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Best St Valentine’s breaks to Ireland

As the shops begin to fill up with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and red roses, it’s time to cast an  eye over likely love nests for St Valentine’s weekend.

The g Hotel, Galway

The g could be just about as much fun someone could possibly have with hotel design. Boutique chic at its finest, the place is modelled from the outside like a hat – the full monty, with flamboyant feather-and-ace concoctions.

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Each individual bedroom at the g makes a vast style statement, and come with all the trimmings: flat-screen telly, designer bed linen, and a list of DVDs available.

Voted by Condé Nast Traveller as one of the top hotels in the world, the g is just minutes from Eyre Square. The restaurant, Riva at the g, offers an Irish-Italian fusion with velvet seating and bay views. All you’re short of is a Puccini aria.

The décor is the very opposite of minimalist – maximalist, probably.  In the black marble lobby of the hotel stands an illuminated aquarium complete with sea horses and tropical fish looking as if they’d been designed by Fabergé. In the main lounge 300 mirror ball lamps designed by Tom Dixon glitter in proud gaudiness.

However, there in the corner, in the midst of all this boutiquery, is an Italian fireplace in whose grate burns – yes, a turf fire.

Turf from the bogs of Connemara, delivered daily. Should you require some romantic corners to curl up in, this is the place. The ESPA spa, a black marble temple of Zen-like tranquillity is one of Ireland’s most idyllic places to while away a winter’s day.

The g Hotel, Wellpark, Dublin Road, Galway

Double rooms from €60 pps

Tel: 00 353 91 865 200

The Dylan, Dublin

Formerly the Old Royal Hospital, latterly the rather down-at-heel Hibernian Hotel, the Dylan is now a sophisticated 44 bedroom boutique hotel. But don’t get put off by the stylishness of the surroundings.

The staff are friendly, the atmosphere is relaxed, and you could easily imaging just spending the whole weekend in the hotel – alternating between the well-considered Dylan Restaurant in the hotel, and the Dylan ultra-modern bar.

Here you’ll hear tales of celebrity excess that surely can’t be true. Double rooms from €152 per night.

For St  Valentine’s weekend —or indeed any romantic weekend — the Dylan is offering an overnight stay that includes a bottle of chilled Champagne and strawberries with rose petals on your bed on arrival.

The package also includes full Irish breakfast, and two complimentary in-room movies for a total of €289.

The Dylan, Eastmoreland Place, Dublin

Tel: 00 353 1660 3000

The Capella Castlemartyr, Co. Cork

This former 17th century manor house is set on its own 220 acres within whose boundaries lie an 800-year-old castle built in 1210 by the Knights Templar, and once owned by Walter Raleigh.

The grounds also feature that most romantic of things a swan lake — there are few sights in nature more alluring than two swans performing their courtship displays.

The opulent Capella Castlemartyr provides personal assistants liaise with guests in advance to ensure they experience of the Capella – the kind of service one might rightfully expect if you’re forking out euro €575 per night for the presidential suite.

It comes, incidentally, with two bedrooms, a dining room, living room and library. There are 11 top class suites in the beautifully restored 17th century Manor House, once a private residence before being taken over by the Carmelite Order and run as a boys’ boarding school.

Should you be in a room without a private sauna, head for the discreet glass and wood building beyond the verdant lawns which houses the 24,000-sq-ft Auriga spa.

The Manor House is the centre of the resort, the site of three restaurants (featuring local cuisine cooked to gourmet standard), a private guests’ lounge and the Knights’ Bar. The latter features bar, fireplace, grand piano and striking original rococo ceiling, fully restored.

Doubles from €185.

The Capella Castlemartyr, Co Cork

Tel: 00 353 21 464 4050

Bellinter House, Co Meath

Rural, relaxing and contemporarily eclectic Bellinter House offers opulence on a grand scale. The listed 18th century Palladian-style Georgian mansion, built in 1750, boasts ancient wooden staircase, displays a flawless interior design ethic.

Featuring glass-and-chrome coffee tables, 1950s leather armchairs, and two paper-and-wire wall lights playfully shaped into antelope and bison trophy heads, this place is fun as well as sexy.

The vaulted cellar restaurant is boutique-bling style, perfect for a romantic tryst.  Local produce is to the fore – and as you’re surrounded by the rich pastureland of the Royal County, you can be sure the beef and lamb are as succulent as you can get.

Although golf, fishing, horse-riding and cycling are available locally, Bellinter is primarily a spa hotel. Take a massage, then relax in the pool – and the long windows mean this is a pool with a view, across the rich lands of Royal Meath.

Double rooms from €160 per person per night, includes full Irish breakfast.

Bellinter House, Co Meath

Tel: 00 353 469 030 900

The Fitzwilliam Hotel, Belfast

Sleek angular furniture, flat screen TV, DAB radio, great views over Belfast – top drawer boutique digs in other words, and as romantic as you could possibly hope for. The cocktail bar in particular has loads of little snugs.

This is just about the Georgie Best hotel (as they say in these parts) in town. Special offer during winter, including St Valentine’s weekend: double executive room, breakfast and evening meal £140 all in.

The Fitzwilliam Hotel, Belfast

Tel: 028 9044 2080

The Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle

Set against the dramatic Mourne Mountains which dominate Newcastle, the Slieve Donard is closely associated with the neighbouring course, the Royal County Down, one of the world’s top links courses.

The 126 rooms are comfortable rather than luxurious, in contrast to the grandness of the public areas, with their chandeliers, giant paintings, black-and-white photographs and memorabilia from more than 100 years’ worth of previous golfing visitors.

The rich and famous have been visiting since the hotel opened in 1897. On the ground floor, the giant Chaplin Bar (he stayed here in 1920) serves snacks throughout the day; the library, the drawing room and the Oak Restaurant all look out towards the bay. The restaurant is so opulent that it looks like a film set – maybe the setting for an Agatha Christie mystery.

Just being in Newcastle is a form of therapy: the people are friendly, the pace of life still slow and everywhere amazing views of mountains, sea and forests.

But just in case that’s not enough, the Slieve Donard features the Elysium health club, with gym, steam room, Jacuzzi and beauty salon.

Double rooms begin at £105 per room including breakfast

The Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle, Co Down

Tel: 028 4372 3681

Ghan House, Carlingford

For an impossibly romantic setting you couldn’t really better Ghan House in Carlingford, with the Cooley Mountains as a backdrop and the Mountains of Mournes sweeping down to the sea just across Carlingford Lough.

The 18th Georgian house is discreetly hidden behind high walls – some of which are the remnants of the old 12th century Dominican friary  – ideal for a Valentine’s romantic stroll. You might even manage a quick snog behind one of the towering beech trees.

The establishment is run by the Carroll family with style and flair – no wonder it’s been recommended as one of the “Best 100 places to stay in Ireland”.

Myself, I’d say it was in the top 10 – romantic, snug bars, intimate dining rooms, and heavy on open fires and candles.

A wealth of beauty and history to provide an unforgettable backdrop for a romantic weekend break – indeed, every weekend is St Valentine’s weekend at Ghan House!

Currently, Ghan House is offering 2 nights B&B, and a three course candlelit dinner from €150 per person.

Ghan House, Carlingford, Co. Louth

Tel: 00 353 42 937 3682

Cullintra House, Co. Kilkenny

Cullintra House is a 200-year-old farmhouse just outside the beautiful town of Inistioge.

If you and your beloved are predisposed towards tranquil walks in stunning countryside, and inside a fine old mansion stuffed with antiques and cats, you’ll love Cullintra House.

Dinners are by candlelight, and a singsong in the conservatory inevitably follows. There are four rooms, a barn apartment, each decorated with real flair. B&B from €35 pps.

Cullintra House, The Rower, Inistioge, Co Kilkenny

Tel: 00 353 51-423614


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