Quirky places to visit Santa around Wales
Santa in Wales Of course we believe in Santa Claus. We’ve seen him. In fact, we’ve seen lots of him around Wales. But if you’re looking for somewhere really magical to meet Santa this year, here are 10 unusual spots for some festive fun.
Cardiff Castle is magical at any time of the year, but its lavish Victorian décor makes it the capital’s most atmospheric Santa’s Grotto. Hidden away in the fairytale setting of the Black Tower, Santa awaits by the fireside to meet all good boys and girls. Tickets sell out quickly, but you may still be able to snag some here.
More than 100 original historic buildings have been reassembled at the St Fagans National Museum of History just outside Cardiff. Their Christmas Nights make the most of the setting, with carols in the chapel, traditional Welsh Plygain singing in the church, a brass band, and Christmas shopping at the Makers’ Market. While you’re waiting to meet Santa, his missus (yes, Mother Christmas is there too) will keep little ‘uns entertained with stories. In 2017 it runs from 6–9 December, 6-9pm, and you can get tickets here.
There are 11 narrow-gauge steam railways in Wales, collectively known as the Great Little Trains of Wales, and they all run Santa Specials during the festive season. On some railways, you’ll chug through the countryside to Santa’s Grotto; on others the Big Fella will actually be on the train, handing out presents as you go. Check out their website to find your nearest Great Little Train and its festive timetable.
They used to dig coal at Rhondda Heritage Park, but during the festive season they’ll be – wait for it – mining a rich seam of Christmas cheer at Santa’s Toy Mine. Your challenge is to join their toy miners on a magical adventure underground on the hunt for Santa’s hidden cottage, which we’re reliably informed is somewhere past the toy mine, sweet mine and ice cave.
If you’re going to visit a grotto, then it may as well be the massive natural caverns at National Showcaves Centre for Wales at Abercrave. This year they’ve lavishly decorated two of their biggest caverns, Dan-yr-Ogof and the Cathedral Cave, and Santa will be appearing at both, simultaneously (that’s the magic of Christmas for you). He’s there for most of December – see Showcave Christmas for full details.
Somebody at the National Trust clearly has Santa on speed-dial. Or maybe they’ve got compromising photos of him. Either way, Father Christmas is appearing at lots of their historic Welsh locations in December. The most popular grottos (grotti?) are booked well in advance (Chirk Castle and Dyffryn Gardens are already sell-outs) but there’s still time to grab a breakfast or supper with Santa at Erddig, or a close encounter with the big man in the stables at Tredegar House.
Santa pays his annual visit to the SeaQuarium in Rhyl, because he clearly enjoys their Christmas-themed Seal Show as much as the kids do. Admission includes a visit to the grotto and a gift, and also access to all the SeaQuarium’s nine zones.
The half-timbered mansion at Gregynog has played a major part in Welsh cultural life, but for a weekend in December (9 and 10) it’s more focused on Lapland culture. Follow the trail through the enchanted woods and you’ll find Santa in his grotto, attended by his busy elves, who’ll be helping to hand out the hot chocolate and gifts.
You can’t accuse the Bluestone holiday park in Pembrokeshire of not getting into the festive spirit. The whole place becomes Christmasland /Elftopia for the holiday period, and younger guests are recruited as Elf Rangers to learn the necessary skills to become a proper Christmas Elf.
Handily, the 90 or so species at Folly Farm include reindeer, which adds a certain authenticity to the Santa’s Grotto experience here. Father Christmas is there for most weekends in November and December, with his elves dishing out gifts for the children, and mince pies and mulled wine for grown-ups.