I know before I start to type that keeping this short and sweet is not really an option.
If you want it in a nutshell, here it is. The Magical Winter Wonderland Experience at The Shandon Hotel and Spa is indeed a wonderful, wintery and magical experience. From the moment you arrive until check out, it’s Festive Fun for everyone.
For us, it was a perfect family Christmas calm in the midst of all the madness of December.
We booked this after a few friends recommended it last year. Now, we’re big fans and regular enough frequenters of The Shandon, but we’ve never stayed with the girls before.
We wanted somewhere this year where we could switch off, relax and fully enjoy a hustle or queue free Santa visit. I also wanted to be warm while we waited for Santa and as it turned out, with all the flus and sniffles in our house over the past few weeks, this was a good Mammy-call. There was no queueing or standing around freezing your tootsies off…Santa comes to your room at a prelocated time… perfection.
We arrived at 4pm. The receptionist checked us in but also made a fuss about telling the girls about the Elf that was missing in the hotel. Excitement levels started to mount as the girls realised we were on a “sleepover!”
We were delighted to be put into one of their Master Suites, on the 5th floor overlooking the bay. These suites are huge and bright and new. The bathroom was stunning with a jacuzzi bath at the window. (We didn’t get a chance to use this, but we shall be back!)
We got changed from our winter woolies (we’d just watched Daddy jumping into the River Swilly at The Polar Plunge in Rathmullen!) and went down to the bar for barfood.
The food never disappoints. I opted for a steak sandwich instead of my usual seafood platter and Himself had the steak burger. The girls had pizza and nuggets and chips and all plates were cleared quickly. Not having to drive, we were able to have a drink with our dinner too, something which never happens when we’re out and about with the kids.
At 6pm we headed down to the Winter Wonderland. It was so beautiful. Trees and bears and penguins and lights and ALL the pretty you can imagine, carefully created and perfectly pulled off. Narnia was particularly impressive. Who doesn’t love a 6 foot polar bear eh?
Upstairs, Mrs Claus was awaiting with juice and cookies for the kids. There were crayons and pictures and fairy wishes and Santa letters and a post box… lots to do and see. Then Mrs Claus and her elf called all the kids over to her sofa for storytime. There was a collective wave and sigh by the parents as we all sat back to watch Mrs C entertain our minions! There was even a glass of wine for the parents if you wanted one.
Mrs Claus was fantastic; in character from the second we arrived, fully engaged with every single child and superb in her ability to entertain. She took them all on a Polar Bear Hunt and every single child was captivated by her. (The Director in me would cast her in the morning! Bravo!)
After a photograph with her, we toddled up “to bed”. Pjs went on and we all snuggled up on our bed to watch Arthur Christmas. At 7.30pm, a knock came to the door and there he was; the main man himself; Santa!
And not just ANY Santa. This was without a doubt THE REAL SANTA. He knew their names and everything! “Don’t be hiding Princess” and “My my Mini-Me! You are getting tall!” had their jaws dropping. Also, he was able to tell them about how when their Daddy was wee and he had to wait for him to go to sleep before he could deliver his presents. AMAZING!
He spent 10 full minutes talking to them and listening to them and laughing with them. Oh what a joy this was to witness. He sang Jingle Bells along with them and gave them their gifts before saying goodbye. The gifts were excellent too; arts and craft stuff.
Santa was just wonderful and gave one thing that no other Santa we’ve ever seen gave; time.
The girls weren’t rushed or hurried and it was genuinely the most enjoyable ten minutes. Watching their wee faces as he told them tales about their Daddy was priceless.
Well after that, there was no sleeping, so off we went back downstairs in the jammies. (them, not us. We’re not that bad!) We had hot chocolate and dessert. Apparently the chocolate brownie was incredible. I didn’t taste it as I was tucking in to my Christmas pudding… boozy bliss I tell you. And of course it was accompanied by a wee Baileys to officially kick off Christmas. Would have been rude not to.
The hotel was filled with families of all ages and the atmosphere was electric. The foyer was a forest of happy kids playing with their Santa gifts and happy parents smiling and talking as we headed up to our room.
We eventually got everyone tucked in; I’m not sure how really as the excitement levels were immense by bedtime. (Comfiest beds in the world by the way.)
Breakfast next morning was, as always, superb. I always love how the bacon is properly cooked. There’s nothing worse that pink rubbery slices! There is nothing you can’t have for breakfast here. Smoked Salmon, cheese, porridge, full Irish, cereals, smoothies and of course the pancake machine!
We didn’t use the pool simply because our youngest has been a bit fluey all week, but we chilled out before having (one last) milk and cookies in the bar.
Carolynne and Gert and and their team have made Christmas so magical here. The receptionists, the elf helping Mrs C, Santa, Gary and his team in the bar, the breakfast team and waiting staff – all professional and smiling and brilliant at their jobs, we can’t praise you all enough.
December is a manic month in our house. We’ve always squeezed a Santa visit into the midst of the chaos, and while we always enjoy it, this year was different. We stopped. We switched off and we spent 24 hours with our girls. We were relaxed and it was truly magical and we’ve both come home a bit more relaxed and ready for the final few days of the year.
And the girls got to MEET SANTA, not just see him.
I know that the weekends are fully booked, but there is still limited availability for midweek. They’re also hosting Sunday lunch with Santa so check that out.
I’ll let you all know once it goes on sale for 2020, (but not until after I’ve booked our room first!)
Carolynne and team, take a bow.
You’ve created something magical and helped us to create magical memories.
See you soon!