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As we are learning from the STARZ series Outlander, the real purpose for Scottish castles in the 18th century was to absorb the fiery embraces of lovers, not the gunfire of hostile English invaders. Scotland and Ireland offer ruggedly romantic landscapes, people who can tell a story as good as any in the world and a nascent culinary scene.
Outlander hopes to take Scotland from the Braveheart image that was so popular with macho men to the brave hearts of the more romantically inclined women who watch the show. VisitScotland has produced a map and online guide of all of the locations in the series. Lovers in Ireland can follow the Wild Atlantic Way laid out by Tourism Ireland.
Connoisseurs Scotland, which just added two new members to Its Collection of luxury hotels (Glencoe House and Donald Trump’s MacLeod House & Lodge), to its collection of 28 luxury accommodations, a luxury train, The Royal Scotsman; and the cruise ship, The Hebridean Princess is particularly interested in attracting lovers.
Seven of the group’s members have Michelin-starred restaurants, including the only two-starred restaurant in Scotland, which is found at Gleneagles. Kinloch Lodge, for instance, on the Isle of Skye overlooks the shore of the sea-loch Na Dal. The lodge’s two-night “Romantic Escape” package includes three meals at the lodge’s restaurant, including a special five-course dinner by chef Marcello Tully; a spa treatment each or a whisky tasting at Talisker distillery; and a relaxed, couple’s photo shoot in and around the lochside gardens as well as a bowl of Belgian-chocolate-dipped strawberries, champagne and oysters delivered to the room.
Glasgow’s One Devonshire Gardens at Hotel du Vin is located in the city’s West End in five townhouses built in 1886. Oak-paneled walls, open fireplaces, sweeping staircases and stained glass windows as well as a terraced garden provide a thick romantic atmosphere.
Locally sourced and organic produce is served in the restaurant with wine coming up from a cellar with 600 bins, and a whisky cabinet with more than 300 whiskies. The property’s Aristocratique Package has romance written all over it, featuring early check-in and late check-out, a three-course dinner, breakfast in bed and of course, champagne.
The walls of the Cashmere Suite at Stobo Castle, Scotland’s only destination health spa and hotel are dressed in claret-colored cashmere. The suite’s handcrafted limestone tub weighs in at more than a ton. The room also comes with a celebratory bottle of Bollinger champagne and chocolates. Stobo’s Pure Spa Break includes two night’s accommodations (including the Cashmere Suite) and two spa treatments as well as meals, guided walks and activities.
Scotland has its own wedding traditions that come with sound of pipers, tartan kilts and Celtic rings. From the Crinan Hotel you can view the islands of Jura, Scarba and Mull. The 20-room family run hotel is located near a small church for couples who wish to be wed in one, or the ceremony can be performed in the hotel garden. The Crinan can organize dancers, harpists, singers, bagpipers or a Ceilidh band, all elements of a traditional Scottish wedding. The Crinan can be booked for exclusive use for events with up to 40 guests.
The 11-room Airds Hotel specializes in small country weddings. The hotel is located in the Scottish Highlands at Port Appin where it once served as a ferry inn. The hotel’s two-bedroom cottage works well for small weddings. The Airds’ restaurant earned three AA Rosettes and a Gold Award with Eat Scotland with its fresh local seafood and produce has made it one of the best restaurants in Scotland. The Airds also allows for exclusive use of the property for “larger” weddings, up to 38 guests.
Couples can also get married at the Greywalls Hotel, located at the edge of the Muirfield championship golf course, close to Edinburgh. The walled garden at this Edwardian home, built in 1901, makes a fine setting for a ceremony or simply for photos. Ten golf courses are located within five miles of the hotel. Chex Roux, the restaurant at Greywalls, was named 2011 Restaurant of the Year by the Scottish Hotel Awards and offers upscale catering menus. Exclusive use of Greywalls is available for up to 50 guests.
Ireland’s newly renovated Ashford Castle, located on the shores of Lough Corrib in County Mayo is offering wedding and honeymoon packages. Cullen's at the Cottage, only a few minutes' stroll away makes a fine backdrop for a pre wedding rehearsal dinner with guests.
For a large wedding of up to 160, the Castle Wedding Package offers exclusive use of the estate and showcases the elegant George V dining room, located in the heart of the castle and outfitted with 11 Waterford Crystal chandeliers. The Castle's resident wedding coordinator is there to help plan the wedding.
The Castle Wedding package includes a complimentary stay for the bride and groom with complimentary wedding menu tasting for the couple; Champagne for bride and groom, on arrival; red carpet at the entrance of the castle; five-course dinner from a choice of menus; canapés; three glasses of house wine per person; floral arrangements on all dining tables; table plan and place cards and PA system. The Castle Wedding is priced from €53,554 ($72,333) with a minimum of 75 bedrooms/160 guests per night.