What is Rathwood?
I have been to Rathwood numerous times over the past 10 years and most recently I had the pleasure of experiencing Christmas at Rathwood. Most people travel to Ireland during the late Spring through early Fall; however, if you are lucky enough to visit Ireland during the holiday season I highly recommend checking out Rathwood and it’s holiday festivities!
Rathwood is a Home and Garden Center; however, it’s no Home Depot or Lowes. It’s a mix between what you’d think of as a home and garden center mixed with a touch of grace and department store. Rathwood opened its doors in 1994 and has grown from a small family-owned business selling garden supplies and housewares- into a mecca for families, gardeners, and those looking for a relaxing day out. Beyond expanding its housewares and garden items Rathwood now sells children’s clothes and toys, adult clothing, home and garden furniture, and an extensive array of Christmas décor and gift ideas.
Additionally, Rathwood now includes an outstanding restaurant, a salon, an express train through the woods, a hedge maze, a playground, and a forest walk. At Christmastime, Rathwood transforms into an explosion of glitter, elves, Santa, and festive charm!
Where is Rathwood?
Rathwood is located just east of Tullow, Co. Carlow, Ireland, and southwest of the Wicklow Mountains, near the border of Co. Wicklow and Co. Carlow.
Christmas at Rathwood
Christmas at Rathwood is magical for adults and children alike. First, when you walk in the door the building is decked out in glitter, sparkles, frosted snow, and all things Christmas. One wing of Rathwood is dedicated solely to Christmas décor, toys, and gift ideas. Beyond the décor is a mini theme park with rides, games, and activities for kids. Beyond the rides and games is the Santa Train.
The Rathwood Santa Train
We took the Santa Train in November 2018, and I would highly recommend the experience. We took our son (2.5 yrs), and our nephews (11yrs, 10yrs, and 8yrs.) and they ALL enjoyed the experience. Riding the Santa Train is not only a train ride but also an experience. The entire experience takes about an hour, so bring some snacks and water, especially if you have small children.
First, you get your face painted by an elf. This was a really neat component to the journey and the kids really enjoyed this.
Next, you are brought into a room to meet Mrs. Claus and one of her elves. Each year the skit changes slightly but the theme is the same- it’s an interactive skit with Mrs. Claus and one of her elves.
Third, comes the Santa Train! Bring your jacket or coat because it can get a little chilly! The train winds outside through the forest and brings you to Santa’s workhouse where you have the pleasure of meeting two of Santa’s elves. After interacting with them for about 15 minutes you get to walk through the ‘Enchanted Forest’ to Santa’s house.
Lastly, inside Santa’s house, there are more elves who are excited to sing songs, play, and interact with the children. Everyone gets to meet Santa, sit on his lap, and tell them what they want for Christmas. Each party goes in to see Santa together and after everyone has taken pictures and told Santa what they want every child gets a toy; and they were decent toys! After visiting with Santa it’s more song and dance with the elves while you wait for the Santa Train to come and collect you. Then the train winds its way back to the main building. The entire experience takes about an hour.
After the Santa Train
After the Santa Train, you have the option to purchase photos on Santa’s GIANT sleigh! We purchased tickets when we made our reservation for the Santa Train and that picture will be our Christmas picture for the year! You can make reservations for the Santa Train here!
Also, everyone gets a hot chocolate in the Merry Tree Restaurant, which is included in the price of the Santa Train. It was an absolutely magical experience for kids and I would highly recommend checking out the Santa Train and Christmas at Rathwood!! It’s a one-stop-shop for Santa, shopping, lunch/dinner, and family fun!
Rathwood for Families
Besides the Santa Train, there are a number of other activities for children. Already mentioned above, there is the Family Funfair (mini theme park) which includes rides and games. There is also a hedge maze, a forest walk, and a playground.
After the Santa Train, I would also recommend checking out the restaurant, called the Merry Tree. The Merry Tree serves full dinners and also snack foods. On Saturday mornings they serve a breakfast buffet and its buy one get one free. Additionally, you can get elaborate and decadent cakes and other desserts!
Outside of the door from the Merry Tree is a large playground where kids can burn off any excess energy!
Not part of Rathwood, but located right next door is The Chocolate Garden of Ireland. We did not go into the Chocolate Garden; however, it has excellent reviews on Trip Advisor and the next time we are at Rathwood we definitely intend to check it out!
Directions to Rathwood
Rathwood is about an hour and a half southwest of Dublin. From Dublin: Take the M50 south to the N7, (take that around Naas) The N7 turns into the M7- take that to the M9. Take the M9 south to Prumplestown and exit to the R418, follow signs for Tullow. Take the R418 to the R725 and Rathwood is about 3 miles down on your right.
Rathwood is about an hour and 5 minutes northwest of Wexford Town, Co. Wexford and about an hour and 10 minutes northeast of Waterford City, Co. Waterford.
Hotels near Rathwood
Here is a list of hotels and a B&B that Rathwood suggests. The two closest towns are Tullow and Carlow, both in County Carlow. You can find tons of accommodations on any of the big hotel websites.
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