THE most romantic day of the year is almost upon us and this Valentine’s Day the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is spreading the message of love by highlighting some of the most romantic hotspots and stunning locations to woo that special person in your life.
If you are thinking of getting down on one knee to pop the question this year and fancy a spot of sight-seeing but you need to decide on the location then help is at hand.
NITB’s Destination Officer Pauline Gormley says there is no shortage of romance filled locations and picture perfect settings in Northern Ireland for anyone thinking of asking that magical question.
“Northern Ireland is famous for its beautiful scenery, stunning coastline and historic attractions and with romance in the air this is the perfect time of year to spend some quality time with that special person in your life,” she said.
“Whether you are looking to enjoy a picnic for two, a romantic weekend away or if you want to find the perfect location for your romantic proposal, Northern Ireland is full of wonderful places to make this Valentine’s Day a memorable one,” added Pauline.
To help plan a Valentine’s Day to remember, NITB has highlighted some of Northern Ireland’s most romantic locations.
Declare your love on one of Northern Ireland’s spectacular beaches and get creative by writing that all important question in the sand.
Benone Strand in Co. Londonderry has seven miles of golden sand and a magnificent backdrop of cliff scenery. Also close-by is Portstewart Strand, at the mouth of the River Bann, which boasts domineering sand dunes and a hidden estuary.
Travelling along the stunning Antrim coastal road a number of beaches will capture your imagination and sweep your loved one off their feet including Whitepark Bay in Ballintoy, Portrush’s Whiterocks Beach or Portrush’s East Strand Beach.
Co. Down also has a selection of beautiful beaches such as Murlough Bay in Dundrum with its spectacular location at the edge of Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains and the award winning Tyrella Beach in Downpatrick with its wide, flat sandy beach backed by mature dunes.
There are plenty of magical locations where love can blossom and that will make an ideal setting for a romantic day out.
Pop the question at Dunluce Castle, where the historic castle ruins are perched proudly on the sweeping Antrim coastline or as the sun sets over the popular World Heritage Site of the Giant’s Causeway.
The dramatic ruins of Downhill Demesne and the iconic Mussenden Temple offer some of the best views of the North Coast and as Mussenden Temple is also a wedding venue you can tie the knot there as well.
The Fermanagh’s Lakelands offer a stunning setting for a romantic moment – you could take to the water in your very own love boat and soak up the picturesque surroundings or take time out and enjoy the pretty shoreline whilst you dip your feet in the lake.
Local legend suggests that couples who canoodle over the Kissing Gate at Tannaghmore Gardens by the Craigavon Lakes in Armagh will marry within the year or follow in the tradition at the Celtic Holestone in Doagh which attracts couples all year round – here the woman should reach her hand through the circular hole in the stone and her partner should take her hand and pledge their love forever.
Capturing views of the whole of North Down and Strangford Lough, Scrabo Tower in Newtownards has been a popular location for proposals over the years, as couples enjoy the paths through the quiet and peaceful countryside before reaching the top.
Put your best foot forward and spend quality time together at some of the best walking locations with scenery that will take your breath away.
Cave Hill Country Park in North Belfast offers panoramic views across the city and Belfast Lough and the surrounding areas from vantage points on the hillside and it also includes the stunning Belfast Castle within the grounds.
Let love blossom at one of Northern Ireland’s many gorgeous gardens such as Mount Stewart House and Gardens on the Ards Peninsula which features a unique and unusual garden with a rich tapestry of design or Florence Court which enjoys peaceful setting in west Fermanagh and invites visitors to discover its many serene and beautiful corners including the Walled Garden.
If you like to be surrounded by glorious nature then a visit to one of Northern Ireland’s forest parks might be the perfect destination for you. Places like Tollymore Forest Park in Newcastle, Glenariff Forest Park in County Antrim, Slieve Gullion Forest Park in Newry and Gosford Forest Park in County Armagh, all offer stunning settings to enjoy a relaxing day out with your loved one.
The Sperrins region, spanning counties Tyrone and Londonderry have many love-filled walks and beauty spots including the trails in Gortin Glen Forest Park near Omagh and Banagher Glen near Dungiven or head for the Mourne Mountains in Co. Down and enjoy dramatic and rugged landscapes perfect for an invigorating stroll.
Set in the heart of Northern Ireland, Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles and is a haven for wildlife. Lough Neagh and Oxford Island Nature Reserve offer scenic walks and exciting nature trails with wildflower meadows and woodlands.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
What better time to head out for a romantic meal than on Valentine’s Day. Enjoy a candle-lit dinner for two as Northern Ireland’s restaurants pull out all the stops to celebrate this special day. For a tasty oyster platter head to the Mourne Seafood Bar in Dundrum, if you want to combine history and tradition with excellent food try Balloo House in Killinchy or head to Browns Restaurant and Champagne Lounge which is situated on the eastern bank of Lough Foyle in the city of Derry and offers a delicious range of food including risotto, mussels and homemade pasta. The Yellow Door Deli in Portadown is hosting a special Valentine’s Gourmet Night on Saturday February 15 which will include a champagne cocktail arrival and delicious food such as pan seared Irish Sea Scallop and Roast Sirloin of local beef. Each course will be paired with a wine.
Or why not make this Valentine’s afternoon one to remember and treat your partner to the luxury of afternoon tea at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast or the Garden Hall at Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh and enjoy a selection of finger sandwiches, delicate pastries and scones.
If your loved one adores sweet treats then surprise them with some handmade luxurious chocolates from Co Couture or The Chocolate Room, both located in Belfast, or call into a bakery such as The Cake Shop in Derry~Londonderry or The Little Cupcake Cafe in Belfast to order a scrumptious cake or cupcakes especially for them.
If you want to make your special day a little bit different, there’s a wealth of ways to do so in Northern Ireland.
Get away from the crowds and take your partner on a relaxing Canoe-dle and paddle along the picturesque River Lagan from Shaw’s Bridge with Mobile Team Adventure. Enjoy the views and peaceful surroundings as well as a romantic hamper for two, taking place February 14 – 15. You can also enjoy a romantic paddle round Enniskillen Island with your loved one on February 14 as you sip bubbly under the full moon, organised by Share Discover Village.
The Braid in Ballymena is hosting a Gothic Horror Drive-in experience featuring My Bloody Valentine on February 14 at Ballee Playing Fields. Snacks and refreshments will be available to purchase at the event.
Thrill seeking couples can head to one of Northern Ireland’s activity centres including The Jungle NI in Moneymore, Co. Londonderry and Todds Leap in Ballygawley, Co. Tyrone which both offer an adventurous day out for you and your loved one. Enjoy a tree top adventure course, paintballing or zorbing at The Jungle NI or blindfold driving, clay pigeon shooting or a zipline at Toods Leap.
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is also calling on people to tell them where and how they got engaged in Northern Ireland by using the hashtag #LoveNI or posting on facebook.com/discovernorthernireland
For more information and ideas on romantic locations to propose, thing’s to do over Valentine’s Day and some great offers click on www.discovernorthernireland.com/valentines or visit your local tourist information centre.