Friday 22 November 2019

Ireland's 10 most loved-up locations for Valentine's Day

From a temple on a hill to a waterfall name-checked by WB Yeats, Pól Ó Conghaile has 10 spots for sweethearts...

Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Looking for a romantic setting for a getaway, canoodle, or to pop a certain question? Here are our 10 top suggestions!

1. Galway City

The City of the Tribes (see video) beat off stiff competition from Dublin, Kerry, Cork and Kilkenny to be named Ireland's most romantic spot in a survey by... erm, Swizzel's Love Hearts a couple of years ago.

There's no shortage of ways to dance with romance here. Steal a kiss under the Spanish Arch, party in the Latin Quarter, or book a saucy getaway in the aptly-named g hotel. It could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship...


2. St. Valentine's Relics, Dublin

Whitefriar Street Church, Dublin.jpg
St Valentine's relics are contained within a casket at the Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Did you know that St. Valentine's relics reside in Dublin?

No, really. The relics, believed to include bones and "a small vessel tinged with his blood", were brought from Rome by the Irish Carmelite, John Spratt, who received them as a gift from Pope Gregory XVI.

Today, they're held in Whitefriar Street Church, where a shrine to the saint includes a notebook into which visitors write petitions. On February 14, masses include a blessing of rings - but lovers have been known to propose at the shrine year-round.


3. Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. Photo: Deposit

This glacial valley has been attracting visitors for at least 1,400 years. When St. Kevin first came to Glendalough, however, it’s probably safe to say romance was far from his mind (he did kip in a cave, after all).

Today, the twin lakes, hiking trails, evocative ruins and rich folklore make for one of Ireland's most romantic settings... whatever the weather. Go off-season or early or late in the day for extra atmospherics.


4. Altamont Gardens, Co. Carlow

Snowdrop Week, Altamont Gardens, Co. Carlow.jpg
Snowdrops at Altamont Gardens. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Dating from the 16th century, Altamont Garden thinks itself the most romantic garden in Ireland, and who are we to argue?

There are plenty of opportunity for romantic ramblings here - a gorgeous river walk, a moody lake surrounded by rare trees, the remains of a chapel in a windowed end wall and, best of all, Snowdrop Month (February) - with guided tours from just €3.

In February, the gardens are carpeted with bunches of these beautiful, hardy gems... you'll never buy flowers from a petrol station again.


More: There's one beautifully simple reason to visit Carlow in February  

5. Glencar Waterfall, Co. Leitrim

Glencar Waterfall, Co. Leitrim (1).JPG
Glencar Waterfall, Co. Leitrim

'Where wandering water gushes / From the hills above Glencar, / In pools among the rushes / That scarce could bathe a star...'

W.B. Yeats namechecks this enchanting hideaway in The Stolen Child, priming it nicely for poetic proposals. Just outside Manorhamilton, the waterfall is a 50-foot sheet pulled off the rocks, and you'll find other Yeats landmarks like the Lake Isle of Inishfree, Ben Bulben, Hazelwood, and Dooney Rock neasrby too.

Leitrim itself is a ridiculously under-visited treasure.

"A landscape from a dream; unmanicured, informal, raffish and intimate in its beauty" is how another author, DBC Pierre, puts it. "If Kew Gardens were the grand salon of a mansion, this would be its teenager's bedroom."


More: 10 great reasons to visit Leitrim 

6. Mussenden Temple, Co. Derry

Downhill and Mussenden Temple, a former library modelled on the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli. Photo: Tourism Northern Ireland

From the blustery cusp of Downhill Demesne, Mussenden Temple keeps dramatic vigil over the North Channel and Causeway Coast (above).

Built in the 18th century and inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, the circular folly looks over a thick strip of golden sands, Cupid-friendly cliffs and even nearby Co. Donegal. It has also become a wedding venue of late, so a return visit could be on the cards... Bushmills Inn is nearby for a nightcap, too.


7. Swiss Cottage, Co Tipperary
The ornamental Swiss Cottage is tucked away in Co Tipperary

Open from late March to November, Cahir's Swiss Cottage is an ornamental folly built in the early 1800s to a design by Regency architect John Nash. Lovebirds could pause for thought (ahem) on the stone steps leading up to the site, or amid interiors such as the graceful spiral staircase and the Salon's wallpaper - one of the first commercially-produced Parisian wallpapers. Cahir Castle is a romantic amble away.


8. Coumshingaun, Co. Waterford
Coumshingaun Co Waterford

As difficult to describe as it is to spell, Coumshingaun is one of the most beautiful lakes in Ireland. Set into the cupped hands of surrounding mountains, a visit cannot fail to stoke the passions... particularly with some bubbles in the picnic. 

"I have seen it through a dazzle of sunshine, through swirling clouds of snow, through driving rain hissing off its surface... and I have never failed to find it beautiful," as Patrick Werner wrote in his Visitors' Guide to the Comeragh Mountains.

"Perhaps it is best to leave it at that."

More: 10 great reasons to visit Waterford


9. Stained Glass Room, Dublin

The Hugh Lane, Dublin. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

This beautifully atmospheric grotto in the Hugh Lane Gallery is devoted to stained glass from the gallery's collection - key among which, of course, is the work of Harry Clarke. Pausing amid pieces such as Clarke's Eve of St Agnes provides the perfect opportunity for soulful sweet nothings, or picturesque proposals. No high-pitched screaming though - the glass is priceless (admission is free).


10.  The Old Convent, Co. Tipperary
Nestling at the foot of the Knockmealdowns, this towering old country house was home to the Sisters of Mercy for more than 100 years.

Gregan's Castle in The Burren, The Cliff House in Ardmore, Newforge House in Co. Antrim... Ireland is not short on romantic places to stay.

When push comes to shove, however, we're plugging for Dermot and Christine Gannon's gourmet hideaway in Clogheen. Ridiculously good tasting menus, cosy rooms and the complete absence of children under the age of 12 set the scene for an excellent couples' escape... book way ahead, though, as rooms sell like hotcakes.

More: Weekend Away: The Old Convent Co Tipperary


NB: Our thanks to Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Northern Ireland, Leitrim County Matters on Irish TV (Sky 191), Dublin's Gutter Bookshop and the Carmelites at Whitefriar St. Church in Dublin for their help putting together this video.

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