Our favourite New Yorker is the ultimate Valentine's cupid. A lover of all things red and heart shaped on February 14th, Claire Hamilton has uncovered the very best Northern Ireland has to offer on Valentine's Day. Not bad for a pint-sized American who has only been in the country for 20 months....
Your favourite heart shaped holiday is here. Whether you shy away from the romance or wake up beaming ear to ear ready for cupid’s arrow, you can’t deny that it’s nice to share the love with your nearest and dearest on Valentine’s Day.
Expressions of affection come in many shapes and sizes. Whether you opt for a splashy Valentine’s Day with the most obnoxiously large teddy bear, heart-shaped chocolate box and singing card your budget will allow or you prefer a more low-key home-cooked meal and locally sourced gift, there is no wrong way to celebrate.
We’re all different but I tend to gear towards the latter and what a lovely place to live in to enjoy the local flavour. Since moving to Northern Ireland in 2017, I have continued to find inspiration in and be in awe of the array of home-made products and quality food from all around this ‘wee’ island. Whatever holiday you are celebrating, Northern Ireland is a treasure trove of meaningful gifts and wonderful ways to enjoy time with the people you love.
In celebration of L-O-V-E, I’ve put together a guide for those looking to embrace all that Northern Ireland has to offer this Valentine’s Day with a go to gift guide and restaurant recommendation resource for those looking to bring a bit of home-grown goodness to the day!
The Bearded Candle Maker– I am big fan of giving candles as gifts. Everyone loves them but rarely buys them for themselves. Michael’s passion for creating intriguing scents based on stories and memories shines through his work. Alternatively, book an evening for two and join his workshops to learn how you can set your own candle alight.
Bushmills Irish Whiskey Distillery Tour– Whiskey is a national treasure and Bushmills is one of Ireland’s most esteemed and oldest distilleries. Nuzzled along Northern Ireland’s stunning coastline, enjoy a day with your loved one tasting the finest whiskies and learning about how they produce that smooth North coast taste.
Floral Earth, The Flower Room and Foxtrail Flowers— Flowers are a staple for any Valentine’s Day celebration but it’s a challenge to find a unique bouquet that stands-out from your classic red roses. There are tons of florists in Northern Ireland creating arrangements that capture the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. A few of my favourites are Floral Earth, The Flower Room and Foxtrail Flowers.
Abernethy Butter Fudge– While I do love chocolate, there are many other sweets that will send your taste buds cooing this Valentine’s Day. One of my absolute favourite Northern Irish treats is Abernethy Butter Fudge. With an its creamy taste and smooth texture, this handmade fudge is one of Northern Ireland’s best creations!
Balloo House– This place holds a special place in my heart as it is the restaurant we went to the night before my wedding. We had friends from all over the world come over and their first taste of Northern Irish food was at Balloo House.
Noble– Intimate, delicious and local, Noble is one of my favourite restaurants in Northern Ireland. Just off Church Road in Holywood, you will find the perfect menu for two this Valentine’s Day. With smiling faces, you will be wined and dined by the best.
Ox– This restaurant needs no introduction. Perfect for any occasion and any celebration, Ox perfects the art of creating something magical from fresh, local ingredients. I recently took my mom and step-dad there for an evening and they were gobsmacked by the inventiveness, yet simplicity of the menu. With new ingredients that you have to Google to learn about, Ox keeps your taste buds on the tip of their toes with an evening to remember.
Indie Fude– Or if you’d prefer to stay home to cook and enjoy the company of your loved one, head over to Indie Fude for some of the most mouth-watering ingredients from across Ireland. Johnny and Laura have created a haven for deliciousness in their wee shop in Comber and it is a must for anyone looking to create their own Valentine’s Day menu for that special someone.
This is only a small sliver of the great gifts and restaurants across the country. But at the end of the day, celebrating Valentine’s Day isn’t about fancy tasting menus or unwrapping gifts, it is about showing the people in your life that you love them and that is the ultimate gift!