Children can get closer to Christmas and have their festive photographs taken on Santa’s sleigh at Skibbereen Garden Centre.
The sleigh was built by Mark Lee, who manages the family run business. But he had the help of co-worker Paul O’Brien making the reindeer.
The grotto only opened last week, but already thanks and tributes have been pouring in from families who are delighted that there is somewhere to take their kids in the run up to Christmas.
‘It’s every child’s dream to sit on Santa’s sleigh,’ said Mark, whose own daughter Sofia is loving the sleigh while her younger brother Noah is coveting the reindeer herd.
‘A couple of weeks ago we decided to make a full sized sleigh,’ said Mark, who inherited his wood working skills from his grandfather, but it was his dad Charlie who did the magnificent paint job.
There is no charge for families to use the socially distanced grotto, complete with fairy lights and a copse of decorated Christmas trees, but people can leave a donation, if they wish, to the West Cork Animal Welfare Group and the Irish Community Air Ambulance.
Both charities have expressed their appreciation of this extremely kind gesture. Tory Joyce, the primary fundraiser for the West Cork Animal Welfare group, said, Skibbereen Garden Centre has been a long-time supporter of the work they do.
‘We decided to do it as a way of thanking our customers for their loyal support throughout the year,’ said Mark. ‘It is our way of giving back to the community.
‘There are not a lot of places around where you can go and take pictures with the kids at Christmas, so we thought we’d do something small for them to enjoy.’
The centre is open from 9.30am until 5.30pm daily, as well as Sunday afternoons, and, as Mark said, the addition of a canopy during a recent redevelopment project means that visitors can call whatever the weather!
Such is the interest in the reindeer, Mark confirmed that there are a few – over and above the display models – available for sale as indoor or outdoor Christmas ornaments.