The clocks are going back and the days are getting shorter as winter approaches. But the festivals keep on going throughout the country, so why not take a weekend hotel break and plan a trip or two to fend off the winter blues. Ed Leahy has some suggestions.

The clocks are going back and the days are getting shorter as winter approaches. But the festivals keep on going throughout the country, so why not take a weekend hotel break and plan a trip or two to fend off the winter blues. Ed Leahy has some suggestions.

November
Corona Cork Film Festival (November 6-13)

The finest films come to Cork in November with an eclectic programme of features, documentaries, exhibitions, retrospectives and new Irish cinema. And, of course, the short film programmes for which the festival has an international reputation. The festival will screen over 300 films over eight days and nights, including People Like Us directed by acclaimed artist Vicki Bennett. And to celebrate Slow Food on Film, the film 18 Meals directed by Jorge Coira will be screened. Over breakfast, lunch and dinner the film follows an eclectic group of characters whose stories unfold over the meals of a day. www.corkfilmfest.org

Bulmers Comedy Festival, Clonmel (November 17-20)
Five days of world class stand-up, sketch and comedy shows from Ireland and abroad, bringing wit and skit to Clonmel. Two of this year's main attractions include Sanderson Jones, where the comedian must personally sell every ticket in person in order to tailor the show to the crowd, and The Boy with Tape on his Face, which is described as mime with noise, stand-up with no talking, drama with no acting and a mix between Vic Reeves, Hugh Laurie and Charlie Chaplin. Usual suspects Colin Murphy, Andrew Maxwell and Ardal O'Hanlon will also be appearing and a few others that may or may not be to everyone's liking. Judge for yourself here: www.clonmelcomedy.com.

Georgian Christmas Market, Limerick (November 18-21)
Pery Square, the lovely Georgian area of Limerick, hosts market stalls, arts and crafts, seasonal gifts with a difference, festival atmosphere and much more. Christmas puddings, meats, sweets, breads, pastries and other festive goodies will also be on offer, complemented by artisan and organic cuisine from local producers and woodturning demonstrations. www.discoverireland.ie

Green Santa in Narnia, Belvedere House, Mullingar (Weekends November 27 – December 23)
Travel back in time to when Santa wore Green robes and not red ones to meet Green Santa and help him plant a native fir or holly tree for you to take home along with a magical wildflower seed to attract fairies and butterflies into your garden. Green Santa will arrive at Belvedere House at 11am on Sunday November 27 by boat across Lough Ennell and will proceed to his magical grotto beyond the Wardrobe in the frozen land of Narnia. Children will enter through the enchanted Wardrobe in the indoor courtyard and travel through Narnia to visit Green Santa in his grotto, where a replica of The Dawn Treader ship awaits. www.belvedere-house.ie

Taste of Christmas, Convention Centre, Dublin (November 25-27)
Kick off the festive season at the Taste of Christmas at the Convention Centre and enjoy the best of seasonal food and drink, gourmet gifts, master classes, specialist wines, food sampling and fine dining. This year's Taste includes a MasterChef live theatre show with Dylan McGrath and Nick Munier. Top Dublin restaurants Bang, Bon Appetit, Chop House, Pichet, Cliff Town House, Unicorn and Jaipur also have exhibitions for the duration. Famous toy shop Hamleys will also be hosting a family fun Christmas morning with Santa Claus on Sunday November 27. www.tasteofchristmas.ie

Waterford International Music Festival (November 2-13)
Twelve days celebrating what's best about music, from popular musicals to soulful gospel and alternative sounds. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the festival and includes a Light Opera Festival, a High School Festival, a Gospel Festival and a Fringe Festival. Some of the highlights include performances by both the Dublin and London Gospel choirs, Rebecca Storm and a showing of the Pirates of Penzance. www.waterfordintlmusicfestival.com

Tralee Circus Festival (November 18-20)
The Tralee festival showcases the unique excitement and creativity of circus performance. At the heart of the festival is Circus Siamsa, a contemporary circus variety show featuring top national and international performers. www.traleecircusfestival.com

December
Winter Solstice, Newgrange, Co Meath (December 21)
One of the highlights of the calendar is without doubt the celebration of the Newgrange winter solstice at the World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne. The site predates the ancient pyramids by 400 years and at dawn on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, a shaft of sunlight enters the inner chamber where a handful of lucky souls bear witness to the passage of time at this world famous event. It's a lottery for the lucky few who are allowed into the chamber for the event but just to be around the site on that winter morning is enough to marvel at the imagination of our forefathers. www.newgrange.com

Walk Killarney, Kerry (December 26-27)
Fully guided walks through Ireland's oldest oakwoods, highest mountains, heritage and wildlife rich landscapes and dramatic Atlantic coastline. Experience the history hidden within the landscapes of Kerry in the company of knowledgeable and entertaining guides. www.killarney.ie/walkkillarney

Leopardstown Races, Dublin (December 26-29)
A firm fixture in the Christmas social calendar, Leopardstown Races attract thousands every year to continue the Christmas spirit with top quality racing on show. Last year's festival was hit badly by the Arctic conditions, so expect a bumper year this time around with great entertainment and a festive atmosphere. Every day features at least one Grade One race. St Stephen's Day features the Grade One Bord na Móna Novice Chase, while Ladies Day this year is on December 28. www.leopardstown.com

For more information on these and many more events taking place throughout the winter months, visit: www.discoverireland.ie.

Ed Leahy

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