Let the luck o’ the Irish help you along the path to wedded bliss with a honeymoon in Ireland.
No matter what your style or interest, this wondrous European escape will captivate you.
For Foodies: Cork County
Ireland’s largest county, Cork, spans the majority of the island’s southwestern tip and is renowned for its coastline, food, and lineup of quaint and vibrant towns. From Cork City’s urban amenities to the region’s fertile farmland and wild peninsulas and islands, Cork is one of Ireland’s most varied landscapes.
Foodie couples should head to the county’s eastern portion, known to have some of the finest Irish country cooking around.
Before we get to the gastronomical activities, can we just take a moment to admire eastern Cork’s storied history? This is where you’ll find Cobh, the illustrious Titanic’s final port of call, and heritage towns like Youghal, which is where Moby Dick was filmed in the 1950s and Sir Walter Raleigh once served as mayor.
But if Irish flavor is what you seek, then check out Ballymaloe House about 20 miles from Cork city in Shanagarry. Situated on a 400-acre estate, this classic country house hotel and restaurant has been run by the same family for more than 40 years. Its roots go back much further, though – the Norman Castle was built circa 1450!
Get situated with a walk around the gardens or make your way to the lawn for some croquet and champagne. In the restaurant, Friday night dinner is an extra special affair with a hors d’oeuvres buffet of local seafood from nearby Kenmare Bay served alongside a selection of pates and salads. Ballymaloe House also hosts a series of wine events throughout the year.
One night here and you’ll no doubt feel inspired to get in the kitchen yourself and the Allen family’s Ballymaloe Cooking School is the place to do it. Set in the middle of a 100-acre organic farm, the school’s focus is on the slow food movement and students use produce and ingredients picked straight from the family’s crop.
And this May the culinary celebrations continue with the inaugural Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine. On deck is an array of interesting lectures on food books, as well as a diverse range of cooking demonstrations, food trails, workshops, and literary dinners.
Staying in Shanagarry means easy access to Midleton Farmers Market and Cork city’s English Market, two of the country’s best.
The first takes place on Saturday mornings and brings together 12 local farmers and purveyors selling fresh produce, organic meat, farmhouse cheese and more. The English Market is a legendary Irish tradition dating back to the times of King James I in the 1600s and is a more exotic emporium of imported goods along with local produce.
For Adventure: West of Ireland
Are you an outdoor enthusiast-type of couple? Consider West of Ireland for your honeymoon. It’s an enchanting area rich with heritage and tradition where soaring mountains and craggy countryside are ripe for exploration. Tranquil lakes and scenic beaches also make West of Ireland an ideal escape for water-sports.
At Delphi Mountain Resort adventure comes by land and sea in the form of crag (rock) climbing, sea kayaking and more.
As part of the Mweelrea Massif – one of Ireland’s highest peaks – Delphi Mountain Resort’s rock climbing cliff overlooks Killary Fjord (the country’s only one, by the way!). Sign up for crag climbing and you’ll hike about 30 minutes to this point then spend the rest of your time scaling and rappelling with the guidance of an expert instructor.
Sea kayaking takes you into the fjord itself, in search of seals and other wildlife with stunning sections of coastline as your backdrop. Offering a fresh perspective on Ireland’s environment and history, plan ahead to set foot on one of the surrounding islands and visit a famine village to learn about the economic and agrarian crisis that swept the country in the mid-1800s.
There’s plenty of excitement outside of Delphi Mountain Resort, too.
In May, the Leenane Mountain Walking Festival is a weekend of serious mountain walks and cycling. Walks are five and seven hours long, taking you through either the Maamturk Mountains or Devils Mother Mountain, or on a geological and natural history exploration of Killary Harbour and a working sheep farm.
Prefer to cycle? Hit a 31-mile trail through Loch Nafooey and surrounding areas or around the serene Renvyle Peninsula. The weekend costs about $80 per person and includes professional guides, transport to and from each adventure, evening entertainment and more.
Come fall, it’s time to hit the water again with The Great Fjord Swim. Set for Oct. 12, this is your chance to plunge into the deep, crisp waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The thrilling open-water event starts with you jumping off the side of a catamaran and then swimming to the finish line with the region’s awe-inspiring scenery as motivation. Measuring just under 10 miles long and 148 feet deep, the inlet is a safe and sheltered anchor thanks to the mountain ranges that surround its northern and southern borders.
For History & Tradition: Mayo County
Located in northwestern Ireland, Mayo’s archeological heritage dates back to the prehistoric era when, sometime before 7000 BC, the first nomadic people settled the region.
Today Mayo is Ireland’s third largest county with a collection of small coastal villages perfect for visitors who truly want to get away. One of its main attractions is Achill Island, the country’s largest isle whose sandy beaches and seaside cliffs are a popular vacation spot.
But what’s a honeymoon in Ireland without a stay at an actual castle, right? Ashford Castle fits right in with Mayo’s historical importance, having been built in 1228 by the de Burgo family. Ashford Castle is a downright storybook setting, one complete with a view across Loch Corrib that’s remained nearly unchanged for the past 6,000-odd years.
The hotel’s architecture reflects the area’s regal charm (think Waterford chandeliers and Roccoco gilt mirrors) and has retained Ashford’s original style. On its lush estate, you have your pick of activities – everything from golf and archery to lake cruising and horseback riding through the countryside.
But should you find the time – or willpower! – to leave Ashford Castle’s magical grounds, there’s plenty of authentic Irish tradition to keep you busy.
At Joe Joyce’s sheep farm, learn how purebred border collies are trained to be sheepdogs and then watch as they nip and tuck, steering a small flock through gaps and gate. Joyce keeps some 200 sheep on the slug-like Ceean Garbh mountainside.
And speaking of herding sheep, classic movie buffs will be thrilled to learn that a number of scenes in the 1952 John Wayne film The Quiet Man were filmed in nearby Galway. You can even take a walking tour to the film’s main shooting locations.
For a look at another Irish architectural landmark visit Ballintubber Abbey, a 13th century church that is the only one in Ireland still in use founded by an Irish king. Established in 1216 by Cathal Crovdearg O'Connor, the abbey hosts retreats, pilgrimages and tours of more than 5,000 years of Irish culture through its Celtic Furrow Visitors Center.
Unsurprisingly, Ireland is also a country of many religious attractions. In Mayo county, Croagh Patrick near Westport is the spot where St. Patrick – the island’s patron saint credited for teaching its people about the Holy Trinity and banishing the snakes – summited and fasted for 40 days in 441 AD.
For Total Romance: Limerick County
“Ireland’s prettiest village” – that’s what Adare, set in Limerick county, dubs itself. Its medieval surroundings are situated on the Maigue river. Through the centuries, Adare has been the setting of many rebellions, wars and conquests that have left behind a monumental legacy.
Modern day Adare is a mixture of centuries with thatched cottages staking their claim among beautiful stone buildings, medieval monasteries and ancient ruins. It’s a picturesque village where walking streets full of artsy shops is like a trip back in time.
For a totally romantic experience, book your honeymoon at Adare Manor. Every room at this luxurious estate is individually designed and many of them still feature details added by its original owners in the 1800s.
Explore Adare Manor’s lavish grounds and make time for a picnic for two packed with sandwiches, homemade cakes and a selection of fine local cheeses. Or, take in all 840 acres – French formal gardens, woodlands, and the river – from the sky with a hot air balloon ride.
Other village must-sees include The Desmond Castle, a 13th century strategic fortress, and The Trinitarian Priory.
The only recorded Trinitarian monastery in Ireland, this priory was built by the Fitzgerald Clan who was founded in France following the Crusades and whose main purpose was to raise money in order to rescue Christian captives taken by the Moors during the wars. Repaired in the 19th century, the Trinitarian Priory today is used by residents as the local Roman Catholic Church.
Limerick City is another regional attraction. Its lively city landscape boasts Georgian architecture, a number of grand museums, and some of the most dedicated rugby fans around. Colorful and energetic, Limerick City is home to pop-up restaurants, artisan cuisine, and a thriving music and arts scene.
Established by Vikings in the 9th century, this is a hub that thrives on individuality…maybe even a bit of quirkiness. Wander through the city’s collection of craft, leather and jewelry stores, where you can buy things like Celtic silver and a traditional blackthorn walking stick.
And at the White House – Limerick City’s oldest pub and a favorite haunt for poets, writers and wits – poetry can be your language of love. Every Wednesday, owner Barney Sheehan straps on a bow tie and MCs the event, which draws some of the area’s finest storytellers. Even Michael D. Higgins, Ireland’s current president, has recited his poetry here.
It may go without saying, but this city is where the term “limerick” for a short, witty poem came from.
For Art: Dublin City
If an urban escape is what you seek, then the Republic’s capital is still your best bet. Voted the “Friendliest City in Europe” twice by TripAdvisor, Dublin is a city that’s excited to welcome you – just try having a pint with a local!
A major benefit of honeymooning in Dublin is that the city is extremely pedestrian-friendly, so you won’t have to worry about renting a car. Just as well, too, considering all of the pub opportunities.
Gracious city parks like Merrion Square and Iveagh Gardens are a big draw, as is Temple Bar – a cobblestoned cultural district of galleries, restaurants and the lively Meeting House Square.
For luxury accommodations in the heart of Dublin, stay at The Merrion. It’s a short walk to the “golden mile” of bars, shops and restaurants that dot popular St. Stephen’s Green, and the hotel itself is home to the two star Michelin-rated Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud.
The Merrion, built in Georgian style, is also a popular draw for Dublin’s art-focused visitors and locals, housing a museum-worthy collection of 19th and 20th century art that’s considered to be one of the best private collections in the country.
Another selling point for creative minds: Dublin’s galleries and museums are free! So you can gaze at stunning Bronze Age pieces in the National Museum or take in works from Van Gogh, Monet and Van Dyck at the National Gallery all at no cost.
And of course no honeymoon in Dublin would be complete without a stop at the Guinness Storehouse. Visit the Gravity Bar – at the top of seven stories – for views of rooftops, steeples and mountains with your pint.
Want a look inside Dublin’s literature-laced past? Join the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, an actor-led tour of the city’s best storybook luminaries. You’ll hear all about WB Yeats, Ireland’s most famous poet, and his muse Maud Gonne then head around the corner to St. Ann’s Church, which was the site of Bram Stoker’s marriage to Florence Balcombe (Oscar Wilde’s ex-girlfriend).
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