Why we love Northern Ireland at Christmastime!

Christmas is the perfect time of year to get nostalgic about home, and we think Northern Ireland is the perfect place to come back to and spend a holiday with friends and loved ones.  Here are some of our favourite ‘Norn Iron’ Christmas traditions– all special to our wee country and all within driving distance of the Dufferin Coaching Inn, Killyleagh!

Warm up with a tipple at the Christmas Continental Market

The Continental Market comes to Belfast’s City Hall a few times a year but the Christmas one is always the best. You can bag yourself a real Christmas tree, munch on a Bratwurst or sip some gluhwein to keep warm. There is almighty craic in the beer tents – all you have to do is decided which one to go to!

The Continental Christmas Market is open now until Sunday, December 20 and admission is free.

 Donate to Black Santa

It can be easy to forget the less fortunate at this time of year when there is so much eating, drinking and partying to be done but a stark reminder is Belfast’s Black Santa. Each year the Dean of St Anne’s Cathedral sits-out on the cathedral steps wearing a black cloak and accepting donations for charitable causes.

The tradition was begun in 1976 and will be continued by the current Dean, the Very Reverend John Mann, from Wednesday, December 16 until Christmas Eve. The sit-out has raised millions of pounds and donations can be made all year round. Pop along to see him for a chat and donate to a good cause.

Visit St Anne's Cathedral website for more info

Catch up with old mates at the local

Of course you can enjoy a night out at any time of year but the Christmas season is when all of your loved ones return from the far-flung places they now live for the holidays. In Northern Ireland heading to the pub with your old school friends or the cousins you only see once a year is a time-honoured tradition. Christmas Eve and Boxing Night are two of the favourite dates!

The Dufferin Arms is the perfect place for a seasonal get together, particularly if you bag yourself a seat beside the roaring fire. You might even get lucky and catch a session while you catch up with old friends.

Visit Dame May on stage for the panto

Going to the panto at Christmas isn’t a specifically Northern Irish thing to do, but we have our own contribution to the world of pantomime – the gap-toothed, straight-talking, hilarious May McFettridge!

A Northern Ireland institution for 26 years, it’s not Christmas until you’ve laughed along with May on-stage in the annual Christmas pantomime.  This year, catch her as May the Cook in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Grand Opera House, Belfast – complete with song, dance, boos, hisses, and some surprise special effects!  To top it off, May will co-star alongside X Factor star Chico for a bit of added star power.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs until 10th January. Tickets ca be purchased from the Grand Opera House

Clear out the cobwebs on Boxing Day

After a Christmas Day full of food and drink, there's no better way to rejuvenate with the family than by taking a lovely winter walk on one of our wee country's many famed walking trails.

Whether you're a skilled hill walker or fancy a leisurely stroll with the family, popular local trails on Boxing Day include the Mournes, Cave Hill, Shaw's Bridge or Crawfordsburn Country Park.  There's nothing better than clearing out the cobwebs and getting a dose of crisp winter air while spending quality time with your family - and walking off that Christmas dinner!

Tourism Northern Ireland has released a list of favourite winter walks just in time for Christmas. To explore the full list, visit their website.