When someone is described as a “Honeymoon Tester”, the initial reaction is jealousy. And for an entire year Australian Denise Duffield-Thomas and her English husband Mark endured the jealousy of everyone they met. The couple won a competition that sent two newlyweds travelling around the world on a year-long honeymoon.
But these two weren’t just on their honeymoon – Denise and Mark actually married one another 87 times along the way. They visited 12 different countries, but they only visited one country twice. That country was Ireland.
“There is an ancient beauty in Ireland that makes it incredibly romantic,” Denise explains. “We loved visiting castles and pubs alike, but it was also the small stories from everyday people that helped fuel our honeymoon in Ireland.”
A year travelling through romantic locations would make you a bit of an expert on the subject, so what were the standout places in Ireland that really wowed the couple?
“We loved so many places along our stay,” says Denise. “Johnstown Castle in Wicklow was incredibly romantic as a wedding venue. And we briefly had fantasies of winning the lottery to renovate it as our home! We loved horse riding in Killarney National Park and you can’t beat a romantic honeymoon in the incredibly opulent Mount Juliet estate in Kilkenny (with a spa for the missus and the world famous Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course for the mister).”
Wedding venues aplenty
They left no spot on the island uncovered, either, checking out other wedding venues along the way, including the rather spectacular Mussenden Temple in County Londonderry: “We literally crisscrossed the country, driving from Antrim to Cork in one day!”
Speaking of the mister, what impressions did the bridegroom have of Ireland? “Mark is half-Irish on his mum’s side so it was amazing for him to connect with his relatives in Donegal while we were honeymooning.”
The people make the place
For Denise and Mark, it wasn’t just the long-lost family, or the scenery that gave Ireland its romantic edge. The people helped, too: “We made more friends in Ireland than we knew in our own neighbourhood. The Irish have a way of making you feel instantly at home and everyone wanted to celebrate with us.”
Flicking through the pictures from Denise’s time in Ireland, what strikes are the smiling faces. Hers, her husband's, and anyone in the vicinity.
If you ever wondered what it is that makes Irish eyes smile, a little bit of romance would be a good bet.