Honeymoon in Ireland

Veer off the beaten path for romantic city and country escapes on Emerald Isle.
Honeymoon like royalty with a stay at Ashford Castle, a medieval castle in County Mayo, Ireland.

Honeymoon like royalty with a stay at Ashford Castle, a medieval castle in County Mayo, Ireland.

Mention “honeymoon destination” and your mind probably conjures up images of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean or white-sand beaches in Hawaii. Newlyweds wanting to veer off the beaten path for this once-in-a-lifetime vacation might look no further than the Emerald Isle.

A flight to Dublin from New York takes only about six-and-a-half hours (splurge on business-class tickets from Aer Lingus so you can relax in the lounge and cut out the long lines). While you won’t find an abundance of sunshine on this island, you’ll be transported into a misty land of double rainbows arching toward craggy cliffs, fairytale castles overlooking cobalt-hued lakes and cozy pubs where storytelling is an even bigger pastime than sipping Guinness. Here are some of Ireland’s most romantic city and country escapes.

 City Escape: Dublin for Couples

Dublin is a walkable city with plenty of things to do, yet it doesn’t feel overwhelming. You’ll see Dublin’s rich history in its classic Georgian architecture when strolling the city’s streets, taste the farm-to-table movement sweeping the nation when eating in one of the trendy organic restaurants and feel Dublin’s poetic side with its diverse literary, art and music scenes.

Sleep at: The Merrion

The Duke of Wellington’s birthplace has been transformed into a five-star hotel featuring Georgian architecture and 18th-century style gardens that exude old-world charm. Honeymooners can cozy up in front of a crackling fire near the drawing rooms for the lavish afternoon tea, or soak together in the marbled bathroom’s tub with a glass of champagne. Located opposite the government buildings and right in the city center, The Merrion is only a few blocks from St. Stephen’s Green where you can people-watch and have a romantic picnic in the park.

If you’re a couple of foodies, this Michelin-star restaurant is the place to eat in Dublin. The tasteful, modern decor and attentive staff contribute to the gourmet experience just as much as eating the contemporary Irish meals with a French twist (think: pan roast duck foie gras). Honeymoons are a time to splurge, but know that dinner for two here will easily cost you a few hundred dollars. For those on a budget, the two-course lunch starting around $50 is a good option. Casual diners can get organic, locally-sourced dishes -- such as chicken and leek pie -- on the cheap at Green Nineteen on Lower Camden Street.

Check out: The Dublin Pass

The Dublin Pass may be the best way to get a sampler of the city’s attractions. You might also try one of Dublin Bus Tour’s hop-on, hop-off options to get a lay of the land. Sure, it’s super touristy, but it’s a fun, easy way to ride around the quaint city and experience landmarks like St. Patrick’s Cathedral or shop along Grafton Street, with its mix of his-and-hers high-end fashion stores and chocolate shops. For a pampering experience, make an appointment at the Mandala Day Spa inside the La Stampa Hotel on Dawson Street. The Duo Massage includes two full-body treatments and a glass of champagne in their tranquil, Asian-style relaxation room.

 Country Escape: Fairytale Castle Adventure

Rent a car and drive west to the traditional Irish village of Cong in County Mayo, whose population hovers around 150. Apart from dropping by the Quiet Man Museum (Cong was the setting for the 1951 love story The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara) or walking around the remnants of a 12th-century abbey, there isn’t much to do in the town itself aside from kicking back with your partner and sipping a pint in one of the intimate pubs. After all, enjoying some quiet time together is part of the allure of escaping to the countryside.

Sleep at: Ashford Castle

The lush green grounds of Ashford Castle border the town and Lough Corrib (Ireland’s second largest lake). The castle features 83 guest rooms, and Pierce Brosnan found the place so romantic that he married his wife here. Built in 1228, it was the country estate of the Guinness family until it was converted into a hotel in 1939. It retains its traditional charm via touches like Waterford chandeliers and entertainment such as classical Irish ballads performed in the Dungeon Bar. Honeymooners can curl up in their four-poster bed, order room service and sip their room’s complimentary brandy.

Dinner at the George V is a classy affair with white linens on the tables, jackets required for men and impeccable service. The delicious modern Irish and international dishes are locally sourced, using oysters from Galway Bay and lamb from farms in County Mayo. For more causal dining, head to the castle’s Drawing Room for Irish stew or a local smoked salmon and prawn platter. To get a taste of local pub life and its hearty meals, walk five minutes into town to visit the Crowe’s Nest for fish and chips, or simply to enjoy a pint of Guinness while listening to live music.

Make use of the complimentary nine-hole golf course on the castle grounds, or try traditional country sports such as falconry (think: hunting animals with birds instead of guns or arrows). Ashford is actually home to Ireland’s first school of falconry, and you can experience a big adrenaline rush together by signing up to carry these powerful birds of prey on your arms and venture into the woods for a simulated hunt. If sports aren’t your idea of romance, visit the castle’s spa for a toning body polish using sea salts, rosemary and verbena. Or relax in the fresh air on the top deck of a boat during a lake cruise.

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