No trip to Finland is complete without a visit to Santa’s village in Lapland. It was September outside but in a tiny corner of Lapland it is Christmas all year round. The ‘village’ is a mix of log-cabin chintz and blocky granite souvenir shops with a small plastic Santa statue outside (which would suit your local auto repair shop but underwhelms as an advert for the ‘real thing’). As well as Santa’s grotto – which we’ll come to – the village includes

– some reindeer in a paddock. We thought these were stuffed! But no, they were just very very slow moving.
– a tower you can climb to get a view (of the Roivaniemi arterial road).
– a sign saying where the Arctic Circle is. This was exciting and we took some photographs. They’ve painted a line across the car park so you know at any point whether you’re in the Arctic or not.
– a plastic and extremely ugly sledge on a pillar.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that this was all hastily tacked-together tat there was still something enchanting about Santa’s Village. The Arctic Circle thing helped of course and our sentimental will to believe in the magic of Christmas. This was only slightly diminished when we went into Santa’s Grotto by the wrong door and saw the great man beardless and talking angrily on a mobile.