Sunday 26 October 2014

Pop Culture: Best places to propose in Ireland

Tanya Sweeney

Published 09/03/2014 | 02:30

Japanese Gardens in Kildare
The mystical and magical Coumeenole Beach, Dingle
A tree-canopy walk in Lough Key Forest

Tanya Sweeney looks at Ireland's best places to do the down-on-one-knee thing

High wire act

Dursey Island is home to Ireland's only cable car and would be an original spot to propose – just make sure the object of your desire is not afraid of heights

It's among the first questions asked of the newly engaged: "Where did the proposal happen?" So with that in mind, you'd better hope your answer isn't, "on the sofa, watching 'Deal Or No Deal'". Happily, when it comes to picturesque spots suitable for the whole getting-down-on-one-knee business, Ireland really does boast an embarrassment of riches. For those on the hunt for a spectacular location to do the deed, look no further ...

For a proposal in the city ...

Valentine's Day may have come and gone, but that doesn't mean the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church – home of St Valentine's relics – isn't fit for purpose on any other day of the year. Newly engaged couples can also get their weddings rings blessed in a special ceremony (all the more reason to hit the jewellery stores in Grafton Street beforehand). For information on the Aungier Street-based church, call 01 475 8821 or log onto carmelites.ie.

Couples looking for an epic view, meanwhile, can go to Howth Head on the northside, where it's possible to glance north to Co Down's Mountains of Mourne, south to the lush Wicklow Mountains and ahead to the expanse of Dublin city and its bay in between.

Nearby is the stunning surrounds of Malahide Castle & Gardens ( 01 816 9538, malahidecastleandgardens.ie), the perfect place to get some wedding day venue inspiration. Sweeping across 20 acres, the gardens are home to more than 5,000 different species and varieties of plants. There's also much to like at the Avoca food hall and cafe.

Romance on Dublin's doorstep

The Japanese Gardens in Tully, Co Kildare adds a welcome dose of oriental charm to any proposal.

Located within the Irish National Stud (irishnationalstud.ie, 045 521 617), lovers can enjoy sheer escapism thanks to the 100-year-old gardens designed to evoke 'the life of man' through plants, flowers and lawns. Surrounded by cherry blossoms and manicured landscapes, the garden's famous red bridge is the perfect place to pop the question.

For an epic love story...

If the love of your life is a movie buff, getting to the scene of some of the world's best-known epic love stories is a safe bet.

Dingle is famously the spot where John Ford's movie 'The Quiet Man' was shot ... while its leading actors John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara have been immortalised with a statue in Cong, Co Mayo.

Fans of more contemporary films like 'PS I Love You' should make haste instead to Wicklow, where the adaptation of the Cecelia Ahern novel was filmed. Take in the breathtaking scenery of the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough, Sally Gap and Malahide, winding its way through the heather, greenery and glistening lakes. Day Tours Unplugged (01 834 0941, day toursunplugged.ie,) offers film-location trips around the Garden Of Ireland, perfect for fans of 'Braveheart', 'Vikings' and 'Excalibur', too.

Elsewhere in Wicklow, a proposal at the Vale Of Avoca is sure to get any proposal off to a great start. The spot where the rivers Avonmore and Avonbeg was immortalised in poetry almost 200 years ago by Thomas Moore is every bit as pretty as his verse might suggest. As an added bonus, 'Ballykissangel' was filmed in the nearby sleepy village of Avoca Town. Grand Tour (grandtour.ie) has more information on driving routes in the area.

Lovers based in Laois, meanwhile, should head towards the grandiose 18th century Castle Durrow. There's plenty to see and do here for couples, from long walks in the Slieve Bloom Mountains and fishing on the River Nore to the many heritage trails of Laois. It's also no coincidence that Castle Durrow is a hugely popular wedding venue (castledurrow.com, 057 873 6555).

Over in Roscommon, it's possible to end up walking on air ... quite literally. At Lough Key Forest in Roscommon (loughkey.ie), Ireland's only tree canopy walk is the perfect way to get a bird's-eye view of the woodland and shimmering lake – though at nine metres above the ground, is probably not for the faint of heart. Another ideal spot for a sunset proposal is the five-storey Moylurg viewing tower within the forest. The adjacent Riverhaven self-catering cottages on Lough Key near Boyle in Roscommon are straight from a Grimm fairytale and are eco-friendly to boot (riverhavenselfcatering.ie, 071 966 7012).

Romantic in the South

If you're hoping to propose in the People's Republic, the iconic monument at St Anne's Church, with its famous Shandon Bells, (shandonbells.ie, 021 450 5906) is a popular choice.

Take to the church's viewing balcony, which offers a perfect opportunity to look over the city and the River Lee. And, using the numbered cards provided, it's possible to treat your partner to a serenade ringing of the bells to boot. You could also prove that you'd go to the ends of the earth for your love in more ways than one at Ireland's most southerly point – Mizen Head. The Cork peninsula boasts not only rich heritage, but the drama of crashing waves and cliff-side scenery. Cork's Dursey Island, near the Beara Peninsula, also offers an original idea. Taking a trip in Ireland's only cable car, which runs 250m above the sea. The island is blissfully free of shops, pubs and restaurants, perfect for the couple who want to get away from it all for an afternoon or want some privacy for the big moment (bearatourism.com).

Into The West

It stands to reason that Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park (095 41054, connemaranationalpark.ie) would be a fitting backdrop for a marriage proposal.

Follow the crushed rock hiking trails and pop the question against the backdrop of seaside cliffs, Ballinakill Harbour, the Renvyle Peninsula and sweeping inland valleys. The park's tea rooms are a great place to recharge.

For more ideas on where to pop the question, see discoverireland.ie

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