When you think of romance, you imagine sipping wine under the Eiffel Tower, having a candlelit dinner in Santorini, or going on a gondola ride in Venice. Ireland, however, is a magical alternative destination for a romantic getaway, with its fairy-tale forests, picturesque towns, and awe-inspiring scenery drenched in Celtic folklore. 

Whether you want to pick one location for an intimate weekend for two or you're planning a two-week road trip, here's our pick of Ireland's most romantic counties.

A couple sitting on a boulder on a hill watching the setting sun over the ocean
Ireland's natural landscape is perfect for a couples break © Marco Bottigelli/Getty

County Wicklow

Less than two hours' drive from Dublin, this part of the Irish east coast makes a stunning romantic retreat, its coastal scenery dotted with old country estates and beautiful mountains.

Start your County Wicklow getaway with a wholesome breakfast at Firehouse Bakery in the picturesque village of Delgany, or cozy up at Carpediem in Bray for something a bit more substantial. To work off those treats, your next stop should be Glendalough; this glacial valley is home to a 6th-century monastery, old churches, stunning lakes, and rugged mountains. Also here is Wicklow Mountains National Park, which has a romantic heart-shaped lake called Lough Ouler (a favourite spot for proposals).

To relax after your outdoor adventures, head to the Powerscourt Estate for beautiful views of its landscaped gardens, or wind down at its hotel spa with a Swedish massage for two. 

Steps going up to a stone arch with a forest and stone Celtic cross in the background
Glendalough in Wicklow is ideal for a romantic ramble ©Aitormmfoto/Getty Images

The next day, take a scenic drive to neighbouring County Carlow for the enchanting Altamont Gardens. You can have a romantic picnic lunch (or a brisk winter walk) and the 16 hectares of land showcase flora and fauna from all around the world, lovingly maintained by renowned gardeners. See if you can spot some flowers like roses, fuchsias, and scarlet pimpernels.

Where to stay: Tinakilly Country House or the Powerscourt Hotel.

For added romance: Before heading to County Wicklow, stop to see St Valentine's relics at Whitefriars Street Church in the capital. According to legend, they were given to famous Irish preacher, John Sprat, by Pope Gregory XVI, which is why they now call Ireland home.

County Cork

Start your trip with brunch in Cork CityIdaho Café is tiny and intimate, and perfect for a quick bite, while the Castle Café is a great option for locally-sourced ingredients served in a setting that will make you feel like a royal couple.

Once you’ve had your fill of Cork City, take a quick drive to Kinsale for a completely different atmosphere. This rainbow-coloured, historic fishing town in the south of Cork combines urban exploration in its art galleries and cafes with outdoor activities, such as yachting, golfing, and exploring ruins.

Buildings in Kinsale painted bright colours with table and chairs from a cafe in the foreground
Hide yourself away in Kinsale for the day ©Tyler W. Stipp/Shutterstock

For dinner in Kinsale, head to Black Pig Wine Bar, with its cobbled courtyard and 18th-century interiors. Afterwards, drive to Lough Hyne to see its bioluminescent water, an incredible natural phenomenon caused by algae. Though Cork has many other places where this marvel can be witnessed, this lough is a particularly romantic spot because it's possible to go moonlight kayaking.

Where to stay: Castlemartyr Resort or Grove House.

County Kerry

Begin in Dingle. After a traditional Irish breakfast at Clonmara Bed & Breakfast, roam around this colourful small town on the Dingle Peninsula. It's full of eateries and pubs, and you can learn about whisky on a tour of the Dingle Distillery.

The Gap of Dunloe is a beautiful, narrow mountain pass; take a walk, a pony-ride, and even a jaunting car (horse-drawn buggy) together as you take in the mountain views. Afterwards, go down to Kate Kearney's Cottage for a drink and dinner. If you want to unwind even further, the spa at The Brehon in Killarney offers couples massages, herbal sauna, and a crystal steam room to really relax together. The next day, you can finish off your trip with a scenic drive on the Ring of Kerry, 179km circuit of the Iveragh Peninsula.

Where to stay: Muckross Park Hotel & Spa, Lost Cottage, or Cahernane House Hotel.

County Clare

Get going with a cosy breakfast in Ennis at Cafe Aroma or the Ennis Gourmet Store, then have a wander around the town; the hilly cobbled paths are reminiscent of romantic Edinburgh.

Next, drive to the Cliffs of Moher, stunning sea cliffs that are a bucket-list item to behold. The site is protected by Unesco and it’s a major point on the Wild Atlantic Way; it’s also the perfect place to picnic in the warmer months if you don’t mind a few curious sheep wandering nearby. Some romantic trivia: a scene from 'The Princess Bride' was filmed on the Cliffs.

Portrait of smiling man and woman sitting on rocks against cloudy sky in Ireland, Ennis.
Clare's epic landscape makes for the perfect selfie spot ©Mary Rueda/EyeEm/Getty Images

Spend the night in Lisdoonvarna: the lovely spa hotels and award-winning cuisine at Wild Honey Inn make it a great stop for couples coming to see the Cliffs of Moher. But as a special mention for singles looking for love, visit the town in September for its annual matchmaking festival, the largest in Europe. Spread over the full month, you could meet the love of your life with the help of Willie Daly, Ireland’s most famous matchmaker.

Where to stay: Inis Meáin or Wild Honey Inn.

County Galway

If you just can’t decide how to spend your weekend, Galway has the unique advantage of being both a city getaway and a rural romantic retreat. The county has plenty of gastronomic options as well, so you won’t go be hungry. Ard Bia is a great spot for an Irish breakfast, and after that you can explore the city's sights such as Galway Cathedral and the Latin Quarter. Be sure to grab a coffee at Coffeewerk + Press and people watch at Eyre Square.  

Finish the night with dinner and drinks at Hyde Bar if you really want to impress your sweetheart; on weekends they have a professional photographer to take the perfect getaway shot for Instagram.

The next day head to Connemara; which has the largest population of Irish-language speakers in the country. Other than experiencing rich Irish heritage, you can also explore EU-sanctioned oyster hatcheries and attend many tastings and festivals at the lovely beaches dotting Connemara. And if you didn’t know already, oysters are a natural aphrodisiac...

A plate of oysters with a chilled glass of rose in the background
Wash down Galway's famous oysters with some wine for a romantic meal ©MariaKovaleva/Shutterstock

Where to stay: G-hotelBallynahinch Castle Hotel, or The Quay House.

County Sligo

After breakfast in Sligo Town – and there are plenty of lovely cafes to choose from, such as Lyons or Knox – take a scenic drive along Gleniff Horseshoe, a romantic six-mile loop that travels through a stunning mountain range. Though there are many places to stop and hike, climbing Benbulben is very popular experience. From here you can see the potential resting spot of the fabled tragic lovers, Diarmuid and Gráinne.

To relax after your hike, indulge in a session at Voya Seaweed Baths in Strandhill, and follow it up with a stroll in the town; on Sundays there's a local market. Finish your evening with a candlelit dinner back in Sligo Town: try Montmartre for classic French dishes or Eala Bhan for locally caught seafood.

Where to stay: Lough Eske Castle, Harvey’s Point, or Ice House Hotel

For a souvenir of your journey together, look for the Claddagh symbol. It represents love (the heart), loyalty (the crown) and friendship (the hands). You can find it in many forms, but Claddagh rings are very popular, and are often exchanged between lovers. The beautiful Trinity Knot also comes in jewellery form and can represent eternal love. 

You might also like:

10 signs you're travelling with 'the one'
8 iconic celebrity destination weddings
10 most romantic destinations for solo travellers

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