Ballynahinch Castle Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel may not be the top luxury hotel in Ireland, but its intimate size and stunning setting help make it our top pick for romance. The 40-room Ballynahinch Castle Hotel is a less formal, more accessible alternative to the more famous Ashford Castle to the east. It has a riverfront location amid the wild, unspoiled beauty of Connemara and decor that's alternately homey and elegant. It's more of a manor house than a castle, but the main structure dates to the 18th century and both the building and the estate are steeped in history. The 450-acre grounds offer a range of activities, including beautiful hikes, woodcock shooting, and fishing. Both restaurants serve terrific gourmet cuisine using fish, game, and mushrooms from the surrounding region.
Ashford Castle Rating: 4.5 Pearls
shford Castle embodies the fantasy of the Irish castle hotel, featuring a massive historic stone facade, complete with towers and turrets; gorgeous, manicured grounds; a stunning setting on a huge lake; and common spaces that are truly grand, with rich wood paneling, chandeliers, and antique furniture. It's the obvious pick for any couple that wants to feel like royalty. After such magnificence, however, the rooms can be a bit of a letdown. They still retain elements of their original elegance, but some have frumpy style and need renovations. Still, George V Dining Room offers excellent, formal fine dining (jackets are required in the evening), and drinks and tea can be enjoyed in the graceful drawing room with lake views. The wide range of estate activities includes falconry lessons, boat tours on the lake, golf on the 9-hole course, clay shooting, and archery.
Sheen Falls Lodge Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Sheen Falls Lodge is arguably the top hotel in County Kerry, and one of the most romantic in all of Ireland. The 300-acre estate belonged to the Marquess of Landsowne in the 18th century, and the hotel -- opened in 1991 -- feels like a country manor house. It has a stunning setting on both Kenmare Bay and Sheen River, which has, as the name suggests, gentle tumbling waterfalls. The 66 rooms have classic country decor -- crown molding, cheerful prints (plaids and florals among them, in moderation), and soft yellow walls; all but one have water views. Estate activities range from clay pigeon shooting to fishing to tennis, and more traditional luxury hotel features include a lovely indoor pool, spa, and small fitness center. Formal fine dining is offered at La Cascade restaurant, while (slightly) less expensive dishes are served at the classy Restaurant Lounge. The sommelier hosts daily tastings in the wine cellar.
The Merrion Hotel Rating: 5.0 Pearls
When it comes to romance, it's tough to top The Merrion's quiet exclusivity, gracous Georgian interiors, first-rate fine dining, and luxury spa. It has fewer rooms than the nearby Shelbourne and feels more intimate and private, though its list of features is still extensive: In addition to the full-service spa, it has a lovely Roman-style indoor pool and well-equipped fitness center. The impressive restaurant offering includes Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the only restaurant in Ireland to receive two Michelin stars, as well as the casual and atmospheric Cellar Bar, housed in the original 18th century wine vaults. It's the top pick in Dublin for couples planning a posh getaway. It would be higher on this list if it weren't for its urban location; Dublin can't compete with the gorgeous Irish countryside when it comes to romance.
The Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The 265-room Shelbourne, built in 1824, is one of Dublin's best-known luxury icons, with a grand entrance right on St. Stephen's Green and an impressive roster of famous past guests (Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, and Liam Neeson have all stayed here, to name a few). Rooms have elegant traditional decor, though some are quite small and standard Queen Rooms lack bathtubs. Still, the ornate common spaces, hot spot bars and dining venues, luxury spa, and historic cachet combine to make this one of Dublin's premier options. Some may prefer its grandeur to The Merrion's more understated approach, but we gave The Merrion top billing for its intimate feel.
Bushmills Inn Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Bushmills Inn may not be as luxurious as some of the Dublin hotels lower on this list, but its cozy charm makes it more romantic in our book. The quaint Bushmills Inn in Antrim is quintessentially Irish in every respect: There are fireplaces burning peat or wood throughout the property, a fantastic restaurant serving locally sourced cuisine, Irish music performed certain nights at the Gas Bar, which is lit by traditional gaslight, and 41 cottage-style rooms. The inn has a rich history dating back to 1608, when a coach house and stables stood here, and the actual main inn building dates to the 1820s; the historic character has been carefully and thoughtfully preserved throughout. Views of the river are marred by the parking lot sitting right in front of it, but most guests are impressed enough by the inn's warmth and coziness that they find little to complain about.
The Fitzwilliam Hotel Dublin Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Fitzwilliam Hotel is a beautiful design hotel with a fantastic location overlooking St. Stephen's Green. A bold use of color, modern furniture, and eclectic accents combine in fun rooms with huge bathrooms. Many rooms have soaking tubs and separate walk-in showers; all have minibars, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. In addition to a full gym and spa, the Fitzwilliam also has three distinct restaurants serving Irish, Mediterranean, and French cuisine (Thornton's has one Michelin star). The hotel also offers 24-hour room service. With small touches like fluffy duvets and nightly chocolates, this hotel -- with its location at the heart of Dublin -- is the best pick for romance in town.
Dylan Hotel Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Dylan Hotel is a stylish 44-room boutique with a quiet and safe location in Dublin 4, an upscale neighborhood a short walk from the city center. Each room has been individually styled with a mix of whimsical decor -- artistic headboards, intricate mirrors, and statement couches/chairs -- and classic pieces. Amenities are fantastic for such a small property. In the room, there are flat-screen TVs, iPod docks (with iPods loaded with historical Dublin walking tours), stocked minibars, and bathrooms with underfloor heating. Some bathrooms also have big, luxurious soaking tubs with small flat-screen TVs. Amenities in the hotel include a fitness room, cozy bar, heated outdoor terrace, solid restaurant, and 24-hour room service. In addition to its character and sleek style, the Dylan is known for excellent service.
The Westbury Hotel Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Westbury is a luxurious, romantic hotel located in the heart of Dublin, just off Grafton Street and within walking distance of major sights. The 205 rooms and suites are beautifully decorated with neutral colors, plush couches and linens, and modern patterns. All rooms have Nespresso machines, minibars, and elegant bathrooms. The Westbury is known for space, and even the standard rooms are generous in size. The huge lobby is full of comfortable couches where a delicious afternoon tea is on offer. The hotel also has an upscale restaurant, Wilde, named after the writer Oscar Wilde, a casual restaurant called Cafe Novo, and the Marble Bar. When booking, be sure to read the fine print: Some packages come with breakfast and Wi-Fi while others do not.
Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Radisson Blu Royal is a 150-room, contemporary luxury property on the south side of the River Liffey. The modern, quiet rooms are upscale and well-suited to couples, featuring up-to-date amenities such as flat-screen TVs, stocked minibars, and free Wi-Fi; some rooms have Nespresso coffeemakers. Bathrooms are sleek, and have separate soaking tubs and walk-in showers. Suites offer extra space to lounge, and some come with balconies. Hotel amenities include on-site parking (for a fee), two restaurants, a cocktail lounge, a bar, and a business center. While the hotel doesn't have a fitness center, guests do have free access to a local gym a short walk away.
Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa is located about half an hour northwest of Dublin's city center. The historic property -- an 18th-century castle turned Georgian house, turned convent, turned hotel -- sits on beautiful green grounds, making it a popular spot for weddings and events. The 145 rooms are spacious and modern, though lack any wow factor in the decor department. However, linens are crisp, there is free Wi-Fi, and the castle offers 24-hour room service. Additional room amenities include electric kettles and safes, and suites have luxurious soaking tubs. The biggest highlight here is the spa, with its serene hydrotherapy pool, outdoor hot tub, and variety of treatments. A lovely lobby has plush seating and a fireplace, and the fitness room is adequate. The location may be out of the way, but with a library, restaurant, three bars, and several golf courses nearby, there is plenty to keep guests entertained.
La Stampa Hotel & Spa Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The La Stampa Hotel & Spa is a 28-room boutique option in the center of Dublin. Eastern and Moroccan themes dominate the decor, and rooms have comfortable beds, flat-screen TVs, and stocked minibars. All rooms have free Wi-Fi and some have luxurious soaking tubs. The on-site Mandala Spa continues the Moroccan theme and offers a long list of treatments, along with cozy seating. Restaurants and bars are a draw at this hotel, including the upscale Pink Supper Club and Sam Sara, home to a great late-night scene. The location on Dawson Street is easy walking distance from shopping on Grafton Street and St. Stephen's Green, but the hotel is on the pricey side (as are all the hotels on this list).