Enter the imaginative world of an honorary Fota elf at Fota Island

Last year at Fota Island Resort’s Santa experience, six men proposed to their partners, inspired — and perhaps emboldened — by the spirit of Christmas created there. A tough act to follow. So what’s going on down there this year?

Opened yesterday, it’s all been kept under wraps about what to expect.

When you book online, under the FAQ section is: “What actually happens at Imagine?” and the answer is “Ssssh — So sorry but it is a secret.” It tells you to dress up Christmassy and promises to be great fun, but other than that, it’s left up to your imagination.

So, employing all my investigative instincts, I went deep undercover to get a sneak peak, at Fota Island Resort in east Cork. As an elf, albeit an honorary one.

Descending into where I could have sworn used to be a golf course, I’m greeted by a winter wonderland. Ho, ho, ho-ly moly! Is that snow?

The trees and paths and roofs are dusted with white; there’s a Christmas market area being set up; ‘Jingle Bell Rocks’ is the background music; the smell of roasted nuts and hot chocolate wafts; and elves dressed in their native Lapland garb mill around getting ready for all the boys and girls who are set to come to see Santa.

Before they get to the big fella, though, there’s lots to do. Bingbong Click Clack the elf is there with his buddy Chimney Sweep, who literally falls out of a chimney to say hello. There’s a licencing elf who issues me with my honorary status.

We head into the communications room where there’s a problem with the system, but lucky for them, I’m able to help them out with an emergency Christmas code and save the day, if that’s not being too cocky about it. You are welcome, Oranges and Peaches elves.

The toymaking department is next and Ribbon elf needs a hand fixing the Thingamebob and the Whatsamajig machines. I’m your woman, Ribbon. Stand aside.

There’s a whole interactive experience that lasts for about an hour and a half, filled with excited elves, talking trees, a stroll through Candy Cane Lane to visit Mrs Claus in Candy Cottage, and a stunning woodland fairy called Arrianna who gave me serious dress envy. It was so damn pretty.

I even got to meet the man of the moment, Mr S Claus Esquire, and he confirmed I am on the nice list this year (proving he may be slipping up slightly on the whole He Knows When You’re Being Bad or Good thing).

The creative brains behind the Cork winter wonderland are Olivia Buckley, event organiser, and Seamus Leahy, marketing manager of Fota Island Resort. Magic and wonder are their themes, so if you’re brought there by your boyfriend this year, don’t be surprised if he gets down on one knee.

Tickets cost €20 for children, €12.50 for adults, infants free. Booking: www.fotaimagine.ie.


Lifestyle

We catch up with Bushmills’ master distiller, who tells Sam Wylie-Harris more about this liquid gold.Irish whiskey masterclass: 11 things you need to know

Temples, beaches, and several nations with new names.From Bhutan to Costa Rica, Lonely Planet reveals its top countries to visit in 2020

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a woman who’s unsure how to manage her mother’s dying wishes.Ask a counsellor: ‘Is it appropriate to notify my mother’s friends of her death by email?’

‘The Big Yin’ talks to Luke Rix-Standing about living with Parkinson’s, the power of forgiveness, and why he will never, ever stop swearing.Billy Connolly: ‘You don’t wake up famous, you wake up scratching yourself like everybody else’

More From The Irish Examiner