With the peace and tranquillity of the Wild Atlantic Way and the grandeur of a 350-acre estate, Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford Castle provide all the ingredients for a luxurious Christmas getaway. But when you’ve finally perfected your golf swing, honed your equestrian skills, triumphed against the estate’s clay pigeons and tried your hand at falconry, you might just be ready for a slice of city life in nearby Galway. Famous for its Continental Christmas Market, Galway is the perfect place to experience a traditional Irish Christmas.
You’d be hard pushed to find a more festive place to visit in the area – “the city of tribes” is home to one of the biggest and longest running Christmas markets in Ireland. Expect more than just a fun shopping expedition; a trip into the city during the Christmas holidays will transport you to a vibrant and friendly winter wonderland.
Each year hundreds of thousands of people flock to Eyre Square in the centre of town to trawl over 50 stalls, with traders travelling from far and wide to hawk their handmade goods – some from as far away as Peru and Lapland. Pick up some last minute gifts for loved ones or simply soak up the festive atmosphere with a glass of something suitably mulled.
Sample a few local delicacies whilst browsing the food stalls. It’s worth hunting down some of the city’s famous spiced beef, a staple of a traditional Irish Christmas that dates back to ancient times. The salted beef joint is flavoured with spices before being poached and cured in Guinness, and is best served cold with some freshly baked soda bread.
The lighting of a single candle in a window won’t be an uncommon sight at this time of year – this symbolic act is said to light of the way for Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve. Nowadays, the tradition is also practiced for passing travellers, as a sign of hospitality and goodwill over the festive period. Pick up some artisan candles at the market to honour one of Ireland’s oldest customs.
For some Christmas-themed entertainment head over to the music stage, which will be playing host to several carol services and musical concerts for the duration of the market. For those looking to kick-start the merriment, stop by the huge German Bierkeller and choose from their expansive selection of German beers.
If you’re looking for something a little less raucous to round off your day trip, visit local restaurant, White Gables. Set in a beautifully restored, rustic stone cottage in Moycullen village, just 8km from Galway city, this quaint eatery serves some of the best grub for a traditional Irish Christmas. Alternatively, head back to Wilde’s Restaurant at The Lodge at Ashford Castle for some festive modern Irish cooking.
Galway Continental Christmas Market 2014 will run from Friday, 21 November to Monday, 22 December 2014.
Header Image: Galway Christmas Market © Alex Zarodov