Imagine spending your honeymoon in a legendary castle. Throughout Ireland many former citadels have opened their moats, er, doors to visitors to offer a once-in-a-lifetime romantic experience. Couples who prefer urban getaways can also find classic hotels that know how to cater to couples in love.
The best honeymoon souvenirs to take home if your wedding rings are modest: matching claddagh (pronounced clah-dah) rings. These feature two hands around a heart that is topped by a crown. For generations, they have been used by locals as wedding bands, a tradition that continues today. The rings can be forged in any metal and some are available adorned with gemstones.
Rated one of the world's top hotels in the Condé Nast Traveler Reader's Choice Awards and a Brides magazine Editors' Pick for honeymoon happiness, the 20-room Ballyfin House is located in County Laois, about 90 minutes from Dublin.
One claim to fame: It's where Kim and Kanye fled on their honeymoon after they were unhappy with the first property they visited (and refused to pay).
Rooms in this Relais & Chateaux property, the most lavish Regency mansion in all Ireland, are grand. They are filled with ancestral portraits and posh furnishings that include Roman mosaics, marquetry floors, Belgian chandeliers, and Italianate fireplaces.
Its demesne, an elaborately designed landscape, is a perfect backdrop for romance.Explore the 614 acres together on foot, by horse, bike, or horse-and-carriage.
The Continental cuisine gives lie to what you may have heard about Irish food. Here everything on the ever-changing menu is grown in-house or locally sourced.
Two tasting menus, one with five courses and the other eight, offer opportunities to try a variety of dishes. Couples are welcome to visit the wine cellar to choose their own bottle for dinner — and they may request to have their meal served there as well.
The Shelbourne Dublin
The Shelbourne Dublin is one of Ireland’s most celebrated and distinguished landmark hotels. Established in 1824, this grande dame, situated in the heart of Ireland's capital city, overlooks St. Stephen’s Green.
Truly Dublin’s most prestigious address, the hotel is where the Irish Constitution was drafted in 1922. To this day, the Shelbourne proudly displays the historic document.
Top-hatted doormen welcome visitors into the lobby, fragrant with floral abundance on display. The 265 guest rooms, which include 19 suites, are classically beautiful.
Make time for high tea in the Mayor’s Lounge overlooking the park and stop in for an Irish whiskey at the famous Horseshoe Bar.
The Shelbourne Dublin offers the unique services of a genealogy butler for guests hoping to reconnect with their Irish roots while here on a honeymoon. After you book hotel reservations, you can book the butler's service online.
One of the oldest inhabited castles in Ireland, Kilkea Castle dates back to 1180 and combines history and mystical charm in an environment of timeless luxury.
The estate, which is located one hour from Dublin, includes the castle, the carriage rooms, restaurants and bars, spa, and golf club. It sits on 180 acres of lush woodland with rose-filled gardens and a serene river.
The 12th century castle has been fully refurnished and is a mélange of medieval décor and modern chic. There are 11 bedrooms in the castle, including the Fitzgerald Suite, which features sweeping landscape vistas. In the courtyard, the original Carriage House and stables have been converted into 31 bedrooms, many of which feature wrought iron elements and exposed wooden beams.
Facilities include the Drawing Room, the place for afternoon tea, and the Dining Room for sumptuous meals. Areas to unwind in are the Castle Lounge, with its roaring fireplace, and The Keep, an authentic Irish pub where guests down Irish whiskey and Guinness (but rarely at the same time). For an explosive cocktail, add some Bailey's to the two and it's known as an Irish Car Bomb.
Historic Dromoland Castle, built centuries ago, is Ireland's largest five-star resort outside of Dublin. Located in Newmarket-on-Fergus, it's the ancestral seat of the O'Briens, direct descendants of the High King Brian Boru.
For nearly five centuries the castle has welcomed royalty, politicians, celebrities, tycoons, and lovers of all ages. According to John Lennon: The Life, the Beatle and Cynthia, his first wife, and George Harrison and his girl friend Pattie Boyd visited Dromoland for a romantic stay in advance of the singing group's leaving for a worldwide tour without their regular female companions. Alas, their stay was brief, since they were soon tracked down by the paparazzi and left for home after one night.
Sumptuous accommodations with oversize windows and nine-foot ceilings add to Dromoland's overall feeling of spaciousness. Thanks to a recent renovation, the castle guest rooms, the Queen Anne Wing, the spa, and the dining and lounge areas have been transformed. An indoor pool has been added, and decor is enhance by paintings by Irish contemporary artist John Brennan.
In addition to wandering the gardens and charming surroundings, you will find an 18-hole golf course, the full-service health spa, and a beauty salon at the castle.
Fishing, archery, clay-pigeon shooting, mountain biking, tennis, and punting are also available to guests who require a respite from amorous pursuits. Dine at the in-house, award-winning Earl of Thomond restaurant to satisfy other appetites.
Any would-be prince and princess who have entertained the fantasy of residing in a castle can live the dream at Waterford Castle in the eponymous county in Ireland.
Waterford Castle stands on its own island (actually, the cognoscenti refer to the Castle and surrounding 300-plus acres as "the Island"), and its provenance harks back centuries.
According to history, a monastic settlement existed on the Island between the sixth and eighth centuries. Two archeological finds give it credence: A winged angel dating from the 8th century and the crude carving of a monk’s head, dating from the 6th century. The latter now is displayed prominently above the main entrance to Waterford Castle. Today the Island is a magical place that draws couples planning a holiday, a honeymoon, even a wedding.
The ivy-covered structure has the classic crenellated lines of a castle roof and features an arched wooden door and mullioned windows. (Sorry, no moat, but there are golf and tennis facilities to subdue visiting marauders.) And no trip is complete without a tour of the nearby Waterford crystal factory (and some carefully packed souvenirs from its retail store).
The West of Ireland, particularly around Galway, is an ideal choice for honeymoon couples and others on a romantic getaway. This county’s wild, windswept vistas and charming villages filled with cozy pubs are especially appealing. Expect to dine on fresh local seafood, listen to toe-tapping Irish music, and curl up by a peat fire at a romantic country house hotel on an Ireland honeymoon here.
The family-owned Cashel House in the heart of Connemara is one of Ireland’s most charming and romantic country houses. After a drive through the desolate, bog-covered landscape, you’ll be happy to sit with an Irish coffee beside a turf fire in one of the many parlors located throughout the house.
Have a pre-dinner drink in the bar, then enjoy dinner in the restaurant housed in a pretty conservatory. The menu is rich with local seafood such as scallops and prawns plus Connemara lamb seasoned with herbs from Cashel House's own gardens. There’s also an excellent wine list.
Couples who favor modern, design-centric hotels with a touch of whimsy are likely to find Galway's g Hotel to their liking. Ever since it opened, it’s been the most stylish and glamorous lodging in town.
Philip Treacy, previously known for creating the extraordinary headpieces (one hesitates to call them hats) for the ladies who lunch at Ascot racecourse and royal weddings, has applied his outrageous sense of design to the property.
He designed all the interiors with bold colors and vibrant patterns, especially in the public spaces. Spacious guest rooms are posh-modern, with Frette linens, power showers, butler service, and feature whimsical touches like seashell-shaped pillows and zebra-print rugs. Many overlook the waters of Lough Atalia.
Even if you don’t stay, be sure to visit for a bite to eat or a cocktail. The Grand Salon with its floor-to-ceiling windows and modern swirl mirrors is a dramatic space in which to enjoy afternoon tea or a glass of wine and late night, sip martinis and other specialty drinks in one of the two chic lounges, the Pink Bar or the Blue Bar.
For honeymoon couples interested in scenic wonders and exploring a compact and walkable city, Belfast is the place to learn about Northern Island's history and legends and experience the charm and friendliness of the Irish people. The peace process that began in 1994 brought political stability to Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland by 1998. Since then, tourism to the region's attractions has soared.
You can see where the legendary ship was built in the Titanic Quarter and even step back in time to savor Afternoon Tea as it was served on the tragic ship's inaugural journey.
A five-star hotel housed inside an exquisite Italianate building erected in 1860, the Merchant Hotel is the pinnacle of Belfast luxury. Opulent guest rooms are named after Irish poets and authors, and the house's Rolls-Royce Phantom can be booked to transport guests on Belfast city and Northern Ireland countryside tours to attractions in ultimate comfort.
Other Northern Ireland luxuries can include helicopter tours; golf at Royal Belfast, Ireland's oldest course; and cruising Belfast harbor aboard a chartered yacht.