Hot love in a cold climate

Seductive self-catering... in Clare & Kerry

Irish tourism has seen its fair share of closures in recent years, so it’s a nice change to get wind of a new opening... or two. And if the TLC invested in this pair of projects is anything to go by, lovebirds could do well to plot a visit.

The first is The Merchant’s House, a heritage property fitting right into the 19th century streetscape of Kilrush, Co Clare. Mod cons like a wood burning stove fit right in with the claw-legged bath and a bottle of bubbly, breakfast box and fuel are included in a three night package price of €200 (Feb 14-17).

The second new arrival is Valley of the Hare, near Sneem, Co Kerry. It’s a luxury farmhouse overlooking the Kenmare River, with a wood-burning stove, Wi-Fi and Sky TV just some of the creature comforts beneath vaulted ceilings.

A weekend stay from Feb 15-18 is priced at €195, with a welcome pack of chocolates, flowers and a bottle of bubbly thrown in.

Details: facebook.com/themerchantshouse or valleyofthehare.com.

Cool cats... in Kilkenny

Plugging into the V-Day vibe, several local hotels in Kilkenny have come together to offer a ‘Perfect Love Affair’ package valid throughout February and March.

And while suggestions like “an intimate picnic for two” might come a cropper in February, time spent browsing the city boutiques, exploring Kilkenny Castle, or touring routes like the Nore Valley should work a treat.

The package includes two nights’ B&B, a bottle of champagne and box of chocs, a candlelit dinner for two, a private bike’n’hike along the River Nore and a picnic a lunch stuffed with local delicacies from €110pp. Participating hotels include the Pembroke, Ormonde and Lyrath Estate, and you can also enjoy a free consultation with jeweller Rudolf Heltzel.

Details: kilkennytourism.ie/romance; visitkilkenny.ie.

Say ‘I do’... to Donegal

TripAdvisor users are certainly in love with Harvey’s Point Country Hotel. Their positive reviews have sent the Lough Eske bolthole to No.1 on the site’s list of Ireland’s top hotels — outdoing five-star rivals like the Merrion and Lough Eske Resort in the process.

The family-run hotel’s Valentine’s Day packages include a three night stay (Thursday-Saturday) with full Irish breakfast and a Valentine’s gala dinner from €249pps. A two night stay with dinner costs €199pps; a single night with dinner €129pps.

It also has a ‘Lovers’ Walk’ treasure hunt up its sleeve, with couples invited to play babes in the woods beneath the Bluestack Mountains, searching out a hidden stash of bubbly, red roses and chocolates in the bowers and glades.

Harvey’s Point will also serve tea and crumpets to guestrooms in the afternoon (siestas ahoy!), and there’s a special prize for enduring love — awarded to the most senior couple attending the Valentines’ evening gala dinner.

Details: 074 972-2208; harveyspoint.com.

Love’s first steps...

The perfect Valentine’s Day may well involve diving onto a bed peppered with rose petals but couldn’t it be just as romantic and refreshing to spend V-Day out in the open air?

The Dingle Walking Festival (February 15-17) includes walks for all levels of fitness, with routes taking in Mount Eagle, Cnoc an Chairn and Mount Brandon. Castlewood House (castlewooddingle.com) is a classy guesthouse just outside Dingle, with two-night midweek breaks from €85pps.

A fortnight later, the Táin Walking Festival takes place in the historic Norman village of Carlingford (March 1-3). Its programme has hikes of all hues, including a night-time — and hopefully moonlit — walk over Slieve Foy. Carlingford House (carlingfordhouse.com) is a creeper-clad Georgian guesthouse in the village, with B&B from €45pp.

Details: discoverireland.ie/walking; dinglewalkingfestival.com; carlingford.ie.

Cupid in the capital... Dublin

Dublin may not be as romantic as Rome, but it does have one trump card the Italian capital is unable to play: the remains of St. Valentine himself.

St. Valentine’s relics — together with a small vessel “tinged with his blood” — are kept under lock and key at a shrine in Whitefriar Street Church. Gifted to a Carmelite priest by Pope Gregory XVI in 1835, they’re taken from the shrine and set before the altar on February 14th (still in the box, alas), while rings are blessed during Valentine’s Day mass.

Another reason to travel to the capital this V-Day is the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. running from February 14-24.

Where to stay? The Gibson has an overnight special combining B&B with dinner and a pair of cocktails at the Hemi Bar for €159. Elsewhere, the Hilton Dublin Kilmainham has B&B with dinner from €99pp — including chocs and a bottle of Prosecco.

Details: jdiff.com; gibsonhotel.ie; hiltondublinkilmainham.com.

Michelin Star magic... in Munster

On Saturday, February 16th, Michelin Star man, celebrity chef and the owner of L’Ecrivain restaurant Derry Clarke, will be cooking up a storm in Killarney.

Together with Mike Hayes, head chef at the hotel, Clarke will create a ‘Food for Lovers’ menu, featuring five courses with accompanying wines. It’s a one-night-only event, so scoot on down if you’re interested in trying the Michelin magic.

A two night package including B&B, tickets to the ‘Food for Lovers’ evening and complimentary access to the Vitality Suite, costs €249pp.

Details: muckrosspark.com.

Big love... on a budget

You don’t have to book a suite at the Four Seasons to get away for V-Day. There are ways and means to treat your prince or princess without spending a fortune.

Galway’s Salthill Hotel, for instance, has a ‘Love on the Prom’ package bundling two nights’ B&B, chocolate-dipped strawberries, a four-course dinner and glass of bubbly for €199 per couple. The hotel is walking distance from the city centre and a good base for exploring the Connemara Coast.

Meanwhile, in East Cork, the three-star Midleton Park Hotel has B&B with a four-course dinner, a bottle of Prosecco and a box of Butler’s chocolates (not to mention a free room upgrade and a 20% discount on beauty and massage treatments), from €75pp.

Details: salthillhotel.com; selecthotels.ie.

Flirt with a five-star... in Kildare or Limerick

Valentine’s Day falls on a Thursday this year, which is handy: midweek rates offer the best bargains, making for big savings in top-end properties.

At Adare Manor, for example, an overnight stay with breakfast, dinner and bubbles is available from €150pp. At the Ritz Carlton in Wicklow, you can enjoy the Gordon Ramsay restaurant on a gourmet package at €360 per night.

In Clare, the Lodge at Doonbeg has romantic breaks including early check-in, champagne and strawberries and dinner in Darby’s bar and restaurant from €148pp. A two night break, with one dinner, is priced at €210pp — both offers are valid February 14-18.

Meanwhile, in Kildare, the K Club has one or two night packages offering B&B, dinner and extras including bubbles, handmade chocolate and a red rose for the ladies. A one-night version costs €165pp.

Details: adaremanor.com; ritzcarlton.com; kclub.ie; doonbeglodge.com.

Creative ideas... in Cork

Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa, is offering a ‘rendezvous pour deux’ including two nights’ B&B, dinner and a couple’s indulgence ritual from €255pp.

Or try the Cork Spring Poetry Festival (February 13-16), which promises a line-up of poets from all over the world, as well as a Male Muse workshop.

Finally, try the Celtic Ross Hotel, where a one-night package &starts from €179 per couple.

Details: inchydoneyisland.com; corkpoetryfest.net; celticrosshotel.com.



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