10 best: Valentine's Day escapes
From cosy hot-air balloon rides for two and Champagne by cottage fires to a romantic foodie feast, we’ve tracked down the top getaways around the country for February 14.
Hilton Park, Co Monaghan
Paging Lord and Lady Muck: If open fires, four-poster beds, candlelit dinners, Champagne and truffles sound good for Valentine's, why not steal off to Hilton Park (above)?
Tucked away at the end of a long private avenue, this 600-acre parkland estate offers private fishing, complimentary golf on an 18-hole course and even a lover's walk. With just six bedrooms, an intimate stay is guaranteed... or wait until after Valentine's, when you can go the whole hog and book the entire estate.
Details: Hilton Park (047 56007; hiltonpark.ie) has two nights' B&B, including dinner on both nights, from €299pp for standard rooms. Upgrade to principal rooms, with four-poster beds, at €350pp.
Moy House, Co Clare
With rooms overlooking the Atlantic, wind buffeting the windows and the promise of Champagne by roaring fires, Moy House (above) may tempt several lovebirds next weekend.
The former home of Sir Augustine Fitzgerald is a bone-white outpost overlooking Lahinch Bay and, it has to be said, one of the quirkiest-looking country houses in Ireland.
Pick of the rooms in this Blue Book property is the Romance Junior Suite, the master bedroom of the original house.
Details: Moy House (065 708 2800; moyhouse.com) has Valentine's packages ranging from €155pp for one night's B&B and dinner, or €265pp for two nights' B&B plus one dinner.
Waterford Castle, Co Waterford
Be king and queen for the weekend at a castle dating from the 15th century.
Set on a private island in the River Suir, Waterford Castle has a Valentine's package offering two nights with a lazy breakfast each morning, a candlelit dinner on the evening of your choice and a rose-petal turndown.
The island is reached by private car ferry -- making for one of the south east's most amorous escapes.
Details: Waterford Castle (051 878203; waterfordcastle.com) has this package from €189pp in a standard room, €205pp for a deluxe room and €229pp in a deluxe suite.
The Tannery, Co Waterford
Oodles of oysters, succulent strawberries and decadent dark chocolate desserts will all be on the menu at the Tannery Cookery School this Valentine's.
Paul and Máire Flynn have two romantic options for the week that's in it: heat things up in the kitchen with a 'Cook for your Valentine' course on February 11, or take a 'Cooking Together' class on V-Day itself.
Both can be combined with special offers on dinner in Dungarvan's Tannery restaurant and stays in the Tannery Townhouse.
Details: The Tannery (058 45420; tannery.ie) has 'Cook for your Valentine' (two-and-a-half hours) at €50pp and 'Cooking Together' (full-day) at €195pp -- or €550 for two people including dinner and B&B.
Castle Murray House Hotel, Co Donegal
Castle Murray reopens this Friday after its winter hibernation, and love is definitely in the air.
Situated on St John's Point on the Slieve League peninsula, locations don't come more elemental than this -- on the lip of Donegal Bay with the famous Slieve League cliffs a short drive away.
You don't have to go far to the pretty town of Donegal, either, where Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick have been known to dine out when visiting their own romantic retreat nearby.
Details: Castle Murray House Hotel (074 973 7022; castle murray.com) has two nights' B&B plus one dinner from €160pps, and two nights' B&B with two dinners from €200pps.
Mount Juliet, Co Kilkenny
Check into Mount Juliet this Valentine's Day and you'll be greeted with a glass of Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries in your room.
After a romantic walk around the leafy estate, you can avail of a free aromatherapy Espa bath or body oil of your choice (providing you book and pay for a one-hour facial or massage at the hotel spa).
The following morning, a complimentary full Irish breakfast will be served in the privacy of your room, or at the Lady Helen restaurant.
Details: Mount Juliet (056 777 3010; mountjuliet.ie) has this weekend romance package from €220 per night in a clubhouse room, valid for February 12 and 13.
Rose Cottage, Co Fermanagh
Hotels and country houses are well and good, but what if you want Valentine's to yourselves? Rose Cottage is a National Trust property on the Florence Court estate, eight miles outside of Enniskillen. The interiors are relatively plain, but the exterior is quaint as can be, and the cottage is set in the estate's walled garden -- where you and your Mr Darcy can amble away the hours. The National Trust has a dozen or so other cottages scattered around Antrim, Down and Fermanagh.
Details: The National Trust (0044 844 800 2070; nationaltrust cottages.co.uk) has Rose Cottage from £290 (€336) for two nights from February 12.
Cottages for Couples, Co Cork
Cupid always enjoys a good cottage, and there are several to choose from in the grounds of Grove House, outside Skibbereen in west Cork.
All are 150 to 200-year-old cottage or barn conversions, fitted out to a high spec -- with four-poster or king-size beds, double Jacuzzis, flat-screen TVs, waffle bathrobes and, in most cases, private outdoor tubs set to a tasty 38°C.
On Valentine's weekend, guests will be welcomed with a complimentary bottle of bubbly.
Details: Cottages for Couples (028 22957; www.cottagesfor couples.ie) has Valentine's weekend rentals from €149 per cottage per night.
The Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin
It's snuggles and bubbles at Dublin's Radisson Blu Hotel this Valentine's, with a one-night package offering Champagne on arrival and dinner in Brasserie de Verres en Vers.
If you want to bring a bit of bling back into the bedroom, the hotel also has a two-night 'Sky's the Limit' special in the presidential suite.
It comes with a personal mixologist, exclusive use of the panoramic Sky Suite, a Champagne picnic, a hot-air balloon ride and dinner for two.
How much? If you have to ask...
Details: The Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (01-898 2931; radisson blu.ie) has this one-night package from €225 per room for one night.
The Sky's the Limit package is available at €1,120pps.
Natural Retreats Villas
If you fancy a Valentine's escape to yourself, but with the fallback of a five-star hotel on your doorstep (and who doesn't?), Natural Retreats has luxury villas on the grounds of Adare Manor, Parknasilla Resort, the K Club, Kilronan Castle and Castlemartyr Resort.
Fitted out to five-star specs and including access to hotel facilities, the villas offer some of the plushest self-catering around.
Details: Natural Retreats (01-685 3013; naturalretreats.ie) has villas available from €370 at Kilronan Castle to €620 at Adare Manor, based on a two-night stay for two starting February 12.