Valentine's Day: Romantic Retreats
Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Pól Ó Conghaile picks his top love nests
Sweetheart deals at the Salthill Hotel, Galway
Imagine waking up to a view over Galway Bay and the rugged hills of the Burren, heading out for a walk along the famous Salthill promenade and spending a stolen afternoon together in Galway city or the far-flung corners of Connemara.
The Salthill Hotel has a weekend break on February 10/11 that could allow you to do just that -- not to mention enjoy a red rose on arrival, a complimentary glass of wine and dinner for two in the PROM Restaurant.
If you want to stay overnight on Valentine's Day itself, a single night's B&B and glass of wine is on special offer on Tuesday, February 14.
Details: The Salthill Hotel (091 522 711; salthillhotel.com), has this two-night special from €145pps, with the one-night offer from €75pps.
Chocolate surprise at the Kenmare Bay Hotel, Co Kerry
There's no shortage of luxury love nests in Kerry. But not everyone can afford escaping for Valentine's to the likes of Sheen Falls Lodge or Aghadoe Heights, so this offer from the Kenmare Bay Hotel is a very welcome alternative.
The package bundles two nights' B&B with one dinner (plus wine), and you'll find handmade treats by Bonane chocolatier Benoit Lorge in your room to boot.
The hotel has a 20m swimming pool with Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, and, this being the Kingdom, there are plenty of romantic beaches, drives and walks nearby too.
Details: The Kenmare Bay Hotel (064 664 1300; kenmarebay hotel.com) has this package from €139pps on the weekends of February 10/11 and 17/18.
A Boyne Valley bolthole at Balrath Courtyard, Co Meath
One of the first things you'll notice on your way into Balrath Courtyard is the heart-shaped lawn.
It's just one sign of the love poured into this 250-year-old property by owners Ray and Frances O'Brien, but there are plenty of others.
Guests staying at the four-star courtyard cottages get a welcome pack including scones hot from the Aga. A recent American guest was taken by surprise when her partner jetted in to propose in the gazebo.
Sadly, marriage proposals are not part of their Valentine's offer, but the O'Brien's are more than happy to propose several sights worth visiting in the historic Boyne Valley.
Details: Tel: 041 982 5749; balrathcourtyard.com. One night's accommodation including a welcome pack and bottle of wine from €100 per couple from February 11-19.
Atlantic nights at The Lodge at Doonbeg, Co Clare
When Atlantic breakers thrash the West Clare coast, there's nowhere cosier to take shelter than the Lodge at Doonbeg.
The five-star resort sprawls around a famous, Greg Norman-designed links golf course, but there's lots more to do than knock a small white ball around the dunes -- namely the White Horse Spa, Wade Murphy's cooking and cheek-ruddying coastal and Burren walks.
Special offers include a one-night stay with Champagne, strawberries and dinner in the Long Room, or a two-night weekend away with dinner in Darby's bar. Expect rose petals at turndown.
Details: The Lodge at Doonbeg (065 905 5602; doonbeglodge. com) has this one-night package from €182pp and weekend package from €265pp for two nights.
A heart-warming hike on Slieve Donard, Co Down
For some, romance is all about cosy dinners, glasses of wine and chocolates on the pillow. For others, it's windswept mountains, crashing waves and two souls wrapping up to take on the elements.
Why not have both at Slieve Donard? Northern Ireland's highest peak makes for a bracing climb, and afterwards, you can rejuvenate with a seaweed bath and full-body massage for two at Soak in Newcastle.
There's a Valentine's special offer at the Slieve Donard Hotel too -- it's valid from February 10-14 and includes dinner, B&B, a glass of bubbly and a red rose.
Details: Snooze and Soak (soak seaweedbaths.co.uk) has two nights, a double seaweed bath and a full-body massage for couples from £220 (€265) midweek.
The Slieve Donard Hotel (048 9047 1066; hastingshotels.com) has its Valentine's special from £100pp (€121).
A free day out in Dublin
Not every couple can afford to fill a Four Seasons penthouse with chocolates and strawberries to celebrate their love.
A free day out in the capital, however, is another story. Why not start with a rendezvous under the clock at Clery's? Afterwards, take a sentimental stroll through Stephen's Green en route to nearby Whitefriar Street Church, where St Valentine's relics are kept in a small box tied with a silk ribbon. On February 14, couples are welcome to attend mass here, and rings can be blessed at the 11.30am and 3pm ceremonies (call ahead to confirm).
In the afternoon, visit one of Dublin's many free museums or the romantic rotunda at City Hall.
Details: Whitefriar Street Church. Tel: 01-475 8821; visitdublin.com.
Cool couples at the Ice House, Co Mayo
Breakfast in bed, pink Champagne on arrival, strawberries dipped in chocolate and a special table d'hôte menu are just the start of the Valentine's Day treats at Ballina's Ice House Hotel.
The four-star has a range of packages running from February 10-18, with a rose for the lady, a 30-minute spa treatment and unlimited access to the thermal spa also included.
If you don't fancy an overnight, a three-course Valentine's dinner overlooking the River Moy in The Pier Restaurant is priced at €45pp, and it includes a kir royale, a rose, and a free file and nail polish at Chill Spa.
Details: Tel: 096 23500; theice house.ie. Packages from €219pps.
An Anti-Valentine's Weekend at Donegal Adventure Centre
Sick of the smooch-fest that is Valentine's Day? Donegal Adventure Centre has an alternative that's far away from Champagne hotel packages.
The 'Anti-Valentine' invites people "with no significant other" to Bundoran on February 10 for a weekend of surfing and rope-climbing followed by craic, music and games at the Chasin' Bull pub.
The emphasis is on enjoying yourself with like-minded souls, not spending V-Day wrapped up in hearts and flowers ...
Details: The Donegal Adventure Centre (071 984 2418; donegal adventurecentre.net) has this package from €80pp in a dorm or €90pp sharing a private room.
Follow the Love Trail at Fota Wildlife Park, Co Cork
It isn't just the animals that are hooking up at Fota Wildlife Park. 'Romance at the Park' features a love trail that couples can walk.
Face painting, arts and crafts and a park magician are on hand for families as well.
If lovebirds wish to create some magic of their own, they could follow the lead of Enda O'Flaherty, who went down on one knee in the park two years ago to ask his girlfriend, Sarah Jane Grehan, to be his wife. Enda had been in contact to set up the proposal, which was a surprise to Sarah, and afterwards they enjoyed a glass of bubbly outside the Oasis Café.
Details: Tel: 021 481 2678; fota wildlife.ie. €14/€9, with family tickets from €44.