Romantic Ireland: 10 Gorgeous Getaways…

16th August 2010
Pól Ó Conghaile

Swiss Cottage, Co Tipperary

Cahir’s Swiss Cottage (052 744-1144) is an unusual attraction. A ‘cottage ornée’ (ornamental cottage) 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 amidst interiors such as the graceful spiral staircase and the Salon’s wallpaper – one of the first commercially produced Parisian wallpapers. To gild the lilly (something the small cottage does spectacularly well) walk the 2km along the river from Cahir Castle.

Stay Nearby: The Old Convent (052 65565; theoldconvent.ie) is a gourmet hideaway in Clogheen; the Cashel Palace Hotel (062 62707; cashel-palace.ie) a Blue Book hotel in Cashel.

Healy Pass, Co. Cork

A knotted mountain road linking Adrigole in Co. Cork and Lauragh in Co. Kerry, the Healy Pass is nothing less than a time capsule. Winding through coums, corries and the Caha Mountains, the sights and sounds are pretty much exactly as Tim Healy, first Governor-General of the Irish Free State (for whom the pass is named), might have found them. It’s romantic Ireland… along with you, your sweetheart and some sheep, in other words. Just make sure your plans are flexible enough to cope with fog and ice.

Stay Nearby: Glengarriff Lodge (027 63833; glengarriff-lodge.com) is a luxury thatched hunting lodge on its own private island. Blair’s Cove House (027 61127; blairscove.ie) is in Durrus.

Glencar Waterfall, Co. Leitrim

yeats, romantic

WB Yeats namechecks this enchanting hideaway in The Stolen Child, priming it nicely for poetic proposals. Situated just outside Manorhamilton, the waterfall is a 50-foot sheet pulled off the rocks, and Leitrim itself 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.”

Stay Nearby: Ard Nahoo (071 913-4939; ardnahoo.com) is a health farm in Dromahair; Coopershill House (071 916-5108; coopershill.com) a Georgian mansion in Riverstown, Co. Sligo.

The Copper Coast, Co. Waterford

Ireland has dozens of beaches and strands suited to the diamond-toting gentleman. If you don’t yet have a favourite, however, we recommend finding one over a drive along the Copper Coast. Stretching from Tramore to Dungarvan, winding past hidden coves and postcard-pretty villages like Stradbally and Annestown, mining here could strike gold of a deliciously mushy kind.

Stay nearby: Gaultier Lodge (051 382549; gaultier-lodge.com) is in Dunmore East; Parkswood Country House (051 380863; parkswood.com) an option in Passage East.

Mussenden Temple, Co. Derry

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

Stay Nearby: Bushmills Inn (+44 (0)28 207 33000; bushmillsinn.com); Beech Hill House (+44 28 7134 9279; beech-hill.com) is “the best destination in the entire county,” according to Bridgestone.

Stained Glass Room, Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin

This beautifully atmospheric grotto is devoted to the display of stained glass from the Hugh Lane Gallery’s collection – key amongst which, of course, is the work of Harry Clarke. Pausing amidst pieces like Clarke’s Eve of St Agnes provides the perfect opportunity for amorous asides, soulful sweet nothings, or picturesque proposals. No high-pitched screaming though – the glass is priceless.

Stay Nearby: Marble Hall (01 497-7350; marblehall.net) and Merrion Hall (01 668-1426; halpinsprivatehotels.com) are two well-reviewed Dublin 4 hideaways.

Slieve League Cliffs, Co. Donegal

romantic, ireland, settings

If you want to pop the question in a quiet café or gentle rose garden, give Slieve League a miss. If, on the other hand, you’re determined to proclaim your love on as dramatic, windswept and elemental a stage as nature can muster, you’re in the right place. Breathtaking, exhilarating and, at times, frankly scary, these awesome Atlantic cliffs are amongst the finest in Western Europe.

Stay Nearby: Castle Murray House Hotel (074 973-7022; castlemurray.com) is near Dunkineely (open mid-Feb); Harvey’s Point Hotel (074 972-2208; harveyspoint.com) sits on the shores of Lough Eske

Dun Laoghaire East Pier, Co. Dublin

Romantic strolls don’t come much cheesier than Dun Laoghaire’s East Pier (unless, of course, you live in Bray). One of Ryan Tubridy’s favourite walking spots, the East Pier has been resurfaced of late, making the loll past bandstand, bobbing yachts and bulkheads an upgraded affair. Pop the question by the lighthouse, and if you can get a passing ferry to honk, we salute you.

Stay Nearby: The Kingston Hotel (01 280-1810; kingstonhotel.com) overlooks the East Pier, and the Royal Marine (01 230-0030; royalmarine.ie) recently had a makeover.

Coumshingaun, Co Waterford

west 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. “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.”

Stay Nearby: Hanora’s Cottage (052 36134; hanorascottage.com) is a quality B&B in Ballymacarbry; Paul Flynn’s Tannery Townhouse (058 45420; tannery.ie) is in Dungarvan.

Altamont Garden, Co. Carlow

Dating from the 16th century, Altamont Garden (059 915-9444; altamontgarden.com) thinks itself the most romantic garden in Ireland, and who are we to argue? 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, Valentine’s Day comes right at the heart of Snowdrop Week.

Stay Nearby: Kilgraney House (059 977-5283; kilgraneyhouse.com) is in Bagenalstown; the Lord Bagenal Hotel (059 972-1668; lordbagenal.com) is in Leighlinbridge.