Hoping to surprise your loved one this Valentine’s Day? Pól Ó Conghaile suggests a raft of romantic breaks at home and abroad.
West Cork: Marriage Stones and Maritime stays…
Once upon a time in West Cork, marriage was a simple process. Couples living near Dunmanus Bay on the Sheep’s Head made their way to the Marriage Stone, ran their hands through a hole in the middle of it, made their promises, and by the time they took their hands out again, were considered married.
For years, the Marriage Stone had lain flat on the ground, but it has recently been reinstated to its former glory near Caherurlagh. What better place to take your sweetheart for an old-fashioned affirmation of your love?
Nearby in Bantry, the Maritime Hotel has a Valentine’s package including B&B in a deluxe room overlooking the bay, a candlelit dinner for two and the prerequisite Prosecco and chocolate-dipped strawberries, from €85pp.
Leitrim: Loved Up in Tawnylust…
Its name alone merits inclusion. Tawnylust is an eco-lodge squirrelled away in the hills of North Leitrim, with panoramic views of Ballinabehy Mountain, Munakill and Doagh unfolding from its terrace… the perfect place to unpack a V-Day welcome hamper crammed with organic, fair trade, local artisan and chocolatier treats.
Two nights’ self-catering, with a complimentary guided walk on Saturday afternoon in Glenfarne forest, are priced from €90pp. Afterwards, get your A Game on for Saturday dancing at the newly refurbished Ballroom of Romance.
Dublin: Saintly Relics and a blessing of the rings…
You can look for love anywhere, but the chances of finding it are higher at a rather unexpected location: Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin.
“This shrine contains the sacred body of Saint Valentinus the Martyr,” reads a matter-of-fact inscription set beneath the church’s statue of the saint. On Valentine’s Day, the reliquary is placed before the high altar, and couples are welcome to have their rings blessed.
Nearby, Brooks Hotel — a slick four-star on Drury Street — has a ‘Chocolate Desire’ package including B&B, a glass of Prosecco, a four-course dinner, a screening of ‘Chocolat’ in its private cinema and breakfast in bed from €125pp.
Cork: Romance at the River Lee…
I was expecting the River Lee to be a by-the-numbers business hotel. Then I checked in. Arriving late from Cork Airport one winter’s night, I dealt with a super-friendly receptionist, slept in a slick room overlooking Western Road, and awoke to a breakfast that would have put a five-star to shame.
The River Lee Hotel’s Valentine’s package bundles one nights’ B&B, a wine and dessert plate on arrival in your deluxe room, a five-course candlelit dinner, €50 spa credit and late check-out from €185.
Kilkenny: Cupid’s Concierge…
Considering Kilkenny for Valentine’s Day? Book two nights’ B&B at the four-star Pembroke Hotel, and you not only get chocolates and champers on arrival, rose petals in your room and dinner on an evening of your choice — but concierge services allowing you to create a tailored package from an array of additional extras too.
The possibilities include a tour or picnic in the park at Kilkenny Castle, in-room treatments, or a tour of the atmospheric Dunmore Caves. Couples planning to tie the knot this year can also avail of a free private consultation with Kilkenny’s most renowned jewellery studio, Rudolph Hetzel.
Details: pembrokekilkenny.com; from €150pp.
Carlow: Sexy Snowdrops…
Nothing says Valentine’s Day like the arrival of snowdrops at Altamont House & Gardens. Snowdrop Week runs from February 10 to 16, by which time an explosion of tiny white flowers should be blanketing the lawns.
The head gardener leads a free tour daily at 2pm, and there’s a new café in the walled garden for anyone looking to bribe their beloved with a feast of hot drinks and delicious cakes.
Nearby in Borris, the Step House Hotel has a one-night Valentine’s Getaway package bundling B&B, a glass of bubbly on arrival, an evening meal for two and a hearty, home-cooked breakfast from €119pp.
Kerry: Amorous Aghadoe Heights
“You can give without loving,” Victor Hugo said. “But you can never love without giving.” And by giving, I’m pretty sure he would have approved of this Valentine’s Day treat at the five-star Aghadoe Heights in Killarney.
The offer bundles B&B with chocolate strawberries, a five-course dinner and a jaunting car ride in Killarney National Park (with hot chocolate and cookies) from €326 per night. Les Misérables need not apply.
WHERE IN THE WORLD…
Money no object? Then let your romantic notions run wild, from Iceland to Italy
Amsterdam: Wed & Walk…
Fancy getting married for a day? You can do it with ‘Wed & Walk’, an Amsterdam-based company laying on Sissi dresses, jackets, hats, plastic rings, red carpets and more in a mini-ceremony you can cherish forever, courtesy of a couple of keepsake fridge magnets.
Afterwards, mosey over to the Skinny Bridge (Magere Brug), where couples who embrace are said to be blessed with everlasting love…
Necker Island: Caribbean Dreams…
I’m trying to think of a saucy pun involving Necker Island, Richard Branson’s holiday retreat in the Caribbean. In the meantime, I’ll give you the rates.
The island is normally hired exclusively for up to 30 guests, but certain ‘celebration weeks’ allow couples to book individual rooms for up to seven days from $24,475/€18,130. A snip, when you consider it includes all meals, drinks and… erm, a 7% local tax.
Chester: Propose in a Tiger Shark Tank…
Yes, you read that right. The five-star Chester Grosvenor is offering the chance to get engaged during a scuba diving session with tiger sharks. What could possibly go wrong, right? The one-night package includes the Blue Planet Aquarium dive, chauffeur-driven transfers, and a celebratory meal at the hotel’s Michelin star restaurant… unless you’ve been eaten yourself. It costs £1,066/€1,294.
Iceland: R&R in Reykjavik
Romantic Reykjavik. It has a ring to it, no? With the Blue Lagoon (above), volcanic landscapes and possibly even the Northern Lights up for grabs, a Valentine’s Day stay at the four-star Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura looks rather tempting. Three nights cost from £214/€259pp based on February 13 departures, with flights from London Gatwick extra from £269/€326pp (don’t forget the flights to Gatwick).
Verona: A Festival of Love
From February 13 to 16, Verona hosts its annual ‘Verona in Love’ festival, a tribute to St Valentine that includes live concerts, local markets and special flying-heart fireworks displays. The legend of Romeo & Juliet grew up in the city (the Capulets’ balcony is reached via a cobbled archway off Via Cappello). Lastminute.com has packages from €678pp.
* All prices correct going to press, but subject to availability
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