There are plenty of reasons to honeymoon at home. Maybe you’re holding off for another time of the year, when you can both go somewhere for longer; perhaps the coin purse is a little light or, most importantly, you want to discover the land of immense opportunity lying all around you. Yawning fur-and-black wearers Kim and Kanye complained they were bored here, but we’d be bored, too, if we spent our time watching telly or running from one tired-looking cinema to another. Squeeze every drop out of your Ireland-centric honeymoon with our guide – from the capital, to the wilds, to snapshots of real, vital adventure.
The history of you
Feck Ryan Gosling’s oeuvre – love isn’t born of geese-filled ponds and unread letters, but of comfort in long glances and silences; snugs and snogs and bad jokes. If your big love popped into your life in P Mac‘s dark corners, celebrate that. Dig out the dress you wore when he said ‘I love you’; spend a dirty night in the first hotel room you shared; return to the dimmed cinema where every breath sounded heavy and take a guided tour of the private moments only you two know.
If you’re unconcerned about using the correct fork, but would much rather spend a day eating crisps, giggling and constructing a pillow-and-blanket fort in your sitting room (and in your pants), then bloody well do it. And forget any notions about wasting time or not being appropriately grandiose – this is your honeymoon, not your fussy mother-in-law’s. Get silly on a private playdate with sugary cocktails, funnies ready to go on Netflix and all the starters you never allow yourself from the local grease pit. And, of course, break out the (wink, wink) toys, kids.
Mi casa su hotel
A home is a haven but we rarely treat it that way. If you’re ditching the hotel room, turn your house into a cocoon – think crisp white towels and robes, candles and crystal stem. Use the bath, for once (for two). If anyone asks what you’d like as a wedding present, have the fanciest bedclothes you can find, bookmarked on Brown Thomas’s Wedding List. Forget cleaning anything yourself – splurge on someone to give the place a proper gutting before you arrive – and order room service via The Cake Cafe‘s breakfast delivery.
Your favourite things
Treat your Ireland honeymoon as a Spotify playlist – one where you know the words to every song. Calories and coins be damned, if you love it, do it. If breakfast is your thing, do it twice, with the healthy stuff at home; then follow-up eggs Benny at Bibi‘s. Do you and Mr or Mrs You love classic cinema? Buy out the popcorn stand and get cosy at Lighthouse Cinema‘s Kubrick season (until beginning of December). Make a list of your top hits – bargaining at the Dublin Flea, climbing Bray Head, dancing at the Twisted Pepper – if you love IKEA just for the meatballs, make the trip.
Living in a place means never seeing any of the sights and then telling barefaced lies to tourists about the hot spots. So do it! Prepare to get a little teary on a personalised, ebullient tour by local pocket rocket Emer Tunney; check out the smiling hedgehog in the Dead Museum; actually go to the Gate after Chapter One‘s pre-theatre menu and get oiled on one of the Jameson Distillery‘s lauded tasting tours, before allowing for a little mind expansion at Trinity’s Science Gallery. Grab a three-day Dublin Bikes card and paddle a two-person kayak down the Liffey, before retiring to the roof of The Marker for long looks across a lit-up city.
We saw the sea
You don’t need to go through the grim drudgery of buying small versions of all your creams to wonder at glorious sights and eat elegantly produced local fare. All those effusive Yanks are right – our wee country is a little glittering emerald in the Atlantic Ocean, and a driveable one at that. The Wild Atlantic Way stretches from Donegal to Cork and’spans seven counties, taking in fjords, cliffs and dotted islands, with the roiling sea forever lapping at western shores, in one big photo opportunity. If you haven’t yet appreciated your own country’s beauty, now is the time to let that guilt overtake you.
Galway girls and boys
Sand dunes and salty air are the stuff of OkCupid clichés, along with long walks on those beaches, but there’s something liberating about horizon-wide space and the gentle, insistent hush of a low tide. Galway city is a constant bustle of noise and excitement but you can’t truly appreciate the crackle of a fire in Donnelly’s, Barna, until you’ve exhausted yourself walking and breathing in sea breeze along the county’s coastline. Don an Aran sweater – and none of this synthetic nonsense; only the real deal from Stand?n in Spiddal – and embark on one of countless coastal walks, swims or horse rides, before collapsing in Barna’s boutique hotel, The Twelve.
Everybody was surfing
‘Til death or probable poverty do you part, but no one said anything about solidarity when you find yourself arse over tit, struggling to right yourself when the sea has different ideas. Prepare to be laughed at (even by a new hubby or wife on their best behaviour) but throw yourself into surfing, a fitness pursuit and tough the first time around, but a rewarding and memorable experience to share together. Bundoran, Co Donegal, is best for beginners – and sleepy languor in a lover’s arms is better when your own extremities feel just about ready to fall off.
Bathing in it
Against all scientific evidence to the contrary, you and we both know that mermaids are real – you because you’re either totally delusional or, like us, you’ve checked out Voya‘s seaweed baths in Co Sligo and have started to believe you might be one. The Voya boys give the disgustingly romantic option of a private seaweed bathing room for two, with a single large seaweed bath and steam/shower room. Somehow both natural and decadent, and situated in the friendly surrounds of beachy Strandhill – replete with pubs, strolls and guesthouses – the baths help detoxify and are loaded with anti-oxidants.
Song of the sea
Music punctuates all our special moments and memories – first dances in clubs, on deserted streets and underneath the soft lights of a gazebo, surrounded by family and friends. If your life together runs to beats, craft new memories with activity-filled days at Bundoran’s unique annual festival, Sea Sessions – a collision of sounds, sand in unfortunate places and sports, over three days at the end of June. It’s chilled, with all the face-painted fun of a Koh Phangan Full Moon, but without the unavoidable fishbowl hangover and potential for ping pong-related Facebook snaps.
Get up, get out
Runaway brides and grooms, hear the call of the wilds and take on Connemarathon‘s gorse-filled rollercoaster of a road course in April. If you’re both of the shamefully healthy ilk and sitting idly by the fire is a sure-fire recipe to have you wondering if tying the knot was the best idea, tie your shoelaces instead. Honeymooning doesn’t have to mean mooning about, complaining of boredom. Connemara‘s undulating panoramas and lush boglands open up before you in a way no car drive can offer, and Co Galway offers plenty of luxurious pads for post-race cuddles and steaming baths.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, your wedding is the best day of your life, it also means deep sighs, in-laws and the distinctly Irish practice of foostering over table plans. However, exercise is the best de-stressor there is (along with a comically large glass of wine). Flush out residual planning creaks and get tangled in ropes, covered in mud and shoot an arrow or two (photos of particularly difficult guests on the bullseye optional). Ireland’s only fjord isn’t that exciting a prospect (let’s be fair – it’s a lake) but the air around Killary Adventure Company in Leenane, Co Galway, buzzes electric. Portfinn Lodge, overlooking the fjord, boasts the kind of uncomplicated, thoughtful comfort you’ll want after spending a day wearing yourselves out.
Wandering the land
For many, the most exciting part of a holiday is experiencing something new (and checking out how the stock differs in regional Zara stores). Ireland’s character isn’t just found in pubs and museums, but in shaking leaves and precipices chomped from cliff faces, by forces billions of years old. Seize the opportunity to see landscapes and sea views reachable only by foot. It’s the perfect environment in which to spend peaceful time together; walking, laughing and sharing the quietly giddy exhilaration of mounting that last hill before the crash of waves greets you.
If you’re looking to do something cosy, self-contained and still mobile, Ireland’s inland waterways offer the opportunity to visit towns and drift to cycling jaunts during the day, before returning to the peace and tranquillity of a sleep lulled by calming waters. Barges such as Corraquill Cruising’s Double Dutch at the Shannon-Erne Waterway offer hotel-standard accommodation, and the rather gas chance to turn to your partner, devoid of any nautical skill, snort loudly and say “We’re boat people now.”
Kerry’s legendary beauty is hard to capture in either photographs or words, but its global fame is well-earned. The 160-kilometre Ring of Kerry can be cycled or bussed (or driven, if you prefer to lash on your Party Hard Mix Volume #4 With More Bass This Time) and there are private tour escorts available. The landscape pops up around every corner, as if God himself had reached into a bag of geographic features, winked, and said, “let’s just go nuts.” Stop by small towns, have a wander through Killarney National Park and savour a land that fully lives up to it descriptor as, totally unspoiled by development.
WORDS Orna Cunningham
ILLUSTRATIONS Emma Block