Thrifty ways to please your lover

Who says romance is dead and gone? ALANNA GALLAGHER enlists the help of Cupid’s arrow to target 10 terrific St Valentine’s breaks…

Who says romance is dead and gone? ALANNA GALLAGHERenlists the help of Cupid's arrow to target 10 terrific St Valentine's breaks that won't cost you a small fortune...

Thrifty ways to please your lover

1Beach blanket Halfway between Bettystown and Laytown, in Co Meath, is Honeymoon Cottage, a self-catering thatched cottage that sleeps two and forms part of the Cottages, a hamlet of six other similarly styled properties whose origins date back 300 years. The furnishings may be simple, but the scenery is spectacular. Take a bracing walk on the beach, then snuggle up in front of the wood-burning stove or soak in the double-ended bath. Three nights costs €390 for two people sharing, including a bottle of bubbly, fresh scones and home-made blackcurrant jam when you arrive.

The Cottages, Seabank, Bettystown, Co Meath, 041-9828104,


2Memento magic Sink into the fully dressed four- poster beds of the Lady Hannah and Lady Sarah rooms at Castle Durrow, in Co Laois. Have a leisurely breakfast overlooking the gardens and a lawn littered with crocuses. The walled garden is a romantic place to pop the big question; so too is the riverside setting outside Bob's Bar, in the village's main square. One night costs from €135pps for BB and dinner. Stay two nights on the same offer for €270pps, with a discount of €50 from Castle Durrow.

Castle Durrow, Durrow, Co Laois, 057-8736555, castle

3Strictly duet Markree Castle, in Co Sligo, is a property that's full of ambient alcoves and is riddled with the ghosts of guests past. Room 8 is where Johnny Cash stayed in 1993 with his wife June Carter. If marriage is on your mind, try dueting one of their songs. Jacksonis one of this writer's favourites – not exactly an ode to marriage but fun to sing. Or visit Yeats's grave. How does "Do you want to be buried with my people?" grab you? One night's BB and dinner costs €115pps. Two nights' BB and one dinner costs €180pps.

Markree Castle, Collooney, Co Sligo, 071-9167800,

4Head for the hills Glasha Farmhouse is a Co Waterford dairy farm that doubles as a country-house BB. The setting is perfect for hillwalkers and lovers of lush green countryside. It's close to Sliabh na mBan, where the fairest women of the land are said to have raced to try and claim the hand of Fionn Mac Cumhail – a good story to help build courage if you're planning to pop the question. Avail of Olive O'Gorman's complimentary packed lunch and head for the hills. Two nights' BBand one evening meal, plus champagne in your room on arrival, costs €125pps.

Glasha Farmhouse, Ballymacarberry, via Clonmel, Co Waterford, 052-6136108, glasha

5Luxury in Limerick Number 1 Pery Square is a fine Georgian building lovingly restored in a fashion fabulous enough to make last year's Condé Nasthot list. Guests with marriage on their minds can propose in the square and have the staff serve them champagne there afterwards. Brasserie One offers a tasting menu that concentrates on local produce, including crubbeens and slow-braised corned beef. The spa treatments use Aromatherapie, a local hand-blended product. Prices start at €199pps for two nights' BB and one evening meal.

No 1 Pery Square Hotel Spa, Georgian Quarter, Limerick, 061-402402,

6Dower power Enjoy feline groovy in Kilkenny. Check into Butler House, a discreet-looking property, backing on to Kilkenny Castle, with beautiful gardens. Unusually, breakfast is served off-site, at Kilkenny Design Craft Centre, a short walk across the garden, where a feast of home-made organic produce is on offer. Butler House doesn't serve evening meals, but nearby Campagne (056-7772858), run by former Chapter One head chef Garrett Byrne, has a St Valentine's offer of a three-course menu for €49pp. Two nights' BB with a bottle of champagne and Irish chocolates costs €160pps.

Butler House, 16 Patrick Street, Kilkenny, 056-7722828

7Cliffhanger The Cliff House Hotel, in Co Waterford, offers a dramatic setting for couples with love on their mind. Let head chef Martijn Kajuiter tickle your taste buds in his Michelin-starred House Restaurant; then, after dinner, romantics can walk along the cliffs to a soundtrack of crashing waves. Take a digestive dip in the jacuzzi afterwards. If proposing, why not hire a kayak and ask if she'd like to help you paddle your own canoe? Its St Valentine's package is two nights' BB, with dinner one night, from €510 per couple in a sea-view room.

The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co Waterford, 024-87800,

8Catch of the day Hook the love of your life with old-school five-star luxury at Dromoland Castle, in Co Clare. Romantics can row one of the property's boats on to the lake and pop the question in a truly romantic setting. The lifejackets may help stop accidents caused by overly dramatic displays of affection. Two nights' BB, with one evening meal, pre-dinner cocktails, and champagne and strawberries in your room, costs €375pps.

Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-On-Fergus, Co Clare, 061-368144,

9Lakeside loving Gourmets should head for Wineport Lodge, in Co Westmeath, which offers rooms with lakeside views and fabulous food from chef Feargal O'Donnell. Relax in the outdoor cedar hot tub or, weather permitting, take to the waters. Lake tours cost €25 per hour. If exploring Athlone, bookworms might like to browse Na Linte (090-6494151) for unusual titles and first editions to mark the magic of a marriage proposition. Two nights' accommodation, two dinners and breakfast in bed, as well as chocolate-dipped strawberries, half a bottle of bubbly and fresh flowers in your room on arrival, costs €350pps. St Valentine's night costs €195pps with the same add-ons.

Wineport Lodge, Glasson, Athlone, Co Westmeath, 0906-439010,

10Cook up a storm Take a Sweets for your Sweetheart cookery lesson, a day-long chocolate extravaganza at Alix Gardner's cookery school (71 Waterloo Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, 01-6681553). Make a weekend of it by staying at ultrastylish No 31, one-time home of the architect Sam Stephenson. Go to Grafton Street and window-shop for rings. Prices at No 31 start at €175 per room per night, including breakfast. Two nights from €350 per couple.

No 31, Leeson Close, Dublin 2 01-6765011,

And so to sleep... 6 of the best beds to spend the night in

1I'm a celebrity Carton House, in Co Kildare (01-5052000,, has accommodated A-listers such as Ronaldo, Claudia Schiffer, Phillip Treacy and Mario Testino. Join their ranks by sleeping on bespoke four-poster beds (right) with Irish-made Respa mattresses, Egyptian-cotton sheets and feather mattress toppers. Two nights' BB, with champagne and strawberries on arrival, and a four-course dinner costs from €187.50pps.

2Woodland wonder All rooms at Monart, in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford (053-9238999,, have Club Pocket Pillow-top king-size King Koil beds, goose-down duvet and 300-threadcount Egyptian-cotton sheets. Book before February 1st for two nights' deluxe BB and use of all spa facilities for €195pps.

3Rock royalty Go wild and request the mauve bedroom at Castle Leslie, in Co Monaghan (047-88100, Its bed, original to the room, has accommodated Swedish royalty as well as rock nobility, in the form of Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney. It also features a roll-top bath. One night's BB with dinner on St Valentine's night is €165pps, with champagne and chocolates in the room.

4Fairytale setting Become king and queen for a weekend at Ashford Castle, in Co Mayo (094-954 6003, Beds are queen size in deluxe rooms and king size in state rooms. Guests have included Pierce Brosnan and Brad Pitt. Two nights' BB in a deluxe room, a five-course dinner, 12 red roses and a bottle of champagne costs €395pps.

5Romeo and Juliet Each room at Mount Juliet, in Co Kilkenny (056-7773010,, is individually designed, in keeping with the concept of a family home. Sleep in a stylish setting between Egyptian-cotton sheets. One night's BB, with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries in your room on arrival, costs €250pps.

6Contemporary cool The suites at the Europe Hotel Resort, in Killarney, Co Kerry (064-6671300, theeurope. com), offer sumptuous comfort with King Koil pocket mattresses and Egyptian cotton. Two nights' BB with an à la carte dinner on one night costs €265pps, including an upgrade to a lakeside room and access to the spa.

Two's company in lap of luxury

- Cottages for Couples offers getaways in traditional cottages and barn conversions. Designed for couples only, and situated outside Skibbereen, in west Cork, the accommodation has romantic four-poster or superking beds, double jacuzzis and flat-screen TVs in the bedrooms.

- Elsewhere, there are double-height vaulted ceilings and exposed beams, all decorated in country chic. Three of the seven cottages are at Grove House, a Georgian country house. One of the cottages has a private outdoor hot tub.

- You can have breakfast and dinner at the main house or have them delivered to your door. The St Valentine’s dinner menu costs from €29pp and includes a champagne aperitif and a bottle of wine. You can also use the residents’ lounge, which has an honesty bar.

- Rates start at €149 per couple per night and include a bottle of bubbly to help celebrate the St Valentine’s weekend. A two-night weekend stay costs from €298 per couple.

- Cottages for Couples, Grove House, Skibbereen, west Co Cork, 028-22957,