The Claddagh ring on my finger promising love, loyalty and friendship is a permanent reminder that Ireland is a country for romantics. The seductive landscape, the epic stories, the beautiful poetry, the poignant music – all point to Ireland being the perfect place for a romantic getaway.
And did you know that the remains of the patron saint of love, St Valentine, are enshrined in Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Church? (Well, at least some of his remains are buried there. Like many of the saints, there are churches near and far that lay claim to various bits and pieces.)
The romance of Ireland is big in our family. My sister married her love in Northern Ireland’s Bangor Castle, a grand old council chamber with stained glass windows, surrounded by beautiful gardens. There’s a fleeting glimpse of the castle in the 2017 movie, The Bookshop.
Ireland has been the setting for many a romantic movie, and indeed it was the setting for one of my favourite movies of all time: the Oscar-winning romance Ryan’s Daughter, which was shot on the beautiful Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry.
if you can’t get away this Valentine’s Day, cosy up at home with your love and check out this epic drama, which is both tantalizing and tragic. Directed by David Lean and starring Robert Mitchum and Sarah Miles, it tells the story of a married Irish woman who has an affair with a British officer during World War I.
And if Ryan’s Daughter doesn’t appeal, there are a whole lot of other romantic movies and movie scenes that Ireland has starred in.
Northern Ireland boasts numerous locations from Game of Thrones. While Castle Ward in County Down and the magnificent Benone Strand in County Londonderry are well known, others such as the Tollymore Forest Park and Inch Abbey in County Down are more under the radar.
County Antrim’s Dark Hedges, which featured as the iconic King’s Road in the HBO drama, is a popular spot for proposals. Also popular for proposals are Binevenagh Mountain in County Londonderry, and the quaint harbour outside the village of Ballintoy in County Antrim (which doubled as Lordsport Harbour in the series).
The spectacular Wild Atlantic Way which winds its way along Ireland’s west coast plays regular supporting roles in movies. The Cliffs of Moher stood for the Cliffs of Insanity in the 1987 fairytale adventure, The Princess Bride. The west of Ireland has been a favourite haunt of movie makers as far back as 1952 when The Quiet Man introduced the world to the spectacular landscape of Connemara.
More recently, the 2020 film Wild Mountain Thyme was shot in the County Mayo village of Crossmolina and the town of Ballina. Cheesy but enchanting, the movie opens with emerald-coloured hills and ivy-covered churches like something out of a tourism ad. The exquisite scenery of patchwork fields nestled under Mayo’s Nephin Mountains is integral to the story of the couple’s romance and their connection to the land.
Ireland’s Ancient East is also a favourite spot for film makers and most recently provided the fairytale background for the Disney movie, Disenchanted. The heart-warming story tells how the lovable maiden from the fairytale world of Andalasia finally finds her Prince Charming in the kingdom of New York City.
In the romcom, PS I Love You, the gorgeous Wicklow Mountains National Park is the setting for the lovers’ first meeting. It really is difficult not to fall in love when in Ireland’s largest national park that stretches over 23,000 hectares of wooded valleys, heathered hills and shimmering lakes. This is the country of my husband’s ancestors, and from his stories, I was already in love with it long before I laid eyes on it.
Love Rosie, based on Irish author Cecilia Ahern’s best-selling book, features a variety of County Wicklow locations including the stately Powerscourt House and Gardens, the seaside resort of Bray and the beautiful village of Howth in Dublin Bay. Meanwhile, the stunning golden expanse of Curracloe Beach in County Wexford makes a memorable setting for a key scene in the movie Brooklyn, which also features the village of Enniscorthy.
Many have said ‘I do’ at the magical Castle Coole in County Fermanagh. This glorious National Trust property is widely recognised as one of Ireland’s finest neo-classical houses. The period drama Miss Julie, starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell, was filmed here.
Last, but not least, Dublin makes many appearances on screen. As the setting for the critically acclaimed romantic musical drama Once, many of the city’s most popular spots play cameo roles, including Grafton Street, St Stephen’s Green and the elegant Georgian Mountjoy Square East.
For more movies set in Ireland, visit www.ireland.com
With thanks to Tourism Ireland for providing much of the information this post is based on. All of the images in this post are courtesy of Tourism Ireland.