For Valentine's Day, fall in love with home
Rest up and enjoy a romantic St Valentine's break at home
It turns out that St Valentine wasn't the patron saint of lovers after all – in fact, he was the patron saint of beekeepers and people with epilepsy. Still, historical accuracy won't stop those in love from celebrating that most romantic of days on February 14, and in Ireland the ways to show your love (and show it off) are bountiful.
VISIT THE WHITEFRIAR STREET CARMELITE CHURCH
Yes, St Valentine himself – or at least some bits of him – resides in the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, in Aungier Street, Dublin.
St Valentine's relics were donated to the church in the 19th century by Pope Gregory XVI after they were moved from their previous location in a Roman cemetery. So now you know.
The saint's final resting place notwithstanding, a special Mass will be dedicated to all those in love on the big day.
Meanwhile, enfianced couples can get their wedding rings blessed in a special ceremony too (all the more reason to hit the jewellery stores in Grafton Street).
See: carmelites.ie, (01) 475 8821
TAKE TO THE SEA
No one said that you had to follow convention, so try taking to the water for a kayaking session under the full moon that's scheduled for St Valentine's Day (it should be ideal for those of us who can't afford to get to a Venetian gondola).
Atlantic Sea Kayaking offers moonlit sea kayaking tours in the peaceful surroundings of west Cork, or if you want to be a bit closer to the action, under the bridges in Cork city.
Singletons need not miss out on the action either, as the company happily caters for larger groups.
See: atlanticseakayaking.com, 028-21058
Waterford-based folk can celebrate their union against the beautiful backdrop of Ardmore, thanks to Ardmore Adventures. Adventurous types and those with a taste for the truly unconventional can even try their hands at surfing, snorkelling or a spot of archery.
See: ardmore adventures.ie, 083 374 3889
If you'd rather stay on dry land but still want to take full advantage of that glorious full moon, Hilltop Treks in Wicklow offer guided two-hour full-moon walks in Glendalough, which certainly beats sitting in an overcrowded and over-priced restaurant.
See: hilltoptreks.ie, 087 784 9599
TAKE TO THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY
Many a great song has been written about two lovers at the wheel of a long road trip. So perhaps you can create your own sweet music on the newly-opened Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500km route that stretches from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co Donegal to Kinsale in Co Cork.
If you want to set out on a trip to remember, pimp your ride – or give himself a day he'll never forget with the vintage car specialists at Retroventures or an impressive deluxe touring bike from Celtic Rider.
See: retroventuresireland.com, (01) 696 3770; or motorental.ie, (01) 866 5777
ENJOY CHOCOLATE (WITH IMPUNITY)
February 14 is the perfect excuse to let oneself off the calorie-counting leash, and you may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.
The Chocolate Garden of Ireland in Co Carlow is popular with children and adults alike. Not only can you scoff until your heart's content, but it's also possible to sign up to a chocolate workshop so you can bring home some treat-making skills. The Chocolate Garden is located at Rath, near Tullow.
See: chocolategarden.ie, 059 648 1999
Chocolate fans closer to the capital can make their way to the Butler's Chocolate Experience for a chocolate cookery class. Find out about the different types of chocolate, as well as how to create chocolate assortments. Workshops, which cost €13.50 per person, are held at Clonshaugh Business Park, Oscar Traynor Road, Dublin 17, near the junction of the M1 and M50.
See: butlerschocolates.com, (01) 671 0599
BOOK A LIGHTHOUSE
For an idea that's truly original, you can't beat a romantic night in a lighthouse, snuggling up to a roaring fire as the waves crash outside. Perfection.
The Crookhaven Lighthouse in west Cork, located at the entrance to Ireland's most southwesterly harbour and village, offers two enticing options – the original cottage dating from 1843 or the light- filled Long House. Both offer spectacular views of the ocean.
See: crookhavenlighthouse.ie, 028 35066
Elsewhere, the luxurious and endlessly stylish Lighthouse Penthouse Apartment overlooks the golden sands of Enniscrone Beach in Co Sligo. This place has been completely remodelled with every mod-con available, and it offers breathtaking panoramic views of the beach and Killala Bay. As an added bonus, the golf course near Killala Bay is just a few minutes' journey away.
See: enniscroneselfcatering.com, 096 36634
The Irish Landmark Trust has several lighthouse properties dotted around the coast, including Galley Head Lighthouse in Clonakilty, Co Cork; Loop Head Lighthouse in Kilbaha, Co Clare and Wicklow Lighthouse, which is located at Dunbar Head in Co Wicklow.
See: irishlandmark.com, (01) 670 4733
LET LOVE BLOOM
It wouldn't be Valentine's Day without the obligatory flowers and a walk around the Italian Gardens at the Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry – it certainly beats the standard Interflora delivery.
They don't call this the Garden of Ireland for nothing. Cast your eyes towards the Sugar Loaf Mountain beyond Powerscourt Gardens and enjoy one of the best views in Ireland.
See: powerscourt.ie, (01) 204 6000
The nearby Mount Usher Gardens in Ashford, Co Wicklow, are laid out along the banks of the River Vartry, and there is an embarrassment of riches for those who love trees, shrubs and flowers. Afterwards recharge at the Avoca Garden Cafe.
See: mountushergardens.ie, 0404 40205
Follow in the footsteps of some well-known men from history and the women who sometimes inspired their unforgettable poetry and literature.
Explore romantic Yeats Country in Co Sligo or visit Coole Park, Lady Gregory's former home in Co Galway.
Pay homage to JM Synge and the love of his life – actress Molly Allgood – and stroll the woods of Devil's Glen in Co Wicklow, which is close to Synge's family seat, Glanmore Castle.
Close by in Rathdrum is Avondale, estate home of historic political figure Charles Stuart Parnell, whose love for Kitty O'Shea caused a national scandal. Or book a night at the historic Greville Arms Hotel in Granard, Co Longford, which was the home of Michael Collins' fiancee, Kitty Kiernan. Their touching love letters, more than 300 of them, are on permanent display at Cork Public Museum in Fitzgerald Park.
See: grevillearms.ie; 043 668 7000, corkcity.ie; 021 427 0679
GET BACK TO NATURE
Eco-minded types need not be left out of the fun. In fact, the luxury treehouses that nestle in the branches of spruces and pines at Grove House in Skibbereen, Co Cork, are suitably wild and rustic, albeit with plenty of creature comforts. Alternatively, there are cottages on-site with their own private hot tubs.
See: cottagesforcouples.ie, 028 22957
Alternatively, the Riverhaven self- catering cottages at Lough Key near Boyle in Co Roscommon are straight out of a Grimm's fairy tale and are eco-friendly to boot.
See: riverhavenselfcatering.ie, 071 966 7012
Down in the sunny South East, get restaurant-quality food delivered straight to your self-catering accommodation at Croan Cottages, Kilkenny.
They also offer pet-friendly and family-friendly breaks, and the vibrant city of Kilkenny, which is always worth a visit no matter what time of year, is also on the doorstep.
See: croancottages.com, 056 776 6868
HEAD TO THE BEACH
Leaving aside the usual plummeting winter temperatures, beaches are always reliably romantic.
Head for beautiful Ballymastocker Beach in wild Co Donegal, which has been voted one of the world's all-time best time and again by the international travel press.
Alternatively, head to Dollar Bay in Co Wexford, where Spanish Armada gold is said to be buried.
Or in Kerry, follow in the footsteps of the epic movie 'Ryan's Daughter', some of which was filmed on Inch Beach.
Scenes from another great romantic film, 'The Quiet Man', starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, were filmed on another great Irish beach, Lettergesh, in Renvyle, Co Galway.
You don't have to visit Dublin Airport to make an impression for Valentine's Day.
- For more ideas on breaks and amenities for St Valentine's Day, visit discoverireland.ie