10 alternative Christmas gift ideas

A HOT air balloon flight is often top of many people’s wish list and although it is pricier than a pair of socks or a soap on a rope, there are different options available and might be a good idea as a group present for that all-important family member.

10 alternative Christmas gift ideas

Irish Balloon Flights take place shortly after sunrise or a couple of hours after sunset and launch sites are at six locations around the country. Prices start at €170.

* www.balloons.ie

At Mondello Park, Co Kildare. aspiring race drivers will be taught the skills and techniques used by their heroes before heading onto the track in a saloon car with an instructor on hand. Then they’ll graduate to graduate to the exhilarating Formula One-style single-seater for 12 laps of the track.

Younger enthusiasts can also take part in what is known as drifting and the Mondello Pro-Drift Academy caters for drivers from 13 years-of-age who are capable of driving a manual gear box.

Prices range from €99 to €299.

* www.mondello.ie

Atlantic Airventure in Shannon, Co Clare, will appeal to those with a love of flying and really anyone who wants an exhilarating thrill without actually taking their feet off the ground. Flight simulator experiences start from simple programmes to a Boeing 737 which has been constructed using the cockpit section of an ex-Canadian Airline jet.

Prices vary depending on package, up to €150

* www.atlanticairventure.com

Ever wondered what it feels like to be in prison after dark? Well if you know someone who would relish the thought, they can head to Cork City Gaol — or if they prefer, there is also the more frequent daylight tour which will highlight just what it was like for inmates at the ancient clink.

Opened in 1824 and closed in 1923, this historic building is beautifully maintained and full of history, character and a few unexpected characters. Prices range from €4.50 to €10.

* www.corkcitygaol.com

Father Ted fans would love nothing more than to experience the ambience of the house where the hapless priests went about their daily business and while the dwelling does indeed exist, it isn’t on Craggy Island but close to the Burren in Co Clare. Privately owned, unsolicited visits are not encouraged but it is possible to book afternoon tea experience.

Costs from €5 to €10.

* www.fathertedshouse.com

Viking Splash Tours offer a tour of Dublin that begins on dry land, but passengers then brace themselves for a splash into the Liffey as the second part of the trip takes place on water.

Tickets cost €20 for adults and €12 for children — family and group rates available.

* www.vikingsplash.com

Irish Landmark Trust has recently launched a lighthouse trail — some of the buildings are open to the public just for daytime tours and others offer overnight accommodation. From the Blackhead lighthouse in Co Antrim to Galley Head in Co Cork, and plenty of locations in between, these historic properties are warm, cosy and extremely well kitted-out and will guarantee an atmospheric break in some of the most scenic areas of the country.

Weekend breaks cost from €250.

* www.irishlandmark.com

Want to truly spoil the man in your life, with a seven-night stay in the snug Chalet Lolana in the French resort of Morzine?.

This ‘man-pad’ is fully equipped with pool table, hot tub and the services of a chalet chef who will be on hand to prepare the nightly feast. Included in this break are the three-course evening meals, a selection of wines, and in the mornings, a full-breakfast prepared by the chalet host.

A seven-night trip (including meals) costs from €910 per adult.

* www.highlife.ie

Charleville Castle in Tullamore, Co Offaly, is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a young girl who died on the staircase and has been ‘spotted’ along with a party of monks, a young boy, a dark-hooded woman and a pair of drunks. Daytime tours cost from €8 per person and over-night paranormal investigations cost €60 per person.

* www.charlevillecastle.com

If high speed rallying is what thrills your mate, or a friend, then it’s hard to beat the fun induced by a day spent at Ireland’s purpose-built rally school in Monaghan. It’s currently offering a ‘Pamper Rally’ package of €199pps, which includes a night in Castle Leslie, a drive for one in a Nissan 350z, Porsche 911 and Ferrari F355 at RSI, while the ‘other half’ partakes in a 30-minute treatment at Castle Leslie, or a half-hour horse-riding lesson/hack.

* www.rallyschoolireland.ie

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