Valentine's Day: 10 ideas for a romantic date with a difference

Whether it’s your first or your 51st, these make for a date to remember

Spend your date getting steamy in the glass houses of the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan

Spend your date getting steamy in the glass houses of the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

It’s not what you do, but who you do it with. We all know that’s true, but let’s be honest; there is a particular stress that comes with choosing where to go on a date. Whether it’s your first or 51st, you worry over the same old potential problems: the pub has to be busy, but not too busy. The restaurant has to be fancy, but not too fancy. Will I go with my timeless boot-cut cords or my tried-and-tested double-denim ensemble? Forget about all that stress. Here are 10 great ideas for a date to remember.

National Botanic Gardens, Dublin

There is something incredibly romantic about strolling through the grounds of the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, especially in the rain. Which is just as well, because it will probably rain. Head to the Great Palm House first to gaze in wonder at the prehistorically gigantic plants and warm up in its tropical humidity. With their beautiful Victorian elegance and magnificent wrought iron decoration, the rest of the huge glass houses are a joy to explore too. And who in their right mind doesn’t appreciate a nice Victorian glasshouse? Best of all, entrance is free. botanicgardens.ie

Go for a walk in the Botanic Gardens in Dublin, ideally in the sunshine. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Go for a walk in the Botanic Gardens in Dublin, ideally in the sunshine. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Draw and eat, Dublin

While we understand that sitting in front of a nude model for two hours isn’t everyone’s idea of the perfect date, you have to admit it’s a pretty good ice-breaker. Hosted every so often by Starkers Studio, this is an evening of life drawing and great food in the Fumbally Stables (€25 per person). If you want something a little less risqué, they also have fermentation classes, Saturday sourdough classes and various other workshops. Check their website for upcoming dates. thefumballystables.ie

Board games and coffee, Belfast

You might think dates are all about having fun and getting to know each other, but that is simply not true. They are a nail-bitingly tense psychological game of cat-and-mouse, and there is no better way to truly get to know a person than to observe them playing board games. Any ultra-competitive streaks or innate and latent rage will come bubbling to the fore before you can say “Guess Who?” Or maybe they are all about having fun and we’ve been watching too much Mindhunter again. One or the other. Head to Jack Straws Board Game Café in Belfast to find out. jackstraws.co.uk

A date shouldn’t be stressful and it won’t be at the Rainforest Wellness Spa in Enniskerry, which specialises in day breaks
A date shouldn’t be stressful and it won’t be at the Rainforest Wellness Spa in Enniskerry, which specialises in day breaks

Relax in day spa, Enniskerry

Probably a bit weird for a first date, but for established couples, if you can get someone to mind the kids, a day of massage and relaxation is the ultimate luxury. Rainforest Wellness Spa in Enniskerry specialises in day breaks with a holistic approach to self-care. Their “Treat for Two” package (€195) includes a one-hour full body massage, an hour’s use of the day spa facilities, a yoga class, and the all-important glass of bubbly. rainforest.ie

A night of bowling and booze, Dublin

No, it’s not 1996. And no, you’re not 17 again. It just feels that way because you’re in the Stillorgan Leisureplex, of all places. Every Friday night from 9pm to midnight the old bowler opens its doors for a BYOB bowling bonanza. So douse yourself in Lynx Africa, pick up a six-pack (no fake ID required) and hop on the 46A for a blast from the past. It could either leave you both feeling incredibly sad or pumped up on all that sweet nostalgia. Surely a risk worth taking. €14pp, leisureplex.ie

Fab Food Trails, Dublin & Cork

If you can’t decide on which restaurant to go to, why not pick six? During a gentle two to three hour stroll through Dublin, the excellent guides from Fab Food Trails will bring you to six or seven independently owned places where you’ll sample the food and meet the owners. Throw in a healthy smattering of anecdotes about the culture and history of the city and you’ve got yourself the perfect city date. €65pp, fabfoodtrails.ie

Join the sunbathers in Iveagh Gardens, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan
Join the sunbathers in Iveagh Gardens, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan

An Iveagh picnic, Dublin

You’re young, you’re carefree, and you’ve got a lunchtime date in the city. If the sun’s out, pick up a sandwich in the Green Bench Café (from €6.80) and head to Iveagh Gardens for some Grade-A people watching and chat. iveaghgardens.ie

Make some memorable moments when night kayaking in west Cork
Make some memorable moments when night kayaking in west Cork

Night kayaking, Cork

Gently paddling out to the centre of Lough Hyne in the west Cork gloaming; an informative guide pointing out the extraordinarily diverse wildlife; the moon rising to illuminate everything above, and in a moment of breath-taking beauty, a burst of bioluminescence illuminates everything below. These are moments to share with someone special. And even if the date goes belly-up, at least it will be one to remember. €65pp, atlanticseakayaking.com

Enjoy a classic in the restored art deco Stella cinema in Rathmines, Dublin
Enjoy a classic in the restored art deco Stella cinema in Rathmines, Dublin

Catch a classic on the big screen, Dublin

Resplendently restored to all its former art deco grandeur, a trip to the Stella Cinema in Rathmines is a real treat. Everything from the suspended projection booth to the lamp-lit luxury of the chairs and sofas harks back to a bygone era. Stick with the theme and pick a classic film (if you’re both night owls, head to one of the midnight screenings), before capping the night with a cocktail upstairs. €19pp, stellacinemas.ie/rathmines

Sample the organic and all-natural food and wine at Tartare, Galway. Photograph: Anita Murphy
Sample the organic and all-natural food and wine at Tartare, Galway. Photograph: Anita Murphy

Dine on wine and oysters, Galway

Sometimes a date calls for a little sophistication. Tartare in Galway is an organic and all-natural wine bar serving some seriously delectable small plates of in-season west of Ireland food. Dishes like flaggy shore oyster with buttermilk and wild garlic, Irish charcuterie with pickles, and chocolate and dillisk fondant with pine whiskey cream make it a cut above the rest. tartaregalway.ie

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