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Monaghan is one of the most underrated counties in Ireland. It is just over an hour drive from Dublin and is filled with wonderful things to see and do. If you’re thinking of spending Christmas in Monaghan, you won’t be disappointed.
The festive season is a particularly magical time to visit Monaghan as the towns go all out with their lights and decorations for Christmas. So let’s jump into my festive guide to Monaghan and plan your trip!
Towns to Visit in Monaghan this Christmas
There are plenty of towns to stop in on your festive tour of Monaghan but I’ve narrowed it down to my top six. I’m going to take you through where to shop, where to eat and what to see in each town to make your Monaghan Christmas extra special.
Where to Shop in Castleblayney
Crafty is my top recommendation for gift shopping when in Castleblayney. This colourful little shop is full of local and Irish-made bits and bobs of all varieties. I probably bought more gifts for myself than anyone else if I’m being very honest. I could have spent hours browsing in Crafty.
Mementos is the perfect shop for picking up some Christmas decorations. Frank and Polly is the place to be if you’re looking for something cute and cosy for your little ones. If you need flowers for someone special then Budz Florist is the stop for you.
Just stroll down the main street and you’ll find a whole host of lovely independent shops to suit all your needs.
Where to Eat in Castleblayney
2 West Street is a coffee shop/eatery/lifestyle store that’s perfect for breakfast, lunch or brunch. There are lots of fresh ingredients and healthy options to suit all dietary requirements and their food is always Insta-worthy, of course.
McCaugheys is the place for anyone with a sweet tooth. Whether it’s a Biscoff hot chocolate or a Maltesers Reindeer ice cream sundae, you’ll definitely get your sugar fix at McCaugheys.
What to See in Castleblayney
Snap a selfie with the Big Tom Statue before taking a leisurely stroll around Lough Muckno. While I was there I saw a kingfisher flit across the lake which was magical. At Christmas the lights around town are lovely and the local shops really go all out with their festive shop window displays.
Where to Shop in Clones
Check out the Ulster Canal Stores to learn more about the history of Clones Lace. The museum is free to visit. They have some lovely local souvenirs available and an on-site bistro.
Lipton’s is a family-run shop that sells a bit of everything from hardware to homeware. At Christmas they even sell Christmas tree and have a very impressive decorations section. If there’s something you’re looking for but have no idea where to find it, Lipton’s probably has it.
Where to Eat in Clones
Adamson’s Bar is incredibly cosy, especially at Christmas. The whole pub is done up with lights and decorations, not to mention the toasty open fire. They serve delicious wood-fired pizza and a selection of sides that can be washed down with a creamy pint or a soft drink.
What to See in Clones
The Clones round tower is a striking landmark dating back to the 9th century and is definitely worth seeing for a bit of history. Stroll to the diamond in the heart of town and you’ll find another piece of history, the Clones High Cross.
The Virtual Clones Heritage Trail is a great way to explore the town. There are QR codes on information/eolas signs around town which you can scan. These QR codes will lead you to videos featuring local historians who explain the great stories behind these local landmarks. Make sure to watch the short video below to get a feel for the trail.
I definitely recommend taking a stroll through the town at night during the festive season, the diamond is beautifully lit up at Christmas with a big tree and multi-coloured lights strung around the square.
Where to Shop in Monaghan
Monaghan town has no shortage of shops. Dirty Fabulous vintage shop is full to the brim of stunning gowns and old world treasures, they even have a bridal section. Their Christmas window display is an absolute sight to behold.
The Market House Designer Craft Market is the perfect place to pick up unique, locally made gifts and art.
If you’re looking for some Christmas decorations or homeware then make sure to pop into Fleming’s in the heart of town. Make sure to stop at Graham’s of Monaghan, just outside of town, for all things home. I could have spent a good hour in their Christmas section. I bought a whole host of festive trinkets from Fleming’s and Graham’s during my visit to Monaghan.
Where to Eat in Monaghan
The Local is an organic wholefoods store that serves hearty soup and delicious hummus on fresh bread. The soup changes daily and I’m sure each one if delicious, but I can 100% guarantee that the lentil dhal will warm your soul, not to mention the turmeric hummus.
I am constantly on the search for my next iced coffee and Screaming Bean Coffee hit the spot during my visit to Monaghan. They have an extensive food and coffee menu and the place has a lovely buzz about it.
Dinner in the Westenra Arms is the perfect end to a day out in Monaghan town. The staff are friendly, the service is fast and the food is delicious.
What to See in Monaghan
At Christmas Monaghan town pumps Christmas music into the streets via a speaker system around town, it makes for an incredibly festive atmosphere. Not the mention the Christmas lights and giant Christmas tree in the centre of town.
If you like street art there’s a beautiful mural by Omin at the back of the Westenra Arms hotel in their car park that’s definitely worth a look.
Where to Shop in Ballybay
Ballybay is a very small town but it has a few gems on the main street. If you’re like me and love to get crafty with a knitting needle or crochet hook then definitely check out Stiches. Or if you’re looking for some healthcare bits make sure to pop into Ballybay Pharmacy.
Where to Eat in Ballybay
If you’re looking for a cup of coffee and a cake then Dinkin’s is the place in Ballybay. I can definitely recommend their mince pie and hot chocolate (with lots of marshmallows).
Gerry’s Takeaway serves delicious classics like fish and chips, onion rings and more. There’s nothing better to warm you on a cold winter’s night in Ballybay than a fresh bag of chips from Gerry’s.
What to See in Ballybay
The Christmas lights in Ballybay are probably the best of all the towns in Monaghan, which is very impressive considering the size of Ballybay. Gerry, the man behind Gerry’s takeaway, is a huge driving force behind getting the town all lit up and he does a fantastic job.
Ballybay is very proud of its wetlands so a visit to the Wetlands Centre is a must. There are 65 acres of wetlands and they’re home to a huge variety of flora and fauna. Have a stroll round Lough Major. There’s a 4.2km loop walk that starts from Ballybay.
If you like street art then check out the MASER Wetlands of Ballybay mural. It’s bold, beautiful and brings a splash of colour to the town.
Where to Shop in Glaslough
Glaslough is one of the cutest towns I’ve ever visited in Ireland. If you need a thoughtful gift or something to brighten up your home then pick up a piece of hand-crafted ceramics from Busy Bee or maybe even book yourself in for a pottery class.
Visit the Glaslough Chocolate Shop to pick up some festive and delicious stocking-fillers. I love their hot chocolate bombs and the salted caramel hazelnut bar! It’s the cutest shop and they make a fabulous hot chocolate as well that you can take away.
Where to Eat in Glaslough
Ambledown Cottage is a picture-perfect cottage, like something out of a movie, and it also just happens to be a lovely restaurant. They do delicious pizza and sides like halloumi fries. Definitely phone ahead or book a table online!
Where to Shop in Carrickmacross
The Collective at Market Square is full of local crafts and art and it beautifully laid out. If you’re looking for decorations or home-ware then McAllisters is the shop for you. Need a one of a kind gift? Then check out Farney Antiques & Nearly New shop on Farney street.
Need more shopping inspiration? Check out Shop Carrickmacross for lots of info on local shops.
Where to Eat in Carrickmacross
Matilda’s is a must visit when in Carrickmacross. They have fresh-baked bread that smells so good you want to bottle it. Their cakes and pastries are the things dreams are made of. Of course, this time of the year, you’ll need to try their famous mince pies.
For dinner stop into The Shirley Arms Hotel. The service here is second to none and the menu caters to all. I can personally recommend the vegetarian wellington and the potato gratin. Honestly, it was the best potato gratin I’ve ever had!
What to See in Carrickmacross
The Carrickmacross Lace Gallery cannot be missed. Inside you can discover the art of Carrickmacross lace that dates back to 1820 and was seen on Princess Diana’s wedding dress.
Just outside Carrickmacross town you’ll find the tin church in Laragh. It is absolutely worth visiting. It looks like something straight off a postcard.
The Christmas lights in Carrickmacross are magical, twinkling as they line the main street. The local shops also go all out with their festive shop fronts so make sure to have a look around the town once it gets dark.
Places to Stay at Christmas in Monaghan
Here are some places I can personally recommend to stay in during your visit to Monaghan. Also, hotel vouchers make a spectacular last minute Christmas gift *hint hint*.
Westenra Arms Hotel, Monaghan Town
I stayed here during my time in Monaghan Town. It’s an old-world type hotel with classic touches, a great location and warm, welcoming staff. The restaurant serves a hearty meal and great cocktails. Check out the links below for more info.
Shirley Arms Hotel, Carrickmacross
Everyone got very excited when I mentioned that I would be staying at the Shirley Arms, which I completely understand now. The rooms are modern and bright but the heart of the hotel has a gorgeous cosy feel, especially with the Christmas decorations. As I mentioned previously, the dinner here is a must! Check out their website below.
Castle Leslie Estate, Glaslough
I haven’t actually stayed in Castle Leslie, however, I have visited the castle, wandered the grounds and had afternoon tea there. It was absolutely stunning and hopefully I get to stay there in the future. Have a look at these links for all the info you need to book your stay.
While the above hotels are ones I can personally recommend, there are a whole host of stunning hotels to choose from across Monaghan. Whether you prefer modern or classic, boutique or chain, there’s somewhere spectacular to rest your head in Monaghan.
Here are a few of the best hotels in the county that come highly recommended by friends and family. Have a browse and see which hotel is the perfect fit for your Monaghan adventure.
- Four Seasons Hotel, Monaghan Town
- Hillgrove Hotel, Monaghan Town
- Creighton Hotel, Clones
- Nuremore Hotel, Carrickmacross
- Sliabh Beagh Hotel, Knockatallon
- Glencarn Hotel, Castleblayney
All of the above hotels offer gift cards on their websites which could be a really thoughtful and easy gift for your loved ones this Christmas. I actually bought my mam a hotel gift card last year and she was absolutely delighted with it.
If you still need some more gift ideas for your loved ones make sure to check out this comprehensive list of Monaghan businesses that offer online shopping and delivery. It makes shopping local even easier this Christmas. The “Hospitality and Tourism” section has great hotel voucher and activity options to suit every taste, from rally driving to luxury hotel stays.
Let’s Wrap it up
Monaghan is such a stunning, underrated county full of lively communities, great local shops and spectacular places to eat. I loved my Monaghan Christmas adventure and absolutely recommend it if you want to visit somewhere a little different in Ireland. If you want to see more of my Monaghan trip make sure to follow me on Instagram and TikTok.
Also make sure to check out the official Monaghan Tourism Insta account for more Monaghan inspiration!
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