublin, it's not much of a strain to take the train. The seaside town's Christmas Craft and Food Market sees the Pavilion Quarter and Marine Road offering special gifts in chalets. There's a crib in St Michael's church, treasure hunts and shows in the Pavilion Theatre. Until January 1. www.dunlaoghaire.ie

OR GO WEST...

Eyre Square has been transformed once again as more than 50 traders from Ireland and around Europe are selling crafts, foods and other gift ideas. For grown-ups, there's a Bierkeller – with German beers and Oktoberfest activities. Until December 22. www.galwaychristmasmarket.ie

MEDIEVAL MAGIC...

The Medieval city of Waterford has gone all-out this year with its best Winterval festival yet. All the family will love the horsedrawn sleigh ride, can meet Santa in the 13th Century Medieval Museum, while gigs run each night until December 23 and then from December 27-31. www.winterval.ie

DON'T GO FAR...

If money's tight, or you're just feeling lazy, Dublin's Docklands area is currently setting up its market with over 80 traders. The 12 Days Of Christmas Market will feature include entertainment and exotic foods. www.ddda.ie

VISIT THE, AHEM, 'REAL' CAPITAL..

Whatever about the 'real' capital guff, the Leesiders sure know how to celebrate Christmas and there's a 30-metre ferris wheel and carousel. The Grand Parade will be a hub of activity with Irish and global crafts and food stalls. Until December 22. www.corkchristmascelebration.ie

GO WEST (AGAIN)

If you're out around Mayo this weekend, check out Westport's annual Spraoi na Nollag. It features real-life cattle in the crib, with cabins offering Christmas gift ideas, plus special discounts for shoppers from local retailers. Runs until next Sunday. www.westportmarket.ie. And if you're in the locality, the kids will love the pirate adventure park in Westport House. Walk around the grounds and refresh yourself in the tea rooms afterwards. www.westporthouse.ie

FANCY STAYING OVER?...

It's the first year of A Very Kilkenny Christmas, and the normally pricey city is offering good deals over the festive period up till Christmas Eve.

Scheduled activities include Kilkenny on Ice and a Christmas market at MacDonagh Junction; a Polar Express train that circuits the city; and family entertainment on Kilkenny's 'Polar Parade' .

The Pembroke Hotel is offering one night's B&B and one evening meal from €75pps; Hotel Kilkenny is doing the same plus one 30-minute spa treatment for €103; the Newpark Hotel has two nights; B&B with dinner on one evening (with the third night free) from €109; and the Lyrath Estate Hotel is offering two nights' B&B with one evening meal from €145.

Mention 'A very Kilkenny Christmas' when booking and receive a glass of festive mulled wine.

All offers are available to check out on www.averykilkennychristmas.com

If you want to treat yourself after the Christmas rush, Galway's four-star Hotel Meyrick is offering a pre-New Year's midweek break. Guests can enjoy a three night stay from the Saturday 28th-Monday 30th, with full Irish breakfast each morning and evening meal on one night from €289pp.

www.hotelmeyrick.ie

Way up north, Donegal's Harvey Point Hotel is staying open throughout the festive season, with deals from Wednesday through to Sunday afternoon until Christmas. It's got a midweek break with two nights' B&B from €69.50pps per night and a special weekend break which includes dinner from €99pps per night.

www.harveyspoint.ie

Christmas is a time for giving, and you could be helping a worthwhile cause if you take a break in Co Kerry.

The sister Brehon and Gleneagle Hotels in Killarney will donate €40 to the St Vincent de Paul in your locality if you book a room for €69 per night (Brehon) or €59 in The Gleneagle.

The offer is limited to 1000 room nights and is available across selected dates in both December and again in January. Visit www.thebrehon.com or www.gleneaglehotel.com.

It's already time to start thinking about getting out of the house after Christmas. The Leopardstown Christmas races are a traditional favourite, and Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Killiney is now taking bookings.

From €89pps guests will receive entry tickets to the races along with a free transfer to and from the racecourse. Guests will also enjoy overnight accommodation in a deluxe room along with a full Irish breakfast.

There will also be a competition running on race days with the most stylish lady leaving the Castle that morning awarded with a bottle of champagne which will be delivered to their room to enjoy upon her return.

www.fitzpatrickhotels.com


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