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Christmas in Co Cork, Ireland

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

RTE’s Today Show host Maura Derrane raved about how good the Fota Island Santa experience was and it certainly lived up to all the hype.

Fota Beyond, voted Ireland’s best Santa Experience in numerous publications, attracts well over 55,000 visitors a year.

Santa grottos are ten a penny so it’s a tough call, but if you want an experience on par with Finland, yet don’t want the hassle of flying and the expense, the Fota Island experience is one for the memory box.

Although you might be wary of heading to a five star resort with a toddler in tow, don’t fret we stayed in the official resort cottages adjacent to the main property.

Positioned conveniently a stone’s throw from the adorable fairy forest meant wearing the kids out was already in hand.

The resort has done an incredible job of adding a touch of magic to it’s property with the addition of this cutesy fairy trail.

We could avail of the beautiful five star restaurant which welcomed kids and use the fabulous swimming pool with the added bonus of a kitchen and stunning living room area in the idyllic cottage.

Our stay was to set the tone for Santa climbing down the chimney on Christmas Eve, since visiting it’s all our toddler has been talking about.

Evening time is the best time to visit Mr Claus as you’ll get to soak up the magic of the forest lit up.

Fairy lights adorned the real Christmas trees as we were escorted through the elf village by one of Santa’s elves, Fota Beyond is the real deal.

Santa was super friendly and knew all about our toddler Erin’s Peppa Pig obsession and that our pre-teen James was a Liverpool fan.

After the exciting visit to see Father Christmas we wandered around the elaborately decorated village featuring a carousel and numerous Christmas stalls.

Cork's Fota Island Resort have some pretty impressive plans in store for Christmas

Erin was particularly enthralled by Santa’s reindeers and Mrs Claus gave us reindeer food to leave out on Christmas Eve.

Cleverly designed we ambled down Candy Cane Lane before entering two majestic tunnels leading to the Magic Mineshaft.

Santa’s elves informed us we were going underground to the Snow Kingdom and every toddler’s paradise, a Fairy Tunnel covered in icicles.

The snowy kingdom was full of festive cheer including a gigantic ball pit area for toddler fun and free ice cream which James was thrilled about.

The kids also got to post their letters to Santa in the North Pole, another first for our little girl.

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The fairy forest is well worth a visit and you can have fun totting up how many of the ephemeral beings live here.

Fota Wildlife Park is just next door and even in the winter it is home to an eclectic mix of exotic animals, we got up close and personal to giraffes, sleeping Asiatic lions and Sumatran tigers.

The animals are placed in conservation habitats, created to promote global biodiversity.

With the magic of Christmas at our fingertips it was off to the quaint town of Kinsale, which all lit up without the summer crowds is a must.

Situated in the heart of the colourful historic harbour town is Actons Hotel, the 4 star hotel is the oldest hotel in Kinsale and since it was refurbished in 2013 it’s the perfect combination of old meets new.

The pool area and spa are just the ticket after a day out exploring the wildlife at Fota and at just a 25 minute journey from the city, it’s the perfect way to wind down after an action packed 24 hours engaging in all things Santa.

Proud to be a founding member of the Kinsale Good Food Circle, Sidney’s Bar and garden lounge was the perfect setting for an evening meal.

A well-earned pint of Cork’s finest Beamish was the order of the day for the grownups, so off we headed to the iconic Spaniard pub for a game of darts which James lapped up.

Up bright and early after a hearty breakfast, we ventured on the famous Salmon Walk with mesmerising views of the town.

After a ramble around picture perfect Kinsale we tucked into a bowl of seafood chowder in the award winning seafood restaurant, Fishy Fishy where locals say you haven’t lived until you’ve dined.

Step up Cork, it truly is a winter wonderland.

Where to stay

Fota Island Resort, Fota Island, Cork – –

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