Romantic Ireland: be seduced by these idyllic locations
Cosy pubs, live music and candlelit seafood dinners -- it's not hard to imagine whisking your other half away on a romantic break to Ireland. So join us on a road trip across the Emerald Isle and fall in love with some of the country's secret spots.
Creative, charismatic and cultural, Dublin is a historic city with cosy pubs playing traditional music, contemporary bars and Michelin-starred restaurants. But there's far more to uncover away from Temple Bar's well-trodden cobbles.
Anyone visiting Ireland's capital with their significant other should call in at Whitefriars Church, close to St Stephen's Green and Dublin Castle. Its beautiful interiors are worth a visit anytime, but for true sentimentalists, it's also where the remains of St Valentine himself are said to lie. From there, you're only a short stroll from Dublin Castle and the Guinness Storehouse, too.
Arrange to meet someone "under the clock" in Dublin, and you'll need to head to Clery's Clock on O'Connell Street -- an iconic landmark of the city and a well-known rendezvous for Dubliners, especially those on first dates. It's also the perfect spot to start your journey to the picturesque seaside suburb of Howth. Only 30 minutes by bus or train from central Dublin, this fishing village is popular for day trips thanks to its fresh air, rugged coastal views, many hiking routes and harbourfront restaurants serving freshly caught seafood.
Ireland's Ancient East
Ireland's Ancient East encompasses a huge swathe of the country's serene scenery, and it's a land shaped by 5000 years of captivating folk stories. Here, you'll find ancient sites, medieval monuments and Palladian architecture that tell the story of the region’s rich cultural heritage, plus a huge dose of Irish charm from the area's amiable locals.
With marriage proposals becoming increasingly elaborate, there's something to be said for reverting back to some old-fashioned Irish basics and popping the question by one of the country's Proposal Stones. Legend has it that when lovers proposed to each other by these rocks, they were blessed by the local fairies, ensuring a long and lucky relationship. Good news, too -- the remaining Proposal Stones are all found in scenic spots, such as Carlingford Lough on the border of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, where the Mourne Mountains dramatically sweep down into the Irish Sea, so your declaration of love will also be blessed with a stunning backdrop.
There's plenty to get the pulse racing in Northern Ireland, whether you're being bewitched by the Causeway Coastal Route -- with its charming villages, extraordinary geology and clifftop paths -- or uncovering Belfast's expanding foodie scene, regenerated waterfront and Titanic Belfast experience, a monument to the city's maritime heritage.
If you're in the hip capital, be sure to head to the Observatory Bar at the Grand Central Hotel. This chic 23rd-floor cocktail lounge with its plush velvet seats is set high above the Linen Quarter's streets and makes for a stylish spot from which to sip delicately mixed drinks -- named after the city's top sights -- and look out over the twinkling skyline.
Those looking for an old-fashioned tale of romance should make straight for the village of Cushendun -- a little gem in County Antrim on the northeast coast, with views all the way to Scotland's Isle of Arran on a clear day. The Cornish-style cottages that line its pretty harbour were commissioned by Baron Cushendun in memory of the love of his life -- his Penzance-born wife, Maud. As well as visiting these cottages (now a clutch of craft shops and tearooms), you can also head down to the beach to fill your pockets with kaleidoscopic sea glass and watch seals basking on the windswept shore.
The Wild Atlantic Way
Remote and mysterious, the Wild Atlantic Way is where the Atlantic's waves crash against the sweeping Slieve League cliffs and where skies are streaked with the colours of the Northern Lights. It's also the setting for one of Ireland's most romantically tragic stories -- The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne. You can tread in their footsteps on the Gleniff Horseshoe walk in County Sligo and visit the cave that's said to be the couple's final hiding place.
But if outdoor adventure is more your taste than romantic stories, there's plenty to keep you occupied in this corner of the world. Make some memories by horseback riding across the golden sands of Dunfanaghy beach in Donegal, go whale and dolphin spotting off the coast of Malin Head (Ireland's most northerly point), or try night kayaking on Lough Hyne under a blanket of stars. There are also villages aplenty to explore, such as pretty Ballyvaughan, musical Doolin and laid-back Lahinch.
If you're keen to woo your love with a special gift, head to the picture-perfect Burren Perfumery, not far from the spectacular Cliffs of Moher. The perfumery's many scents are produced from the herbs and flowers grown in the adjoining garden and are inspired by the ever-changing landscape of the area's lunar-like limestone rocks.
This pocket-sized city, at the mouth of the River Corrib, has a bounty of boutique shops, cute cafés and art galleries lining the colourful winding lanes of the Latin Quarter, plus Ireland's rugged scenery just on its doorstep, too.
Less than 90 minutes away nestled in the heart of the Connemara Mountains, you'll find Kylemore Abbey -- an incredible Gothic castle with a walled Victorian garden. Having travelled to the area on their honeymoon, a heartbroken Mitchell Henry built the castle in 1875 as a legacy to his wife following her sudden death. This grand public display of affection is now owned by the Benedictine community, who restored the building and gardens to their former glory.
And don't forget to seal the deal with the Claddagh Ring, famous for its design of two hands clasping a heart. It's been used as a wedding ring in Galway Bay for the last 400 years, but these days the meaning behind the emblem and the finger on which you wear the ring, and in which direction the crown points, demonstrates whether you're single, in a relationship, engaged or married. Score some extra brownie points with your loved one and buy your ring from the original maker. Thomas Dillon's Claddagh Gold Jewellers is easy to find -- just look for the cheery postbox-red shop front on William Street to purchase your token of affection from the oldest jewellers in Ireland.