Lots of lovers are going to have to skip the hugs and kisses this year and resort to Zoom dates and virtual dinners. But fret not, St Valentine’s Day inspiration can still be found in romantic Ireland.
Whether it’s stepping up to propose at the Giant’s Causeway, saying I love you on the edge of the world at the Cliffs of Moher, living in a fairy-tale castle, doing a Kate and Leo in Titanic Belfast or pondering the musings of a land of poets, saints and scholars, romance is all around on the island of Ireland.
Yet, as the links between Ireland and the patron saint of love run long and strong, it is St Valentine himself who watches over it all, especially when it comes to his feast day on 14 February.
Way back in AD 269, St Valentine was executed in Rome for performing weddings for soldiers against the wishes of the emperor Claudius II, but in 1835 his remains were passed on as a gift from Pope Gregory XVI to the respected Irish Carmelite friar, Father John Spratt.
The priest brought the remains back to Ireland a year later and to this day they can be found in the Whitefriar Street Church near Dublin’s city centre, where there is a shrine to St Valentine.
Couples from around the world come to visit the shrine at all times of the year to ask St Valentine to watch over them in their lives together. The church’s visitors’ book is filled every six weeks with people’s hopes and requests for love, and of course there is always heightened interest in the shrine and the church around 14 February itself.
Normally a special blessing of the rings ceremony takes place in the church on St Valentine’s Day. While that will probably not be possible this year, the service may be livestreamed for couples to join in and there is also the opportunity to order cards, candles and other souvenirs relating to St Valentine from the church’s website.
You could also follow the tradition of those in love, seeking love, or recovering from the loss of love and write to St Valentine in Dublin. People have written tens of thousands of love stories, making Dublin the home of the world’s biggest collection of love letters to St Valentine.
Or perhaps another quintessential Irish symbol of love and friendship will inspire you – the famous Claddagh ring, as bought for, received or worn by celebrities from Kim Kardashian to Jennifer Aniston, Daniel Day Lewis and many more.
Featuring two hands holding a heart which wears a crown, the ring originates in Claddagh, an old fishing village on the shores of Galway Bay in the rugged west of Ireland. There’s no greater gesture to the one you love than the sharing of this symbol of everlasting love.
Thomas Dillon’s in Galway city – the original makers of the Claddagh ring and the oldest jewellers in Ireland – has made Claddagh rings for royalty, world leaders, top musicians and film stars. Browse their website, learn more about the ring’s history, perhaps buy one, and maybe even use it to propose or cement your relationship.
Don’t forget that other romantic gifts from Ireland could include anything from Irish chocolates, art, craft, whiskeys or even simply arranging to recite some Irish poetry to your lover.