Valentine’s Day on the island of Ireland
Fairytale castles, magical landscapes, and even the relics of St Valentine himself... Ireland does a romantic getaway like nowhere else
“Come live in my heart, and pay no rent,” wrote the famous 18th century Irish songwriter and novelist Samuel Lover. He should know a thing or two about romance with a surname like that! It’s an apt quote for a trip to the island of Ireland because once you’ve visited, you'll find that the island lives in your heart forever.
From fairytale accommodation, such as castle hotels and big country houses, to buzzy restaurants and bars serving up delicious Irish food and drink, Ireland does the essentials of a couple’s break extremely well. Add to that magical landscapes, famously warm locals, and charming activities, such as beach horse riding or walking along windswept cliffs, and you soon realise that nowhere does romance quite like it.
Oh, and you can even pay a visit to the relics of St Valentine himself. Now that’s a Valentine’s Day trip to remember. 14 February, save the date...
St Valentine’s relics in Dublin
Visiting relics that date back almost 2,000 years might not sound like a promising start to a romantic day out, but these are the relics of St Valentine himself – patron saint of lovers. The Shrine of St Valentine in Whitefriar Street Church, Dublin is a must-visit on a Valentine’s trip to the city. Love letters, flowers and other trinkets are left at the sacred spot by loved-up couples hoping for a long and happy relationship.
Elsewhere in Dublin, there are lots of romantic things to see and do. If you’re a fan of the TV hit, Normal People, you can follow in the footsteps of young lovers Marianne and Connell and take a stroll through the beautiful grounds of Trinity College Dublin. Afterwards, cosy up in a snug in a traditional Irish pub, such as Toners or Kehoes.
In the evening, why not try some fresh Irish oysters for dinner? They’re believed to be an aphrodisiac after all! WILDE in The Westbury serves up delicious Carlingford Lough rock oysters. For a more affordable option, try Klaw, an oyster and crab shack which offers an Oyster Happy Hour from 5-6pm.
Next, how about a tipple? The Vintage Cocktail Club in Temple Bar is a small, intimate spot, and it has a cocktail menu for the ages, literally! It offers drinks from down through the centuries, starting in the 1400s and going right up to the present day.
Then sleep sweet dreams in luxury accommodation at the likes of The Shelbourne or The Merrion. For cheaper places to stay, check out some of the Maldron hotels available, or book The Dean, a trendy boutique hotel with a rooftop restaurant and bar that offers panoramic views of the city.
Romantic destinations in Ireland
The island of Ireland is full of romantic places to stay. In Northern Ireland, The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat is a four-star gem with a stunning spa just a short hop from Belfast. The Grand Central Hotel Belfast and The Fitzwilliam Hotel offer special Valentine’s Day packages in the city itself.
Just off the Wild Atlantic Way, five-star Adare Manor in County Limerick is a showstopper if you fancy pulling out all the stops! In Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, Castle Leslie Estate in County Monaghan is an award-winning retreat surrounded by glorious Irish countryside. And Cliff House Hotel in County Waterford is a seaside boutique hotel in Ireland’s Ancient East boasting gorgeous views out into Ardmore Bay.
As for idyllic attractions to visit, Kylemore Abbey in the wilds of Connemara should be top of your list. The magnificent landmark was built as a “love token” by businessman Mitchell Henry for his wife Margaret in the 1870s. Lough Ouler in County Wicklow is another sight to behold. Although a hike is required to get to this remote location, an unbelievable view of a heart-shaped lake is your reward! In Galway, stop into Thomas Dillon’s, makers of the traditional claddagh ring since 1750. The ring shows two hands holding a heart that’s topped with a crown, and is one of Ireland’s most romantic pieces of jewellery.
Wine and dine in style
No Valentine’s getaway is complete without a standout meal... or three! Luckily, in Ireland you’re spoilt for choice. You could go high end at a Michelin-starred establishment such as Aimsir in County Kildare or you could savour fresh local seafood at Harry’s Shack, accompanied by breathtaking views of the Causeway Coast. And Paradiso in Cork has a reputation as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Europe!
To really celebrate in style, a toast is required. While Ireland is known for its traditional pubs full of Irish music and warming firesides, it also has a fine selection of trendier bars to frequent. The Observatory in Belfast's Grand Central Hotel bills itself as a luxurious liquor lounge and it provides majestic views over the Titanic city. Out west, The Lamplight Wine Bar in Clifden, Connemara is a wine-lover’s dream, with its wine garden, terrace and retail store.
If you’d rather a simple pint of "the black stuff" or perhaps a local craft beer, check out Ireland’s pubs here.
5 romantic hidden gems
The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat
Located lakeside in Templepatrick, just 20-minutes from Belfast City and 10 minutes from Belfast International Airport, The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat promises to give you all the creature comforts you love housed in beautifully designed spaces with a few quirks along the way.