As the Christmas season has arrived, we’ve decided to hit all the Christmas markets we possibly can to fully participate in all this season has to offer. So far we have gone to four in the Carlow area, calling themselves Christmas fairs, Christmas craft fairs, and Christmas markets. First we went to the Delta Centre in Carlow town on their opening day. They have a cafe, Santa’s grotto, and a Christmas shop. Entrance is free to the shop, but there is a €7 charge for kids to see Santa and the sensory gardens (which we didn’t do.) the Christmas shop has all kinds of decorations-everything you would need to decorate for Christmas. They have decorated different rooms inside by theme, one of them is gold, one is nativity themed, etc. My Zion called that room “the baby Jesus room.” They have done a beautiful job in creating a Christmas wonderland.
Secondly we went to the Carlow Youth Centre’s Christmas craft fair. There was a €2 per adult entrance fee and this was a more eclectic grouping of vendors. Some had handmade items, others were selling used clothing and toys, there were tables with baked goods, and some people were selling new items to purchase as gifts. There was definitely a good selection of budget-friendly gift items available. My boys got some very cool Despicable Me Minion slap bracelet watches. It was a three-in-one winner for us, as I was looking to get them a watch and slap bracelet already-then to add the Minion factor was like the cherry on top!
The third Christmas fair we visited the following weekend was in Castledermot. They did an amazing job I thought, with many local vendors-a surprising amount, actually. When you first entered, a local pub had a table and was giving out free mulled wine, that was a plus! There was the “Santa Experience” that cost €7 per child and again we did not go. I’m not the best for Santa visit reviews because we don’t do Santa at our house 😉 But, we were there when Santa arrived on a fire truck, with the elf and snowman there to greet him. That was a fun experience. This market had a fantastic amount of handmade gift options at very good prices. I loved seeing how many artisans there are living in my little town and to connect with some them about possibly getting a group going in the future where we can get together and do workshops in our different particular areas of interest. The newly constructed community centre in Castledermot does a great job utilising their space on a regular basis for community events, classes, movie nights and the like. This was yet another great use of the building.
Lastly we headed to the Duckett’s Grove Christmas Craft Fair. And this one took the cake. When we first arrived to park, we saw a sign saying “€7 per car” and we thought about skipping it altogether. But we chatted with the parking attendant and found out that A visit to Santa, face painting, and a huge snow globe bouncy castle were free for kids. So we decided it would likely be worth it. (So much better to have a per-vehicle fee, as opposed to a per-person fee, in my opinion. Maybe because we are now a family of seven. Ya that’s probably why.) As we walked toward the main event we came upon said snow globe and the kids were so excited. None of us had ever seen anything like it. They had a blast throwing fake fluffy snow at each other.
Next to the tea rooms there was a quartet of young girls singing beautiful Christmas songs. The barn was full to the brim with tables of vendors. There was a huge variety of gifts and baked goods, all beautifully display and the food looked delicious. Zion, my 4 year old decided his treat would be a white chocolate dipped cookie, with Elsa and Anna from Frozen on it, of course. It was lovely and massive-yum.
Out in the gardens there was a demonstration by Woodlands Falconry. They had seven live birds of prey on display, from owls to hawks, to one very large Irish Sea Eagle. Gorgeous birds! This was likely Ben and my favorite part of the fair. There were three staff handling the birds and chatting with people about them. We got to pet a beautiful fluffy white and yellow barn owl and to see up close a tiny African owl with bright orange eyes that was not nocturnal. The staff were so friendly and informative, it made us want to stay and hang out for much longer, finding out about all the birds. The Falconry (located near Rathwood) does tours, I think he said admission is €6 for adults and €4 for kids. Once there, you get to not only learn about the birds, but also take walks with them and handle them. Sounds like a fun day to us 😉
We were freezing so after this we got some soup and hot cocoa from the tea rooms and sat down to nurse my 3 month old twins. It would have been nice to have a heater in the marquee outside, but at least we were out of the wind. (And hey, at least it was a clear day with no rain!) The kids decided not to see Santa because they were too cold and didn’t want to wait in the queue, so we headed to the car. But there was no queue for face painting, so in a few minutes we had a little elf and a boy with holly and berries happily painted on their faces. I, of course, couldn’t leave without indulging in a fresh crepe with Nutella inside…a guilty pleasure worth queuing in the cold for 😉
Now you can see why Duckett’s Grove was our top pick of the four we’ve been to in the Carlow area thus far. We are now headed to Bath, England, celebrating our tenth anniversary, to see their Christmas Market, rumored to be one of the best in the UK. We hope so!
All in all, I’d say the Irish christmas market scene is an enjoyable one. We’re not at the top of the list of holiday must-see Christmas markets with Germany, but as crafting and creating increases again, and artisans perfect their skills and come out of the woodwork, we haven’t far to go.