Searching for seasonal atmosphere and a chance to pick up unique gifts? These are the Christmas markets worth visiting this December …
There’s nothing like browsing a Christmas market to spark that festive feeling. However, it’s hard to know which ones are really worth it. Often, heading off piste to lesser known venues and country estates yields many rewards. These include avoiding crowds, enjoying some fresh, country air and sipping on a glass of mulled wine as you peruse the tempting gifts or sample some of the local food items.
Christmas Markets run every Saturday and Sunday at KILLRUDDERY, Bray, Co Wicklow (including December 22 and 23). Pick up a coffee in the Dairy Yard before browsing craft, clothing, wellbeing and vintage items from Irish brands such as Saille baskets, McNutts of Donegal, Herb Dublin and Sugarloaf Botanics. Why not order one of the estate’s posh hampers? The Killruddery Breakfast Hamper, €39, includes Brabazon blend coffee, McCabes Irish Breakfast Tea, Olly’s Farm Killruddery honey, preserves and apple juice. Treat yourself to brunch in The Grain Store where a garden-to-plate menu, created by head chef Niall O’Sullivan, is inspired by the produce grown and reared in Killruddery. www.killruddery.com.
From Christmas puddings to sauces and accompaniments such as brandy butter, ham glaze and its popular salad dressings, KYLEMORE ABBEY, Connemara, Co Galway is an under-the-radar venue for some festive shopping and traditional events. Two items to buy include the Kylemore Abbey x Foxford throw in pastel shades symbolising the serenity of the estate and its warm welcome and Kylemore Abbey Country Cream, a wine-based cream liqueur ideal for serving with dessert. In keeping with Victorian traditions, the beautifully decorated neo-Gothic church hosts regular history tours and choral music each Saturday with writer and singer Eileen Keane. Young visitors can post letters to Santa courtesy of the Kylemore Robin, while each Sunday chef John O’Toole prepares a traditional roast for guests to enjoy. www.kylemoreabbey.com.
The 18th-century Georgian gem that is RUSSBOROUGH HOUSE, Co Wicklow is the backdrop for a series of special festive events. There’s a table styling workshop and pop-up shop on December 3 with local florist The Tangled Bramble. On December 9 and 18, visitors can enjoy a special three-course Christmas lunch (from 12.30pm, tickets cost €35 per person) and in the evening Michael James Ford, Sinéad Murphy and Kyle Hixon perform Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. An essential part of any visit is browsing the House’s fine art collection, and its new gift shop. A GLOSS team favourite, the shop offers something for everyone, from kimonos and cushions to candles to baskets, and items are available online. www.shop.russborough.ie.
Formerly the home of Eric Clapton, BARBERSTOWN CASTLE, Co Kildare has been welcoming guests for over 700 years. Its Christmas Craft Fair is on Sunday, December 11 from 11am – 5pm and features festive crafts and gifts, seasonal food, drinks, entertainment, and a Santa’s grotto. To complete a Christmas shopping excursion, combine with a visit to nearby Newbridge Silverware or Kildare Village. www.barberstowncastle.ie.
If heading north, a stop-off at HILLSBOROUGH CASTLE, Co Down is recommended. Its posh coffee shop (with foodie gifts) is beside the Castle shop which stocks a range of items perfect for The Crown-obsessed, from books to dainty tea sets. The garden shop is a new addition, where plants and wreaths are popular items. If time permits, take in the special light installation spanning most of the Castle’s 100 acres of gardens, transformed into a choreographed colour-changing avenue of trees. Other events include a grand Twelfth Night ball (stay in the new hotel in the village – Arthur’s), or take a tour of the house during which children can learn about the origins of some longstanding Christmas traditions, parlour games in the Drawing Room and find out what presents the original owners (the Hill family) tucked under their tree. www.hrp.org.uk.
Intel suggests avoiding the main Christmas market in Belfast city centre in the grounds of the City Hall. Instead, visit ST GEORGE’S MARKET, one of Belfast’s oldest and most colourful attractions. It’s always excellent for local foods (soda farls, Suki Tea, Broughgammon goat’s meat), and there are plenty of interesting antiques and collectibles stalls, as well as artworks and jewellery. The bonus: an upbeat backdrop of live music from local bands. www.visitbelfast.com.
At Christmas the gardens at MOUNT STEWART, Co Down come alive with festive events which include craft workshops, and a special garden trail. Its National Trust gift shop never disappoints. Afterwards, visit the village of Greyabbey, making a beeline for The Courtyard – home to eight antiques shop and Hoops, one of the best coffee shops in the north of Ireland. www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
The Christmas Market at Fairmont CARTON HOUSE, Co Kildare, comprises two chic chalets, where some gorgeous Christmas gifts include honey, produced from the hotel’s own beehives, delicious jams, scented candles, tea cups and Glendalough whiskey. www.cartonhouse.com.
Carols and Christmas shopping combine at MOUNT CONGREVE, Kilmeaden, Co Waterford where there are Christmas shopping nights in its fabulous Secret Garden Shop. Gifts and stocking fillers reflect the beauty of the gardens with books, jewellery from Alex Monroe and gorgeous table linens. Leave time to enjoy coffee or afternoon tea in Stables Café. www.mountcongreveshop.ie.
BURTOWN HOUSE & GARDENS, Co Kildare hosts a Christmas market on December 20 and 21, from 12-8pm in the Green Barn where interesting art and rustic furniture are bestsellers. www.burtownhouse.ie.