The Santa Experience at Aillwee Cave

I realised something shocking and saddening recently; I realised that we only have three or four more years of having a full brood of believers. What’s the ‘age of discovery’ these days? Nine? Ten maybe? How long before a classmate spills the beans? This flash of insight resulted in a dogged determination to go the extra mile with the Santa visit before the magic starts to dissipate. Gah! Even typing the words is making my heart heavy.

I made a booking for Santa’s Workshop at Aillwee Cave in late September and last weekend, psyched to get our jingle on, we were Burren bound. From Galway City it’s less than an hour to Ballyvaughan. We made our peace with the bad roads and the Sunday drivers, lobbed on a Disney Podcast (eh, lifesaver!) and away we went.

I had been to the cave on a few occasions with work and spent the trips trying to muster up some enthusiasm about subterranean rivers and stalactites from disinterested teenagers. It was a joy to see the centre transformed into a winter wonderland of which enthusiasm was a natural and inescapable by-product.  This was our second year visiting Aillwee at Christmas as a family and it was every bit as magical this time around, in fact probably more so since the four-year-old and the six-year-old have now given themselves over completely to the magic of the season.

A Warm Welcome

Aillwee ChristmasOn arrival, we were greeted by chipper staff, all suitably attired in elfenwear and smiles. Both children and parents (yes, even the parents) received welcome gifts; each child was given a gorgeous hardback story book called My Visit to See Santa at Aillwee Cave. We’ve read it every night since we came home! The parents received a boxed Christmas bauble; a nice touch.

What’s on Offer? Santa at Aillwee Cave

We arrived an hour before we were due to see Santa so we had time to soak up the festive atmosphere and enjoy some of the additional entertainment on offer. There was plenty to choose from.

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  • There were two fun-fair attractions for the smaller kids and a Waltzer for those with stronger stomachs. (I pride myself on my stomach of steel but the Waltzer had me feeling queasy. You’ve been warned.)
  • A quippy Jack Frost wandered around the courtyard, available for chats,  photo-ops and cheeky banter.
  • When she wasn’t serving complimentary warm punch and mince pies to the grown-ups, Mrs Clause could be found speaking softly to entranced little ones from a cosy chair within a large fireplace and signing copies of their story books.
  • Inside the main building there was an elf-manned face-painting station and a puppet show.

Review Santa

  • A quick jaunt on the Christmas train had us at the Burren Birds of Prey Centre at the bottom of the hill. Three bird shows are scheduled daily. This was a high point of the day for all of us. Eagles, falcons and snowy owls swooped so close to heads that squeals and gasps came from the crowd regularly. Children got the opportunity to get up close and personal with the birds and the experts pitched the show perfectly at the little ones. Best of all, the show was included in the price! Yup, free of charge. Gratis. Gomplimentary.  Don’t miss it – it really is great!
  • Nearby we visited Santa’s Post Office where the kids could write and post letters to the North Pole and we browsed in the Christmas shop which sold all sorts of Christmas paraphernalia and local crafts.
  • The on-site farm shop is well worth a visit and stocks an array of foodie delights including a local cheese produced on site.

Burren Birds of Prey

The Main Event – Santa in Aillwee Cave

The obvious highlight of the day’s activities was descending deep into the cavernous tunnels of the cave in pursuit of the man in red. We had a 1.05pm booking and considering the volume of visitors, we were very pleasantly surprised to hear our names being called over the speakers bang on time.

Santa Aillwee CaveGroups of around ten children along with their grown-ups were led by a chirpy elf singing Christmas songs through the cave, stopping along the way to find giant snowflakes with clues to a festive puzzle. This was as adorable as it sounds and the singing was completely infectious.

Santa himself was a delight. He was, of course, asleep and the gang took great delight in shouting ‘wake up, Santa’ in unison. He looked and sounded the part and spent more than enough time with each individual child while the others looked on, thoroughly mesmerized. Nothing was rushed and each child was left incredulous at the volume of information Santa had in his ‘book’. Bonus points for Santa’s clever punning regarding ‘elf & safety’ and the likes…

My sources tell me that the gifts received were absolutely satisfactory. The baby got a soft rattle toy, the four-year-old got a large rag-doll and the six-year-old got a dart-shooting set, which has been a huge hit, sadly. 

Refuelling at the Cafe

We had lunch in the cafe on-site. The menu was limited but it had something for everyone. The staff were fantastic and the food arrived quickly. There was a vast selection of sweet things on offer too. People were circling for tables all the time so be prepared to wait for a seat or arrange to eat off-peak instead. Teas and coffees were complimentary in the cafe. Yet another classy touch, Aillwee!

Final Thoughts and Tips – Santa at Aillwee Cave 

  • Get there early so you can enjoy all of the activities at a leisurely pace. We arrived at noon and left around 5pm so you can easily spend the day there.
  • Wrap up. It’s cold. Really cold.
  • If you have a baby, bring a sling – buggies/strollers aren’t permitted in the cave itself.
  • The only time we encountered queues was when we were trying to get the train back up to the cave entrance from The Birds of Prey Centre after the show. Keep that in mind if you are rushing back up for a Santa slot. (It didn’t help matters that this momma took a chance and left her family in the queue to very quickly pick up some fudge in the nearby farm shop, only to emerge and see the train chugging up the hill and her unimpressed family standing fuming on the footpath – it took most of my fudge to cheer them back up!)
  • Initially the price-tag may seem hefty but for an entire day’s entertainment, I think it was worth it. The only other money we spent was on lunch and on a family photo with Santa and we could easily have had someone else take a photo for us and not sprung for the professional one.
  • All in all, the entire operation seemed to be extremely well-run. An abundance of staff efficiently kept things running like clockwork.

We had a really lovely family day out and would absolutely recommend Santa’s Workshop at Aillwee Cave to all little believers.

We paid €110 for entry for two adults, two children and a baby. All opinions are entirely my own.  Santa at Aillwee Cave 

Our visit to Santa's Workshop at Aillwee Cave involved singing in tunnels, shouting at Santa and bird-watching. Read more for our detailed review... #santa #santaexperience


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15 Comments

  1. Wow – this looks an amazing place to visit even without Santa! A gorgeous package, and as you say – these years are numbered so get the magic in there while you can. Next year, lapland? That’d be amazing wouldn’t it!
    Thanks so much for sharing with #coolmumclub
    MMT recently posted…#coolmumclub Linky week 50

    • Sinéad Reply

      Aw, wouldn’t it just be unbelievable? I guess I can dream…

    • Sinéad Reply

      Thanks, Elizabeth! The time is going by so quickly… Hope you all enjoy the magic of this year!

  2. Now, I have two girls 13 and 11 and they both stopped believing in Year 6 (so this year for the youngest) and I am a bit sad. However, if these caves were nearby, I would drag them kicking and screaming if necessary, as I am a sucker for caves and really don’t need much of an excuse to visit one. Anyway, enjoy their young years and have fun whilst they still believe #MMBC

    • Sinéad Reply

      I don’t know how I will cope then it all ends, Lisa… it really is what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? Hope you all have a lovely Christmas. I’m sure the older two will make it especially magical for the littlest! Have fun and thanks for stopping by the blog from #MMBC.

    • Sinéad Reply

      Absolutely – it will be over in the blink of an eye, Yvonne! Have a lovely one with your little ones. x

  3. What an awesome time you all had!
    I am also dreading the day my little men stop believing in the big fella in red. All the more reason to make the very most of it whilst they still do 🙂

    Thanks so much for joining in with #MMBC. Hope you can make it tomorrow xx

    • Sinéad Reply

      I know, Jayne. Just trying to inhale every bit of magic and innocence here…. have a lovely time with your boys!

  4. Wow, this actually sounds like an amazing Christmas experience for little ones. I love all the little touches they have, like Mrs Claus giving out mince pies and drins and the free teas and coffees in the cafe. It must be something to go down into the caves and meet Father Christmas. Pricy, but worth it i’d say. Fab review, especially the tips at the end 🙂 Thanks for linking up with us last year, look forward to seeing you link up again with us this year. Emily #MarvMondays

    • Sinéad Reply

      Thanks, Emily! It really was lovely. We had a fantastic time. Looking forward to linking up with you in 2017 for #MarvMondays. Happy new year to you and your lovely family! 🙂

  5. Super review Sinead – We’ll definitely be heading there this year and now know what to expect. I’ll report back1 L

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