Many Irish newlyweds are choosing to honeymoon at home in Ireland and many foreign couples are also deciding to celebrate the start of their married life here. With this in mind, we here at Ireland Before You Die, tasked journalist Ger Leddin to look at some of the most romantic, interesting and relaxing spots in Ireland for couples to begin their married life.
Honeymoons, they’re meant to be romance filled relaxing breaks-away from the stresses and strains of the previous months of organising weddings, finding homes and moving in together; a chance to get to know your new spouse and an opportunity for a couple to celebrate the start of a new life together as man and wife.
Over the past twenty or so years we Irish have seen a major change in the way and the destinations to which we travel. The abundance of low-cost flights to Europe and the increase in long-haul flights and their relative inexpensiveness from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Belfast have allowed us to become used to travelling to exotic locations in a way that previous generations wouldn’t dare even dream of. Simply put, young and not so young Irish people have become very selective about holidays destinations. Perhaps that in a way explains the upsurge in couples deciding to honeymoon at home in Ireland.
Ok, let’s first look at the history and some myths surrounding honeymoons. In the 19th century, Britain upper-class newly-wed couples would often take some time out to go on what was called a Bridal Tour around the country visiting friends and relations who for some reason or another couldn’t or didn’t make it to the wedding. At times the couple were often accompanied by their parents and close family. This custom also became popular in France and other European countries.
The custom of honeymoons as we know them today — a holiday was undertaken by the couple alone and simply for their enjoyment came about during the period known as the Belle Époque (Beautiful Era) conventionally dated from the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914. There is also what I believe to be a myth floating around that the term honeymoon comes from an old Irish belief that drinking a glass of honey-based mead each night for the first month after the nuptials increased fertility. Or the more likely story that as the first month of any marriage is the sweetest hence the term honey and a month or moon.
Anyway enough of this nonsense, if you are half-thinking of honeymooning in Ireland where are the best places to go?
First, let’s take a look at some top of the range locations and then let’s consider some not so common choices.
1. The Cliff House Hotel Ardmore County Waterford
This is a really lovely hotel set overlooking the sea at Ardmore Bay on Waterford’s Gold Coast — what must be one of Ireland’s least known beauty spots. The Five-Star accommodation and gourmet restaurant is intimate and luxuries. An Ideal spot to take-in long and romantic beach walks, or visit the nearby cities of Cork and Waterford.
Address: Middle Road, Dysert, Ardmore, Co. Waterford, P36 DK38, Ireland
2. Dromoland Castle, County Clare
I have to admit I have never stayed in a finer hotel, granted it’s pricey but the luxury and attention to detail carried out by what is a superb staff makes the cost inconsequential.
Dromoland Castle is in the village of Newmarket On Fergus, a few short miles from Shannon Airport and is an ideal spot to centre yourself while visiting the magical county of Clare or exploring The Wild Atlantic Way.
And another thing; for the interested in golf partner, the hotel boasts a magnificent golf course — not that I’m suggesting for a moment that golf might interest you on your honeymoon, but just in case.
Address: Dromoland Castle Hotel, Dromoland, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare, V95 ATD3, Ireland
3. The Strand Inn Dunmore East, County Waterford
Not quite as expensive or exclusive of the two hotels mentioned previously but the Strand Inn in Dunmore East is amazingly romantic. Located right on the beach of this tiny Irish fishing village you will be spoilt for things to see and do. Be it magnificent cliff or beach walks, a trip into the ancient and very cultural city of Waterford or a simple stroll around this small but beautiful village, well, the choice is yours.
The Strand Inn is a relaxed beach style contemporary hotel and family run, the village of Dunmore East has to be one of the prettiest coastal villages in Ireland and when you amalgamate these to attractions you’re left with the makings of a special honeymoon.
4. Greagans Hotel, County Clare
A special Irish retreat located next to the wild and wonderful Burren. This family-run hotel offers the best of Irish hospitality and will leave you feeling pampered and relaxed.
Greagans Hotel is close to the village of Ballyvaughan at the edge of the Burren in North Clare. If you’re looking to spend your honeymoon being pampered in quiet and relaxing solitude, well, this might be the place for you.
The hotel prides itself on its ethos of relaxation — you won’t find noisy televisions here — and on its philosophy of co-existence with the natural environment which surrounds it.
The above are only four of the many exceptional hotels and locations that are available for honeymooning couples in Ireland. But there are slightly alternative but equally romantic ways to spend your honeymoon on the Emerald Isle and experience the friendliness of the people and the magic of the land. Think outside of the box and consider the following.
Address: Corkscrew Hill, Gragan East, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, H91 CF60, Ireland
5. Horse Drawn Caravans
Horse Drawn Caravans might seem an unusual choice, but just imagine you and your loved one, leaving your hectic city life behind and meandering at a walking pace down narrow country lanes enjoying Ireland’s scenery from the roadside as up-close and personal as you can possibly get.
There are quite a few companies who specialise in renting the Gypsy style caravans throughout Ireland. A brief introduction to the simple skills involved and your off on your way to begin your adventure, accompanied of course by the clip-clop sound of your new-found four-legged friend.
6. The Islands
Ireland is blessed with an amount of beautiful barely inhabited islands off its west coast. These islands enjoy some of the most striking scenery that this country at the very edge of Europe has to offer. Ok, you might not find the luxurious five-star accommodation that the mainland has to offer. But you will find friendly and comfortable alternatives — most untouched by the passing of time, which will allow you the space to enjoy the solitude, uniqueness and splendour of the very edge of a continent.
7. The Irish Cottage
Imagine yourself as John Wayne and herself as Maureen O Hara, as they appeared in John Ford’s classic film The Quiet Man now, wouldn’t that be a great way to start married life?
Ireland is literally dotted with tiny little traditional style cottages, which can be rented for short periods of time. These self-catering options allow you the freedom to base yourself in one of the many rural areas of the country and perhaps to discover the true nature of the Irish people, their culture and love for life.
Ireland is probably unique in the world’s tourist industry in that the country boasts an array of small yet comfortable guest houses, or as we Irish refer to them as Bed and Breakfasts.
These establishments are always small family run modified homes and well regulated. You will always find the friendliest of landladies who is only too happy to chat and advise as she serves you your cooked Irish breakfast and goes out of her way to help you.
As I’ve said these B&B’s are literally dotted all over the country allowing you the opportunity to travel from location to location in tune with a loosely pre-planned itinerary.
Glamping or glamorous camping is a relatively new fad to Ireland, one which has gained tremendous popularity over the past decade. While camping might bring back memories of sleepless nights spent on the hard rocky ground looking up as the rain dripped constantly through a wind-battered canvas, today’s glamping couldn’t be further from that.
All glamping sites — and there are many scattered throughout the country — now offer a luxury and unique experience that many couples might enjoy.
Equipped with double beds, electric blankets, en-suite bathrooms and cooking facilities if you want them, the glamping fad is definitely catching on.
While it might not be everybody’s cup of tea, you have to admit it’s a different way to spend a honeymoon.
10. River Cruises
One thing that Ireland has is plenty of navigable waterways, be it the Shannon River, Lough Derg or Lough Erne and along through the many canals which cross the country.
Lucky many businesses have seen the attractions of the countries waterways and manage easily manageable cruisers which can be rented for short-term holidays.
You must admit that a leisurely cruise at your own pace and a week or two of relaxation, stopping off when and wherever you feel like it, would be a nice and a different way to begin married life.
Well, there you are now, a few traditional and a few alternative ideas on how to begin a married life; as we say in Ireland May “go maire sibh bhur saol nua — may you enjoy your new life.”