Aillwee Cave

Holidays in Ireland

Christmas time at the Connacht Hotel, Galway

Connacht hotel

We had the pleasure of spending an overnight in the Connacht Hotel in Galway recently. Our annual Santa visit took us to the Aillwee Cave this year so we decided to overnight in Galway the night before.

 

We set off on Saturday from Dublin and were there within 2 hours. The rooms were bright, modern and very spacious. Although we were only staying for one night, there was a separate living area with a kitchen which was ideal for a longer stay. WiFi is fast and free too! We dropped the bags, decided to have a quick wander around Galway and avail of the hotel’s facilities in the evening.

Connacht Hotel

The centre of Galway city is a 25 minute walk or €10 in a taxi so if you don’t fancy driving, it is easily accessible. Once you arrive in Eyre Square the lights are dazzling. Christmas market stalls are everywhere and the atmosphere is terrific. Many are happily shopping for Christmas decorations and gifts while others enjoy the hot food or mulled wine. We decided to do all of the above! The fun fair had some great rides including a large ferris wheel as well as some money making stalls like ‘ how to knock the elf off the shelf’. My kids were intrigued but despite watching for 15 minutes, not one person managed to do it! As the light fades the Christmas lights are even more impressive. Shop Street is pretty cool at any time of the year but at Christmas time it is magical.

Connacht Hotel

After a thoroughly enjoyable few hours we went back to the hotel for a ‘promised’ swim.   The swimming pool at the Connacht Hotel is fantastic. There are jacuzzis, swim lanes and ample room for adults and children to swim. Incidentally the hotel attracts many sports groups. The Treviso Rugby team were staying there when we were there, suffice to say it is very well equipped for sports enthusiasts. Not only is the 20 metre swimming pool impressive but they have fantastic fitness and exercise studios ( 40 classes each week) and a 24 hour gym.

Connacht Hotel

The family facilities at the Connacht Hotel are excellent. There is a wide selection of activities at various times during the day. From arts and crafts to talent shows, Wii games to movies, there is plenty to keep the kids happy. The Friendly Fellows kids club opens until 10pm and there was a movie on from 8 while we were there. It’s a great option for kids who don’t necessarily want games or arts and crafts, but just want to chill out and watch a movie. There is a play area for younger kids but parents need to be present.

Connacht Hotel

We dined in the hotel that evening and this was another welcome surprise. If you book a package including an evening meal, the menu is very extensive. Not a buffet in sight (my pet hate at dinner time!). Everything is included in the cost, with the exception of the 10oz sirlion steak which carries a €6 supplement. I went for the chicken curry while my husband had the beer battered cod and chips, both were really tasty. You can eat in the bar or restaurant and both have a great lively atmosphere. If you want a quiet romantic meal for two, go elsewhere! Live music started at 10pm but an Irish take on Garth Brooks wouldn’t be my choice, so we opted for an early night. Breakfast was excellent, lots of choice, pancakes to Irish pudding, we checked out quite content!

Connacht Hotel

The Connacht is a great choice for a family vacation at Christmas or any time. They have large family rooms and apartments on site, a host of activities for kids and a great family fun atmosphere. For prices and availability on the Connacht hotel click here.

 

Like holidays in Ireland? See more here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

Holidays in Ireland

Santa at Aillwee Cave

Santa at Ailwee Cave

As many of you may know, we visited Lapland a few years ago and since then we have found it really difficult to find a Santa experience in Ireland to get excited about. Was Santa at Aillwee Cave going to be any different?

 

Last years experience in Dublin was pretty poor, I won’t name the place but suffice to say I came away promising myself we would do something better this year. I decided to ask my readers on Facebook for recommendations and to my surprise, ‘Santa at Aillwee Cave’ was mentioned numerous times. I didn’t even know they had a Santa Experience! I read some reviews and liked the cave idea and decided to give Santa at Aillwee Cave a try. We decided to make a weekend of it so we booked an over-night stay in the Connacht Hotel in Galway and booked the Santa Experience for 11.30am the following day. It was perfect. We arrived in Galway and enjoyed a few hours at the Christmas markets, had a swim in the hotel pool, a leisurely meal and set off for Aillwee the following morning. It is only a 50 minute drive from the Connacht Hotel and we arrived in plenty of time.

We were greeted by happy elves who gave the kids their own book on Santa at Aillwee Cave, while discretely placing a sticker on their coats with their name on it. Mums and Dads are not overlooked either and we received a Christmas Bauble embossed with ‘Christmas 2016 at Aillwee Cave’. There was complementary tea, coffee, hot punch and minced pies, a lovely touch. There were merry go rounds and waltzers for kids to play in before or after the visit, also free of charge.  Jack Frost and Mrs Claus were in constant view and ready for pictures and a chat. Everywhere they went it seemed the elves, Mrs Claus and Jack Frost knew their names – a simple sticker worked wonders! My daughter got her face painted and we had time to catch the puppet show too, so getting there early was a good idea!

 

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Twinkle the Head Elf called out the names of the kids who Santa wanted to see, and off we went. Each visit is divided into a small group and we set off deep into the cave in single file. The acoustics in the cave made for a great rendition of jingle bells and set the tone perfectly. We searched for some clues before arriving at Santa’s workshop, only to discover he was asleep. Luckily we had a group of children who were only too delighted to wake him up! The setting was magical. Santa’s Finnish accent and the rows of presents behind him added to the authenticity. The children were seated in two benches in front of Santa while the adults stood behind. Siblings were called up to stand beside Santa while he recounted their achievements throughout the year. My son. Luke, was a little nervous, but when Santa calls your name, you have to go! It was amazing to see Santa complimenting him on his sports achievements and when Santa’s farewell words were ‘ May the force be with you’ – I could see the magic in his eyes. How did Santa know he was a Star Wars fan? He also knew what my daughter Alex favourite toys were and told her that she needed to start cycling her bicycle! Santa then presented them with toys, and even these were a step up from the usual cheap ‘tat’ that we have been given on previous Santa visits.

Santa at Aillwee Cave

Listening to Santa’s unique words to all the boys and girls was fantastic. No standard lines about how good they had been all year. The personal touch in Aillwee Cave was evident throughout, especially during the visit with Santa. We collected our souvenir photo, which incidentally was the only thing that you had to pay for. In fact you could take the picture yourself and not buy one at all. This was really refreshing. I have been to many Santa visits and you always end up spending a fortune on extras, in Aillwee everything is included in the price.

Santa at Aillwee Cave

Once the visit was over, we decided to pay a quick visit to the Christmas shop and post our letters in Santa’s post box. We were just in time to catch the 1.00pm ‘Birds of Prey’ show, also included in the price! They have two shows per day so try to time your visit with one of them as they worth staying for. The kids loved seeing the hawk, vultures and falcon perform and there is a selection of birds available to view on site afterwards.

Santa at Aillwee Cave

Santa at Aillwee Cave is special with personal touches that the kids will not forget. Make a weekend of it, you may not have many left! Believe me it is worth the drive, even if you do have to listen to Christmas songs the whole way home 😉

Click here for more information on our visit to Santa at Aillwee Cave.

 

Like holidays in Ireland? See more here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

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