Our Christmas Story at The Market Place Theatre, Armagh continues with the highly-acclaimed show, ‘Christmas Country Showtime’, returning on Friday 30th December after another sold-out performance last year.

Topping the bill this year will be Ireland’s top country and gospel recording start Trudi Lalor, all the way from Tipperary. The line-up also features the true voice of country Joe Moore, the fabulous train whistle sounds of ‘Boxcar Brian’, the glamorous Olivia Douglas, sensational thirteen-year-old singing wonder Owen Mac along with his dad Dessie Mac, plus Jordan Mogey singing the old, traditional hits of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams. Backing band for the night is ‘Country Harmony’ and all compered by ‘Mr Country’ himself, Sean Wallace. Tickets are priced £16.50 each.

Then providing the entertainment on New Year’s Eve are top Gospel band ‘Live Issue’ invites you to join them in celebrating the arrival of 2017 with an evening of quality Gospel music. The members of ‘Live Issue’ are marking their 10th anniversary since reforming in 2006 and in that time the group has toured regularly throughout the British Isles, Europe and America. ‘Live Issue’ is also noted as being one of the few bands from Ireland to grace the stage of the famous Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Joining ‘Live Issue’ on New Year’s Eve will be a host of special guests, making this evening of praise an event not to be missed. Tickets are priced £15 each.

Tickets for all performances can be booked through the Box Office on [028] 3752 1821, or online at And to keep up-to-date with the latest news at the Market Place Theatre, you can follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter ( where you will find all the latest information, special offers and video previews. For information on Christmas In Armagh visit | #ourstoryofchristmas


Northern Ireland boasts a unique collection of irresistible places to stay including quirky B&Bs, luxurious spa hotels and hidden gem properties for an ideal short break and Discover NI has selected the best offers of the week for you to choose from.

  • New Year’s Eve Getaway, Lough Erne Resort & Spa, Co. Fermanagh, from £199pps. Welcome 2017 in style with a luxurious break in Fermanagh. Nestled on a 600-acre peninsula, Lough Erne is one of four five-star hotels in Northern Ireland offering world-class luxury. This special New Year’s Eve package includes a sparkling tasting menu in The Catalina Restaurant followed by Champagne and live entertainment in The Blaney Bar to bring in the New Year. Package also includes full Irish breakfast the next morning. Valid 31 December. Pre booking essential. To book 028 (66) 323230
  • Heritage Break, Bishop’s Gate Hotel, Derry~Londonderry, from £135pps The exquisite Grade B1 listed Bishop’s Gate Hotel is perfectly positioned within the historic city walls in the heart of Derry City’s Cathedral Quarter. With its opulent heritage and historic grandeur, the recently restored hotel is the perfect base for combining history and culture. The Heritage Break includes luxurious accommodation for two nights, full Irish breakfast each morning, a gourmet dinner in ‘The Gown Restaurant’ on one evening, walking tour of the historic city with Martin McCrossan City Tours and a visit to the Tower Museum or the new Siege Museum.  Valid until 31 December. Pre booking essential. To book 028 (71) 140300
  • Winter Warmer, Bayview Hotel, Co. Antrim, from £65pps The Bayview Hotel, is situated at the heart of the picturesque village of Portballintrae, one mile from Bushmills, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and close to the Giants Causeway, Old Bushmills Distillery and Dunluce Castle. Enjoy one night’s bed and breakfast with an Irish coffee or hotel chocolate on arrival, four-course Table d’Hote Dinner and a discount voucher for Bushmills Distillery. Valid Sunday – Thursday nights only. Pre booking essential.  To book call 028 (20) 734100

For further information log on to

*All offers are subject to availability.

The Winterland Express Departs on Extra Dates!

The Winterland Express departs on selected dates from Tuesday 27 December 2016 – 29 January 2017.

Take a journey to the fairytale world of Winterland with a trip on the Winterland Express, our magical miniature train ride. Travel through the enchanted forest into the icy cavern to emerge in the courtyard of Winterland Castle! The Winterland Express is a short train ride – FREE with admission to W5!

Please note, tickets are allocated on a first come first serve basis at our ticket desk. Visit for information.

Dates & Times

Tuesday 27 December: 12.15 – 5.15pm

Wednesday 28 – Saturday 31 December: 10.15am – 5.15pm

Sunday 1 January: 12.15 – 5.15pm

Monday 2 – Friday 6 January: 10.15am – 5.15pm

Weekends from 7 – 28 January: 12.15 – 5.15pm

What’s On in Ards & North Down Borough Council

Friday 16 – Thursday 22 December

Until Friday 23 December, Christmas at Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra

Various themed events taking place over the Christmas season. For more info and booking details contact the Museum.

Info: (028) 9042 8428,

Friday 16 December, Festive Swing with Swingabella
The Queen’s Hall, West Street, Newtownards

£12, includes mulled wine and mince pies

A close-harmony vocal trio bringing back the sassy sound of the ‘30s and ‘40s – the Swing era.

Info:, 028 9181 0803

Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 December, Christmas at the Ark Open Farm

The Ark Open Farm, Bangor Road, Newtownards

11am – 4pm

Santa will be at the Farm every weekend in December. Hand feed the reindeer and meet Santa’s elves or visit the lambs and donkeys in the Stables Nativity scene.  Special late night opening Thursday and Friday nights from 8 December – please book for late nights.

Info: (028) 9182 0445,

Sunday 18 December, Santa Train rides at Drumawhey Junction

Drumawhey Junction Railway, Four Road Ends

£8.50 child (includes gift); £2.50 adult

12 noon – 4pm

A great afternoon out for all the family as this miniature railway gets into the Christmas spirit.



Exhibition: All Wrapped Up for Christmas exhibition

Until Saturday 24 December

Ards Crafts, 31 Regent Street, Newtownards

A showcase of handcrafted gifts and ideas for Christmas at this free to visit exhibition.

Exhibition: Juniper

Until Saturday 21 January

Ards Arts Centre, Conway Square, Newtownards

A series of atmospheric richly detailed and fantastical illustrations depicting the story of Juniper and her companions.

Exhibition: Absorption

Until Saturday 21 January 2017

Sunburst Gallery, Ards Arts Centre, Conway Square, Newtownards

A solo exhibition of unique, textured and colourful sculptures by Ellie Niblock.

Exhibition: Toy Stories

Until Sunday 29 January

Long Gallery, North Down Museum, Bangor

This fun exhibition will look back at toys enjoyed by all from across the decades.


Northern Ireland boasts a unique collection of irresistible places to stay including quirky B&Bs, luxurious spa hotels and hidden gem properties for an ideal short break and Discover NI has selected the best offers of the week for you to choose from.

  • New Year’s Eve Package, Manor House Country Hotel, Co. Fermanagh, from £195pps. Welcome 2017 in style with a luxurious break in Fermanagh. Located in the heart of the Fermanagh Lakelands, the award-winning 4-star Manor House Country Hotel combines old world charm with modern hotel luxury. New Year Package includes two nights’ accommodation, full Irish breakfast each morning, pre-dinner drinks & canapes, New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner in the Grand Ballroom with live entertainment and complimentary use of the health suite. Valid 30 Dec – 1 Jan. Pre booking essential. To book 028 (68) 622200
  • New Year’s Eve Dinner, Corick House Hotel & Spa, Co. Tyrone, from £109pps. Nestled in the heart of the Clogher Valley, where style and elegance meet country hospitality, this idyllic four-star 17th Century hotel offers a haven of tranquillity. See in the New Year with family and friends with pre-dinner drinks and canapes while listening to a live harpist before dining on a four-course evening meal in the Carleton Restaurant followed by a piper bringing in the New Year.  Enjoy a fully cooked breakfast the following morning after spending the night in a deluxe room. Valid 30 Dec – 1 Jan. Pre booking essential. To book 028 (85) 548216
  • Dine, Dance and Stay, Kilmorey Arms, Co. Down, from £89pps. Nestled in the Kingdom of Mourne, an area of outstanding natural beauty; the three-star Kilmorey Arms Hotel is an ideal location for a short break away. Start the New Year as you mean to go on and treat yourself to a luxurious night away with that special someone. Package includes overnight accommodation, four-course evening meal with complimentary bottle of prosecco, live entertainment by the Lunar Eclipse Band and full Irish breakfast the next morning. Offer valid 31 Dec – 1 Jan. Pre booking essential.  To book call 028 (41) 762220

For further information log on to

*All offers are subject to availability.


Tourism NI has put together a list of 10 exciting things to do in Northern Ireland next week (December 19 – December 25).

  • Around the World Christmas Winter Wonderland, Kool Kidz Childcare, Derry~Londonderry, until December 23. Enjoy a magical night out with the kids at Kool Kidz Childcare. With a fantastic synchronised light show, snow tunnel, market stalls, treasure hunts in a gingerbread forest and activity huts highlighting winter festivals of other cultures, it is a night not to be missed. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Christmas at QFT, Queens Film Theatre, Belfast, until December 23. If you love sitting down with a hot drink and watching a classic festive film then you’re in for a treat this Christmas at QFT. From timeless classics such as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘Meet me in St. Louis’ to modern favourite such as ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ there is something for the whole family to enjoy.
  • Walled City Market, Guildhall Square, Derry~Londonderry, until December 23. The city’s Guildhall Square will welcome the very best of artisan traders, offering visitors a friendly shopping experience with a wide selection of speciality foods ranging from fresh fruit and vegetables to homemade jams and preserves, artisan breads, cakes, sweets and treats plus handmade crafted products.
  • Cairn Illumination Hikes, Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Co. Armagh, until December 22. Don your walking shoes and climb to the summit of Slieve Gullion, home to the highest surviving passage tomb in Ireland, known locally as ‘the Calliagh Berra’s House’ on a winter walk. The walk will be happening at dusk so it is recommended for experienced hill walkers.  Appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear essential. To book call (028) 30 828594.
  • A Magical Christmas Experience, Titanic Belfast, Belfast, until December 23. Step back in time, join Father Christmas and explore Titanic Belfast’s traditional Christmas street scene from 18th December. Visit Ye Olde Picture House, peek through the toy shop window at the toys from a bygone era and check out the Post Office where Father Christmas has his elves hard at work! Hear a classic Christmas tale, challenge each other at one of our traditional games, or visit our old fashioned wardrobe and find the perfect outfit to transport you back in time. Booking essential.
  • Lade of the Lake Festive Sailings, Manor House Country Hotel, Co. Fermanagh, until December 23. Hop on board the Lady of the Lake cruiser for a special festive cruise with mulled wine on arrival.  Enjoy the wintery landscape of the Fermanagh Lakelands as you cruise Lough Erne dining on a sumptuous four-course meal.  Cost £27.50pp. Booking essential. To book call (028) 68 62 2200.
  • Cinderella, Grand Opera House, Belfast, until January 15. ‘He’s behind you!’ ‘Oh no he’s not!’ Panto season is back and what better way to celebrate that heading to the Grand Opera House for this year’s performance of Cinderella starring May McFettridge and singer Gareth Gates. Will Cinderella make it to the ball in time and meet Prince Charming? Booking essential.
  • Strabane Community Carol Service, The Alley Theatre, Co. Tyrone, December 20. Gather your family and friends and head to the Alley Theatre for a heart-warming festive evening of carol music. Enjoy music from St Joseph’s Brass Band and the wonderful harmonies from Strabane Chamber Choir and soloist Alyson Keys with readings from local clerics.
  • White Christmas with Cantilena, Market Place Theatre, Co. Armagh, December 21. We all dream of a White Christmas and Happy Holidays so join Armagh’s sensational a cappella group ‘Cantilena’ as they pour some festive spirit into the Christmas Celebrations and ring in the festive season in their own inimitable a cappella style. Booking essential.
  • Go West and Nik Kershaw, Belfast Waterfront, Belfast, December 22. The 80s are back! Two critically acclaimed legends of the era join forces in this major concert. With millions of album sales, and iconic hits from both artists such as, ‘We Close Our Eyes’, ‘Call Me’, ‘The King of Wishful Thinking’, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’, ‘The Riddle’, ‘I Won’t Let The Sunday Go Down’. This authentic 80’s double bill is a concert not to be missed!

Jacqueline from shares her pick of What’s On this weekend across NI


This Saturday enjoy a festive afternoon at the Kingfisher Kitchen at Castle Espie with their new Afternoon Tea Menu. There will be music from Fourte Strings Quartet as well as fashion and jewellery tips and advice from Captain Tortue Clothing and Miglio Designer Jewellery. Check off your Christmas list and pick up some unique items too, all the while enjoy stunning views and delicious food.  A glass of bubbly will be included as a special festive treat too!  £25 for 2 people. Booking Essential – 02891 874146.


Why not treat a loved one to a night of great music and food at the Market Place Theatre’s popular Christmas Jazz Supper Club this Friday 16th December.  Taking centre stage will be the hugely popular Martello Jazz Band who feature a sound reminiscent of the Dixieland bands of 1920’s New Orleans, stamped with their own brand of drive and flair. A great pre-Christmas night out with friends.


Caritas are a mixed voice choir who will perform Carols this Friday evening with Fr. Brian Darcy at the Graan Retreat.  Proceeds will go to the Ellie Nicholl foundation – of Ellie’s Retreat.  Enjoy a family friendly Christmas experience for all.


Join the  Ulster Orchestra this Saturday evening at the Alley Theatre Strabane for a very special performance of enchanting carols and festive music. This hugely popular and lively sing-a-long Christmas show will include all of your festive classics and promises to be fun for all the family – so have your tinsel, bobbles and sleigh bells at the ready for a Christmas cracker of a show!


Enjoy a festive screening of It’s a Wonderful Life this Saturday at the Roe Valley Arts Centre, Limavady.  This 1946 award-winning classic directed by Frank Capra is now regarded as one of the finest festive films ever made. An angel helps a desperate man on the edge realise what life would be like if he never existed. Set in the small community-oriented town of Bedford Falls, we follow George Bailey (played by the excellent James Stewart) as he reflects on his life, his loves and his future.  Complimentary seasonal refreshments.


Antrim’s Market in the Square is back with some festive fever this Friday and Saturday.  With lots of artisan food and craft stalls, its ideal if you want to pick up that unique Christmas gift. There will be lots of free family entertainment and music, plus a twilight bar serving mulled wine, so bring the family along for a great day out.


The Belfast Guitar Orchestra are a 25 piece guitar band with singing, brass, bass and drums who like to play and sing and have fun. Welcome to the first annual BGO Christmas Variety Show this Friday 16th December at the Crescent Arts Centre – there’s not that much variety, it’s still all about the guitars and the singing! Full band performance and performances from The Rockets, Gerry and the Atric, The Villianelles, M&E, and others.

For more details on these events and to add your events free go to Follow us on twitter @whatsonNI and on facebook at for news, competitions and what’s on near you.

‘Come Home To HomePlace’ this Christmas!

To celebrate its first Christmas, Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy is inviting 100 lucky ex-pats to ‘Come Home to HomePlace’, with a complimentary visit to the centre’s exhibition from Tuesday 27th to Friday 30th December.

Anyone homeward bound for the festive season simply needs to register and then bring proof of travel – plus two paying friends or family from home – to enjoy a journey through the new arts and literary centre which marks the life and literature of Seamus Heaney.

Speaking about the seasonal promotion, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Trevor Wilson, said:

“Home is never closer to the heart than at Christmas, and we are delighted to be offering a warm welcome back to ex-pats who travel from across the world at this time of year to be with family and friends.

“And where better to visit than HomePlace, located at the heart of the area where the poet and Nobel Laureate had his roots and where he returned to time and again, both in person and through his work.

“The exhibition itself explores Heaney’s deep-rooted connections with this place and its people, featuring dozens of personal stories, photographs and artefacts, as well as the voice of the poet himself, and will resonate with anyone who is coming home”.

Complimentary entry to the Seamus Heaney HomePlace exhibition is available on production of proof of travel from outside of Northern Ireland (e.g. boarding pass, plane or ferry ticket) and when accompanied by two other full-paying adults. The ‘Come Home to HomePlace’ offer is valid only from Tuesday 27th to Friday 30th December 2016.

To book for the ‘Come Home to HomePlace this Christmas’ offer, please register by email with


Phoenix Natural Gas is sending its warmest wishes to local families this festive season with the launch of a new competition that will see one lucky family have a dream come true this Christmas by granting their dream wish.

Josh Magovern helps mum Cathy, Marketing Manager at Phoenix Natural Gas, encourage all little visitors to cast their wish into the Phoenix Wishing Well at the MAC and be in with a chance to have it granted. The MAC is currently running its annual Christmas show, Pinocchio, and the Phoenix Wishing Well will remain in place until the last show on 1st January 2017. Located in the magical Phoenix Wishing Wood, on the ground floor, it is completely free to visit and visitors can come along, make a wish and cast it into the well. Terms and conditions apply. For more details on all Christmas events at the MAC, please visit

As part of its sponsorship of the MAC’s Christmas show, Pinocchio, Phoenix Natural Gas launched a new attraction, the Phoenix Wishing Wood, located on the ground floor of the MAC, and a special Christmas competition.

Families and children are invited to visit the enchanted Phoenix Wishing Well deep in the heart of the Phoenix Wishing Wood and make a wish upon a special magic coin. Phoenix Natural Gas will then reward one lucky child by granting their festive wish this Christmas.

Geri Wright, Communications Manager at Phoenix Natural Gas said, “After 20 years in Northern Ireland, Phoenix Natural Gas is at the heart of many homes and we are delighted to launch this exciting competition and make one family’s Christmas wish come true this festive season.”

“The Phoenix Wishing Wood was created by a team of local artists to provide a sensory experience for little ones and families alike. As they soak up the magic of the Phoenix Wishing Wood, children and families can smell the real Christmas trees, listen to the sounds of crunching snow, throw a few (fake) snowballs and get a photograph with the 8ft snowman, commissioned specifically for the Wishing Wood.”

“We want children to be inspired by the magic of the woodland and get creative with their entries. With the Phoenix Wishing Wood expected to attract close to 500 families over the next four weeks, we hope to see lots of entries to the competition and who knows, it could be your family’s wish coming true this Christmas.”

The MAC’s Christmas show ‘Pinocchio’, which is sponsored by Phoenix Natural Gas, opened on Tuesday 29 November.

This family musical is perfect for six years plus, but younger audiences will enjoy the live music and the dazzling magic that local company Cahoots NI is renowned for. Directed by Paul Bosco McEneaney, expect thrilling acts of illusion that will leave you bewildered.

The Phoenix Wishing Well will remain in place on the ground floor of the MAC throughout Christmas until 1st January 2017 and is completely free to visit. The MAC and Phoenix Natural Gas invite you to come along and make your wish. The winner of the Phoenix Natural Gas competition will be announced in early January.

Full competition details available at:


Record numbers flock to Enchanted Winter Garden

Antrim Castle Gardens was awash with activity as people came in their droves to the Enchanted Winter Garden as it opened on Thursday 8 December. The stunning light installations transform the gardens into a magical setting, perfect for getting you in the Christmas Spirit.

You are invited to be Enchanted by the Wonderland Wood but only if you have been frightfully good!  Watch Fairy Trixie cast her magical spell down by the wishing well; see the candy cane tree and the sugar drop stop all down by Lollipop Lane.  Take part in the Reindeer Trail or take a ride on The Christmas Train, make a festive treat in the arts & craft workshop, not forgetting a trip to Santa’s Grotto.  Make sure a visit to the Enchanted Winter Garden is on your wish list this Christmas.

An extra special treat is lined up for Sunday 18 December  as part of its “On Your Doorstep” series of concerts, members of the Ulster Orchestra’s brass section will be performing a selection of sparkling festive favourites at the Enchanted Winter Garden . The music starts at 6pm, so come along and enjoy a programme of warming Christmas tunes, performed by Northern Ireland’s finest professional players!  Bringing Enchanted Winter Garden to a spectacular finale.

There is no parking available at Antrim Castle Gardens with the exception of blue badge holders; however a free Park n Ride service from Junction 1 will be operational from Wednesday 14 – Sunday 18 December. Car Parking is also available at Central Car Park Castle Mall, Castle Street and Railway Street.  Please respect our local residents and do not park in residential areas.

This free family fun event is open daily from 4-8pm and is an ideal Christmas outing for the whole family to enjoy.