Christmas cheer at Brigit’s Garden Café

Brigit’s Garden offers a magical experience for all ages. The beautiful gardens are set on 4.5 hectares of woodland and wildflower meadows in Roscahill, County Galway. The wildlife gardens are designed to reflect the west of Ireland landscape and are dotted with interesting features — a nature trail, Ogham trees, children's discovery trail, living willow play area, an ancient ring fort, roundhouse, and the largest calendar sundial in Ireland. As winner of a prestigious Georgina Campbell award for Family Friendly Destination of the Year 2017, these family-friendly gardens are themed on the Celtic festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine, and Lughnasa, a journey through the cycle of the year. Additional talks and activities on Celtic heritage are available and there is often music in the gardens on bank holidays and every Sunday in summer.

While you may think the best time of year to visit is May, June, and July, the extended programme of events now has features of interest practically all year round. Best of all, you can get some of the best café food in Galway made with organic ingredients fresh from the gardens whenever possible. The high standard of facilities and tranquil surroundings also make it the ideal venue for hire for weddings and special events. We had a children's birthday party there in August and I couldn't recommend it highly enough. This is a café that is worth a visit in its own right.

The main shop and café building is spacious and airy with the dining area overlooking the gardens. Everything is kept simple with brightly painted chairs adding to the bohemian atmosphere and, if the weather is nice enough, there is seating outside. You would have to look a long way to find a better bowl of soup, a meal in itself with brown bread and butter and good value. It’s a lovely place to drop into for afternoon tea. There are great home bakes including the most delicious scones with jam and cream, and perhaps a slice of walnut and carrot cake, moist and nutty, lemon polenta sponge or pear tart. You will find good coffee here as well as a selection of teas, soft drinks like cranberry or lemonade, and wines by the glass or bottle.

Mediterranean and fusion flavours abound in this kitchen and the more substantial 'bigger bites' tend to hover round the €10 mark. Maybe the terrine of layered thin beetroot slices marbled with creamy goat's cheese, local honey and thyme, and candied walnuts served with garden salad, quiche of the day, or buddha bowls of spiced hummus, marinated butterbeans, tomatoes, spinach, pickled vegetables, beets, toasted seeds, and a garlic cashew cream dressing to feed your inner vegan. The humble sandwich gets a makeover here too, like turkey and crispy bacon on homemade bread with garden herb stuffing and basil and pear mayo, or baked coriander and cumin falafels, pickled cabbage, red onion, tomato, and harissa in a flatbread served with a mixed leaf salad.

Weekend brunches feature buttermilk waffles with bacon and maple syrup or orange scented mascarpone and compote, raisin and cinnamon granola with yoghurt and stewed fruits, or homemade baked beans with baked eggs, served with garlic toast. 'Elves and fairies' have their own well priced menu with wholesome chowder and homemade bread, grilled ham and cheese quesadilla, tomato and cheese pizza, or pasta with butter or tomato sauce and cheese, all at around €3/€4. Don't forget to look around the shop on the way in or out, it offers an unusual range of hand-picked items, you will find educational books and toys for children and stocking fillers for Christmas.

Every weekend before Christmas, Santa and his pal Elfie, the musical elf, are back to mesmerise children and their families at Santa’s Christmas Magic Show, taking place in the cosy surrounds of the Hazel Room. It features music and fun, a singalong with Elfie, and everyone lighting the Christmas tree with magic — the real charm and wonder of Christmas. A special candle from Santa is given to each family to light on Christmas Eve. There will be mulled apple punch for all the family on arrival, making Christmas decorations with Mrs Claus in the thatched Roundhouse, a treasure hunt around the gardens, and more. While you are there, make the most of the winter menu in the Garden Café, and browse the gift shop for Christmas gifts.

This is a great value Santa experience at €15 per child/adult. Children under two are free if they sit on an adult lap for the show. Booking of tickets is advised as the shows tend to sell out quickly.

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