With fairytale castles, secluded islands, luxurious hotel retreats and breath-taking scenery, Ireland is a great destination for the romantic at heart. Here are just some ideas to help you plan an unforgettable break!
Ireland’s natural landscape is really special and has inspired some of the most wonderful literary works - including those of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. They can inspire you too! Take a trip to the incredible Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare, and enjoy views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and Dingle Peninsula in Kerry. Enjoy breath-taking views by the world-famous Lakes of Killarney, Co. Kerry, nestled at the foot of Ireland’s highest mountain range; or explore the unspoilt region of Connemara in Co. Galway and all the hidden gems it offers - from golden beaches to quiet villages. See the place that inspired the romantic works of W.B Yeats, one of Ireland’s greatest literary figures, on a trip to Sligo - also known as Yeat’s Country; or brave the exhilarating Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in Co. Antrim, which traverses a 30m deep and 20m wide chasm, and brings you to a small, rocky island offering incredible views.
For a romantic escape, try one of Ireland’s islands. These range from uninhabited islands of natural beauty to those with lively, traditional villages. For an insight into Ireland’s traditional culture, take a ferry out to one of the Aran Islands, off the coast of counties Clare and Galway, where you can enjoy incredible scenery, nightly music sessions, dancing and currach racing. Visit peaceful Arranmore Island off Co. Donegal, accessible by ferry year round, and explore sandy beaches and cliffs while taking in stunning views. Discover the tranquillity, beauty and history of Rathlin Island, a short ferry trip from Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, with its colony of seals and Seabird Centre (open to the public from April 2015). If you would prefer to drive to your destination, you can actually reach Ireland’s largest island, Achill Island off Co. Mayo, by car! Achill boasts five blue flag beaches, numerous water sports activities, fresh seafood restaurants and welcoming traditional pubs. Coney Island, off the coast of Sligo, can also be reached by car at low tide (so carefully check the daily tide times!) and, with just one family permanently resident there, the island is mainly inhabited by rabbits! Explore its unspoilt beach, fairy ring and famine structures, before enjoying a drink in the island’s only pub.
If you want to experience the ultimate indulgence, treat your loved one to a stay in a luxury castle or 5* hotel. Check out Dromoland Castle in Co. Clare - a 16th century castle on a 410 acre estate with private gardens, a lake and championship golf course; or Lough Eske Castle in Co. Donegal - a luxury lakeside estate, awarded the ‘World's Best Luxury Country Hotel' title for the past five years. Ardtara Country House in Co. Derry has previously been named the ‘Most Romantic Hotel of the Year’ by the Automobile Association. The magnificent Culloden Estate and Spa in Belfast offers palatial surroundings and beautifully secluded gardens and woodland, which overlook Belfast Lough and the County Antrim Coastline; and the Merrion Hotel in the heart of Georgian Dublin promises exquisite comfort and relaxed elegance as well as housing Ireland’s only 2-starred Michelin restaurant. See more of Ireland’s most romantic accommodation at Ireland's Blue Book.
Retreat to one of Ireland’s beautifully kept parks and gardens, which make for wonderful memories. Powerscourt House & Gardens, in Co. Wicklow, was named the #3 Garden in the World by National Geographic. With 47 acres to explore, you are sure to uncover some hidden gems! The Belvedere House, Gardens & Park is a 160 acre lakeside estate, with an interesting love story! The first Earl of Belvedere built a folly called the ‘jealous wall’, which still stands today, to block out the view of the house of his brother, with whom his wife had an affair. The Gardens at Birr Castle Demesne are world-famous and contain some of the largest and rarest tree species in Ireland and the world, along with tranquil waterfalls, a lake and river - providing the perfect setting for a romantic picnic or stroll. Other parks to visit include Coole Park Nature Reserve in Gort, Co. Galway, where the beautiful poetry of W.B. Yeats can be seen inscribed throughout the woodland and gardens; or Mount Stewart House & Gardens in Newtownards, Co. Down, which are famed around the world and exude a strong Mediterranean feel. You can book tickets to some of these attractions online through this website.
What better way to show your love than on a romantic shopping trip to buy each other gifts? No matter what you are looking for, Ireland has something to offer. Larger cities, such as Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Belfast, are meccas for big name brands; many towns can be boutique heaven (try Westport, Killarney, Kilkenny City and Ennis); while smaller towns and villages offer plenty of local crafts and artisan foods (see Kinsale, Dingle and Connemara). Some great gift shopping experiences throughout Ireland include the House of Waterford Crystal, Waterford City; Belleek Pottery in Co. Fermanagh; Kilkenny Design Centre in Kilkenny City; Kildare Village Designer Outlet just outside Kildare town; Avoca Stores (throughout Ireland); the legendary Blarney Woollen Mills, Co. Cork; and the Buttermarket Craft & Design Centre in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh.
Ireland’s unpredictable weather doesn’t have to put a dampener on your romantic plans! Why not visit the Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork City and gaze at the stars? Explore hours of Earth and Space science video content at their award-winning exhibition; send an email to Space; and explore the night sky in the state of the art planetarium. Make like Kate & Leo at the Titanic Belfast - the world’s largest Titanic exhibition - and explore the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Titanic as well as the city which made her. Or, visit Saint Valentine, the Patron Saint of Lovers, whose remains rest in the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin City. (And see our post for lots of other Rainy Day Attractions!)
Nothing says indulgence like a pampering day at a spa. All across Ireland, hotels and independent establishments offer top spa and beauty treatments to suit all budgets. For the ultimate in relaxation try Monart Destination Spa, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford - recently named in the Top 3 Spa Resorts in the world by Condé Nast Traveller; the Cloisters Spa at Muckross Park Killarney, Co. Kerry - a previous winner at the World Luxury Spa Awards; or Inchydoney Lodge and Spa in Clonakilty, Co. Cork, which has twice been awarded 'Ireland's Leading Spa Resort'. Other award-winning spas include the Spa at Delphi Mountain Resort, Connemara, Co. Galway; the Heritage 5* Hotel, Golf & Spa Resort in Co. Laois, and the Thai Spa at Lough Erne Resort, Co. Fermanagh - which brings the only wholly Thai Spa experience to Ireland and the UK.
Food and love go hand-in-hand so it’s just as well that Ireland offers visitors mouth-watering culinary experiences. Enjoy fine dining in wonderful restaurants, or medieval banquets with great entertainment at Bunratty Castle in Co. Clare or a chocolate indulgence at the Butler’s Chocolate Experience in Dublin. Savour an Afternoon Tea (with a glass of bubbly for a really special treat!) in front of the fire at the Malton Hotel in Killarney, Co. Kerry or at the 5* Adare Manor in Co. Limerick. Dine out at l’Ecrivain Michelin Star Restaurant in Dublin City; Cava Bodega Tapas Bar in Galway City; Freddies Bistro in Limerick City; Star Anise, offering French Cuisine, in Cork City; Harvey’s Point Lakeside Restaurant in Donegal Town; or Coco Restaurant in Belfast City. For more suggestions and links to useful websites, check out our post on 'The Foodie Experience'.
If you have any suggestions for a subject you want covered, drop us an email. Send it to John.Leonard@TopAttractionsIreland.com. Or why not follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest? Don’t forget to buy your tickets from TopAttractionsIreland.com and tell your friends about us too.
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