AN abandoned medieval town that has stood empty for more than 300 years, is rumoured to be the burial place of the man who inspired Santa Claus.
Newton Jerpoint, now known as Jerpoint Park, was deserted by nearly all of its residents in the 17th Century after being plagued by illnesses and violent attacks.
The town's only remaining residents are Maeve and Joe O'Connell who own Jerpoint Park.
Jerpoint Park, which is now a working farm and heritage site, is home to 27 buildings including an old court house, a woollen mill, and a brewery.
The Irish town is also believed to be where the real-life Father Christmas – St Nicholas of Myra – is said to be buried.
In the 4th century, St Nicholas was an early Christian bishop of Greek descent in the ancient city of Myra, which is located in modern-day Antalya, Turkey.
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He has been dubbed as the inspiration for Father Christmas, because of his reputation for leaving anonymous presents to poor locals.
St Nicholas died in Myra in 343AD, and his body was buried in a tomb in the city, which became a popular pilgrimage site for hundreds of years after.
But during the Crusades, it is believed that Norman Crusaders raided the grave in Myra and brought back relics of the saint to Europe.
At this time, it is believed that several of his bones were brought to Ireland and buried in the grounds of the church at Jerpoint – at the time, an important monastic settlement in the country.
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Joe O'Connell told the Irish Independent: “It is the best-kept secret in Ireland and there is no doubt about it. The problem is that it is so far fetched that people don’t believe it.
“Around 10,000 people a year come to see the tomb and Jerpoint, but they are mostly foreign tourists.
“People don’t realise it is the only place in the world where an ordinary person’s house still exists from that era.”
The grave at Jerpoint is marked by a carved stone slab outside the St Nicholas's church, featuring the figure of the saint flanked by the two crusader knights who brought his remains to Ireland.
Visitors to Jerpoint Park can book onto guided heritage tours of the 12th century medieval town, including the tomb effigy of St Nicholas.
They can also watch daily sheepdog demonstrations and fish on the River Nore for brown trout.
Jerpoint Park is around a 20-minute drive from the Irish city of Kilkenny.
The easiest way to reach Kilkenny is to fly to nearby airports like Dublin or Shannon.
Ryanair operates direct flights from the UK to Ireland, with prices starting from as little as £9 for a one-way ticket.
Dublin Airport is a 90-minute drive away from Jerpoint Park.
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Jerpoint Park isn't the only destination where Father Christmas is said to be buried.
His remains are also said to be inside St Nicholas Church in Antalya, Turkey, and in a crypt under the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy.
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