Valentine’s Breaks: Eight Sweetheart Deals…

10th February 2014
Pól Ó Conghaile

Kilkenny: Cupid’s Concierge…

Considering Kilkenny for Valentine’s Day?

Book two nights’ B&B at the four-star Pembroke Hotel, and you not only get chocolates and champers on arrival, rose petals in your room and dinner on an evening of your choice – but concierge services allowing you to create a tailored package from an array of additional extras too

The possibilities include a romantic tour or picnic in the park at Kilkenny Castle, in-room treatments, or a tour of the atmospheric Dunmore Caves. Couples planning to tie the knot this year can also avail of a free private consultation with Kilkenny’s most renowned jewellery studio, Rudolph Hetzel.

Details: pembrokekilkenny.com; from €150pp.

West Cork: Marriage Stones and Maritime stays…

Once upon a time in West Cork, marriage was a simple process. Couples living near Dunmanus Bay on the Sheep’s Head made their way to the Holed Marriage Stone, ran their hands through a hole in the middle of it, made their promises, and by the time they took their hands out again, were considered married.

For years, the Holed Marriage Stone had lain flat on the ground, but it has recently been reinstated to its former glory near Caherurlagh. What better place to take your sweetheart for an old-fashioned affirmation of your love?

Nearby in Bantry, the Maritime Hotel has a Valentine’s package including B&B in a deluxe room overlooking the bay, a candlelit dinner for two and the prerequisite Prosecco and chocolate-dipped strawberries, from €85pp.

Details: thesheepsheadway.ie; themaritime.ie

Leitrim: Loved Up in Tawnylust…

Its name alone merits inclusion. Tawnylust is an eco-lodge squirrelled away in the hills of North Leitrim, with panoramic views of Ballinabehy Mountain, Munakill and Doagh unfolding from its terrace… the perfect place to unpack a V-Day welcome hamper crammed with local artisan and chocolatier treats.

Two nights’ self-catering, with a complimentary guided walk on Saturday afternoon in Glenfarne forest, are priced from €90pp. Afterwards, get your A Game on for Saturday dancing at the newly refurbished Ballroom of Romance.

Details: tawnylustlodge.com.

Dublin: Saintly Relics and a Blessing of the Rings…

You can look for love anywhere, but the chances of finding it are higher at a rather unexpected location: Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin.

“This shrine contains the sacred body of Saint Valentinus the Martyr,” reads a matter-of-fact inscription set beneath the church’s statue of the saint. On Valentine’s Day, the reliquary is placed before the high altar, and couples are welcome to have their rings blessed at one of the city’s more surreal annual ceremonies.

Nearby, Brooks Hotel – a slick four-star on Drury Street – has a ‘Chocolate Desire’ package including B&B, a glass of Prosecco, a four-course dinner, and a screening of ‘Chocolat’ in its private cinema from €125pp.

Details: carmelites.ie; brookshotel.ie.

Meath: Speed Dating on the Boyne…

Single? Looking for something fun this Valentines Day?

Boyne Valley Activities is pushing the boat out with a unique kayaking experience on Saturday, February 15th. Think of it as speed dating with a twist – over two hours, single men and women will be dispatched down the Boyne, getting to know each other as they navigate the river’s twists and turns and learn to Kayak. The event is takes place in Trim, and costs €40pp for the day (with group discounts on offer).

Details: boynevalleyactivities.ie.

Cork: Romance at the River Lee…

I was expecting the River Lee to be a by-the-numbers business hotel. Then I checked in.

Arriving late from Cork Airport one winter’s night, I dealt with a super-friendly receptionist, slept in a slick room overlooking Washington Street, and awoke the following morning to a breakfast that would have put a five-star to shame. Just goes to show, you can’t judge a hotel on generic PR photos.

The River Lee Hotel’s Valentine’s package bundles one nights’ B&B, a wine and dessert plate on arrival in your deluxe room, a five-course candlelit dinner and €50 spa credit – as well as late check-out on departure – from €185.

Details: doylecollection.com

Carlow: Sexy Snowdrops…

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like the snowdrops at Altamont House & Gardens. Snowdrop Week runs from February 10th to 16th, by which time an explosion of tiny white flowers should be blanketing the lawns.

Altamont’s collection is amongst the largest in Ireland, with over 100 named varieties of snowdrop popping up beneath its trees. The head gardener leads a free tour daily at 2pm, and there’s a new café in the Walled Garden for anyone looking to bribe their beloved with a feast of hot drinks and delicious cakes.

Nearby in Borris, the Step House Hotel has a one-night Valentine’s Getaway package bundling B&B, a glass of bubbly on arrival, an evening meal for two and a hearty, home-cooked breakfast from €119pp.

Details: carlowgardenttrail.com; stephousehotel.ie

Kerry: Amorous Aghadoe Heights

“You can give without loving,” Victor Hugo said. “But you can never love without giving.” And by giving, I’m pretty sure he would have approved of this Valentine’s Day treat at the five-star Aghadoe Heights in Killarney.

The offer bundles B&B with chocolate strawberries, a five-course candlelit dinner and a jolly jaunting car ride in Killarney National Park (with hot chocolate and cookies) from €326 per night. Les Misérables need not apply…

Aghadoe, incidentally, is where Annie Leibovitz & Co. stayed for the recent Vogue shoot that captured the Kerry countryside to such dramatic effect.

Details: aghadoeheights.com.

NB: Prices subject to availability. This feature originally ran in The Irish Examiner.