Valentine’s Day in Ireland: History & Romantic Irish Traditions

By Aashima

Valentine’s Day, also known as St. Valentine’s Day, is celebrated as the day of love on 14 February in many countries worldwide, including Ireland.

However, the connection between  Ireland and Valentine’s Day is slightly different and goes back to the Middle Ages.

It was believed that birds began to mate on this day, which inspired the holiday. Others believe this was the day the Irish “Saint Valentine” performed miracles and secret marriages.

Now, who is Saint Valentine? We know that learning about history is boring. However, knowing about the St. Valentine’s Day traditions in Ireland is worth knowing.

Let’s learn about the history and Irish traditions to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Ireland 2024:

What is the History of Valentine’s Day in Ireland

The origin of Valentine’s Day goes back to ancient Rome, where it was originally a celebration of the Roman god of agriculture, Lupercus. 

However, in the 14th and 15th centuries, the holiday became more associated with love and romance. This happened due to the influence of courtly love and chivalrous traditions in literature. 

The tradition grew in popularity with time, and by the 19th century, it had become a widespread celebration in Ireland.

However, not everyone does the same thing. Some think of this as a “made-up” notion spread by gift corporations to make sales.

Despite its commercialization, Valentine’s Day remains an important holiday in Ireland and is celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm by people of all ages.

Who was Saint Valentine?

Saint Valentine was born in Terni, Italy and was a priest in the 3rd century in Rome. 

When Emperor Claudius II decided to outlaw marriage, Valentine took it upon himself to perform baptisms and marriages within the city walls of Rome.

He went against the emperor and wed the couple, even though it could cost him his life.

Legends say that he tried to convert the emperor to the faith of Christianity, so he was condemned to a brutal death on 14 February 260 AD at Flaminian Gate (Piazza del Puopolo).

Another story is that Valentine was imprisoned and was in love with a young girl (the jailor’s daughter) who was blind and visited him during his confinement.

He wrote a letter to her signed “From your Valentine,” and she miraculously gained sight to read the note herself. (Love really does miracles!)

Since that day, the tradition of giving letters on Valentine’s Day has emerged.

Although no one knows the true story of this Valentine legend, one thing is sure: it shows his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and romantic figure.

You can visit his grave in Dublin…

If you are searching for “where you can find the remains of Saint Valentine in Dublin,” it is located on Aungier Street, just a short walk from the Temple Bar area.

It is home to the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, or Shrine of Saint Valentine, simply called Whitefriar Street Church by locals.

This beautiful church is filled with magnificent stained glass, making you feel part of something special.

It will be even more romantic if you plan to visit it on Valentine’s Day. You can see a beautiful ceremony that blesses the rings of couples about to get married.

If you are planning for a long-term commitment, this place is a must-visit, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the resting place of famous saints for love.

You can get blessed with your partner there and plan your wedding at the Cliffs of Moher.

Saint Valentine and Ireland

In 1836, a highly esteemed Irish priest, Father John Spratt, was invited to deliver sermons in Rome, which earned him respect and attention from the Christian community.

He was also famous for his dedication to the poor of Dublin and was showered with gifts of affection and appreciation.

And the most important gift of all was given by Pope Gregory XVI. It was a relic of Saint Valentine himself, along with a letter claiming its authenticity.

Since 10 November 1836, the shrine has been open to the public and gives Dublin, Ireland, an ever-lasting relationship with Valentine (the saint of love) and a holiday loved by everyone.

Romantic Things to Do in Ireland

If you plan to spend Valentine’s Day in Ireland, check out the quirky things to do below.

Here are some of the best romantic things to do in Ireland on Valentine’s Day 2024:

1. Book a Jaunting Car for a Special Day in Killarney

Jaunting car in killarney'
Image: Discoverkerry.com

Every woman dreams of her prince charming riding a horse to take her on a romantic journey away from the world.

You can make this true in Ireland’s Killarney. Planning this can cost you some bucks, but the experience will be worth it. 

At Killarney, you will find “jarveys,” the men hanging around with their horse-drawn carts. 

They will take you around and show you some of the prettiest areas of the country.

We recommend that you book this experience in advance. If you do that, the carriage will pick you up in the morning with a full-stocked picnic basket.

You will also have a personal guide and a coach driver for a romantic day out. 

Or you can ride around the National Park in an open cab, see the deer in the fields, and have champagne on the way to Rose Castle.

2. Spend a Memorable Night at Castle Hotel

Memorable Night at Castle Hotel
Image: Ballynahinch-castle.com

If you want to spend a peaceful day staying inside instead of roaming around in the city, you can plan an incredible stay in Ireland’s castle hotels.

This way, you can treat your partner like a prince or princess, tour the castle, or splurge at the spa. 

Here are some castle hotels in Ireland that you might find interesting:

Ballynahinch Castle (Galway): This castle hotel offers a fairytale experience, large, well-appointed rooms, and a unique experience if you rent the entire place.

Dromoland Castle (Clare): Dromoland Castle offers a spa with five treatment rooms, an 18-hole golf course, and a restaurant for fine dining.

Ashford Castle (Mayo): Ashford Castle is a historic five-star castle hotel on the Ashford Estate. 

It offers a royal adventure, grand stone gates, and an estate with spectacular proportions.

Wilton Castle Hotel (Wexford): Wilton Castle Hotel is a 4-star hotel with free WiFi, free parking, and a picnic area. 

It is perfect for luxury couples, families, and groups of friends.

Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort (Limerick): This resort offers an 18-hole championship golf course and is the ultimate vacation destination, complete with luxury and beauty.

3. Fly by the Cliffs of Moher

Fly by the Cliffs of Moher
Image: Drifttravel.com

The Cliffs of Moher is a popular tourist attraction in Ireland, and visitors can enjoy the cliffs’ stunning views and romantic atmosphere. 

They will be handing out Love Heart Sweets to all visitors on 14 February, and visitors can take a picture with the romantic Cliffs of Moher backdrop. 

The cliffs are also a popular spot for proposals and romantic hikes, and visitors can plan to arrive at the cliffs during sunset for a truly romantic experience. 

Not only this, but you can even book a stunning helicopter tour to get the aerial experience of watching the seabirds below. 

You can also cover the Aran Islands. The chopper will drop you there, and you can spend the rest of the day walking, enjoying seafood, and snuggling up in cozy B&Bs.

If you are afraid of heights or want a unique view of the cliffs, book a boat tour of the Cliffs of Moher.

4. Experience Medieval Romance in an Irish Castle

Medieval Romance in an Irish Castle
Image: Irishshop.com

Plan a medieval experience with a special meal at one of the Irish castles. 

Several Irish castles offer medieval banquets—Bunratty is the best.

You will be treated like guests at a Renaissance court, with a complete food and entertainment package.

We recommend you make a reservation beforehand to make your Valentine’s Day in Ireland memorable.

Visitors often use the opportunity to propose here.

5. How About Seawatching at Giant’s Causeway?

Seawatching at Giant's Causeway
Image: Coastmagazine.co.uk

The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is a stunning and romantic destination on Valentine’s Day. 

There are many legends about how it was built, but one of the most popular is that a giant named Finn McCool built it.

According to the legend, Finn McCool loved a giantess who lived in Scotland and wanted to find a way to cross the sea to meet her. 

So, he decided to build a bridge out of giant stones. He worked days and nights until he built a huge causeway stretching to Scotland.

But when he got to Scotland, he saw she was even bigger than he had imagined! He was so scared that he turned and ran back to Ireland.

In his hurry, Finn McCool ripped up the causeway behind him, leaving only the Giant’s Causeway we see today.

So, the next time you see the Giant’s Causeway, remember that it might just be the remains of a giant love story.

The setting is perfect for a romantic stroll, and the area is known for its romantic and atmospheric ambiance, especially at sunset. 

It’s also an ideal spot for couples to celebrate their love and enjoy a memorable Valentine’s Day together.

6. Act like Leonardo and Kate in “Titanic”

Ah, the iconic image of Jack and Rose at the bow of the Titanic, with the wind whipping their hair as they gaze out at the endless ocean. 

While you might not be able to recreate that exact scene on a real ship (safety regulations, you know!), there’s a place in Ireland where you can channel your inner Kate Winslet and live out your Titanic dreams.

Enter Titanic Belfast, a world-class visitor attraction right where the legendary ship was built in Belfast. 

Here, you can walk the grounds where the “unsinkable” vessel came to life and even step out onto a replica of its majestic bow.

It’s not quite the same as being on the real Titanic, but it’s pretty close! And, at least, you won’t have to worry about icebergs (or a certain jealous fiancé).

Plus, Titanic Belfast is packed with fascinating exhibits that tell the whole story of the ship, from its construction to its tragic end. 

7. Say Cheers at Guinness Storehouse

There is a perfect tour if you are a beer lover and want to do something different with your partner instead of having a romantic dinner in a restaurant.

The Guinness and Jameson Irish Whiskey Experience Tour in Dublin allows you to make your own beer.

It includes a self-guided tour, a tasting room and a Guinness Academy where visitors can learn how to pour the perfect pint.

Visitors can learn about the brewing process, enjoy a pint of Guinness, and take in the stunning views of Dublin from the Gravity Bar.

Other Romantic Traditions in Ireland

Valentine’s Day and Ireland remain perfect, and their romantic customs give the day a touch of Irish character.

Whether you are single or committed, these customs will likely pique your interest, and you can spend a day filled with romance, from love poems to proposing to your partner.

Let’s see what those are:

1. The Claddagh Ring

There is one tradition that you will find a bit unique in Ireland: the exchange of Claddagh rings. 

These rings represent love, loyalty and friendship and originated in Claddagh, a fishing village in County Galway. 

Back in the 16th century, pirates plucked a Claddagh fishing boat from its waters, stealing away a young man named Richard just before his wedding.

In the harsh land of his captivity, Richard, yearning for his love and homeland, found solace in a new skill—goldsmithing.

He crafted a ring, imbuing it with symbols that spoke volumes: hands clasped for friendship, a crown for unwavering loyalty, and a heart burning with love. 

Years passed, and somehow, he managed to escape and make his way home to Ireland.

When he arrived back, his girl had never married. They married right away, and he gave her the ring he designed.

This ring, born from longing and resilience, became a cherished symbol of devotion in his Irish village, and its story continues to captivate hearts to this day.

The Claddagh Ring

The rings have been produced since the 17th century, and the world’s oldest maker still exists in Galway.

There is no greater gesture than sharing a symbol of everlasting love: the Claddagh Ring. (Best proposal ever…)

How you wear it is also important…

Worn on the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, it means the wearer is single and looking for love. 

If it points towards the wrist, the wearer is in a relationship. 

When worn on the left hand with the point of the heart towards the fingertips, the wearer is engaged. Pointing to the wrist means the wearer is married.

2. The Legend of Diarmuid and Grainne

The Legend of Diarmuid and Grainne
Image: Facebook.com(RedCapeTales)

This story is about Grainne, the daughter of the High King of Ireland. She was known to be the most beautiful woman in Ireland.

And courted by the most eligible princes and chieftains. One of them was Fionn MacCumhaill. He desired her as his second wife.

He proposed to her, and she accepted. However, during the engagement party, Grainne met Diarmuid (Fionn’s bravest warrior) and fell in love with him. (It was love at first sight…)

Willing to go to any extent, she cast a spell on him, and they eloped and ran all over Ireland. 

Unfortunately, after some time, Diarmuid died protecting his pregnant wife from a gigantic boar. 

Today, the landscapes of Ireland they traveled are a testament to their love story.

There is also a “Diarmuid and Grainne’ cave” in County Sligo, above the Gleniff Horseshoe looped walk, which was said to be the couple’s last hideout.

County Clare’s megalithic tombs dotting the landscape are known as “leaba Dhiarmada agus Gráinne,” or “bed of the lovers.”

3. Leap Day Proposals

The Leap Year tradition in Ireland is that women can propose to men on 29 February, which only occurs every four years. 

The tradition is believed to have originated in 5th century Ireland when St. Brigid of Kildare complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait too long for men to propose.

According to the legend, St. Patrick decreed that women could propose on this one day in February during the leap year. 

Irish monks brought the tradition to Scotland, spreading it to other parts of the world.

The Leap Year proposal in Ireland is still celebrated and considered a romantic and fun tradition. 

Women can propose to their partners on 29 February, and the men are expected to say yes. The tradition is also known as Bachelor’s Day or Ladies’ Privilege. 

The Leap Year tradition has been featured in popular culture, including the 2010 romantic comedy movie “Leap Year,” which is set in Ireland and follows a woman who travels to Dublin to propose to her boyfriend on Leap Day. 

It is simply another example of Ireland’s peculiar romantic customs.

4. Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival
Image: Facts.net/

Find a match made in Ireland…

Yes, you can attend the world’s original offline matchmaking festival, which takes place every September in the village of Lisdoonvarna on the Wild Atlantic Way.

This festival attracts around 60,000 visitors looking for love with music and dancing—living the festival’s tagline, “Where’s Music’s Played and Matches Are Made.” 

This event is over 160 years old and has gained popularity to the point where it spans five weekends.

The only true matchmaker left is Willie Daly, Ireland’s most famous matchmaker.

He helps single souls of all ages and nationalities and provides love-matching consultations from a seat at the Matchmaker Bar. 

Legend even says that if you touch his ‘lucky book’ with both hands, you’ll be married in six months. He set up around 3,000 marriages.

The Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival is a fun and unique way for singles to meet, socialize, and celebrate Irish culture. 

So, if you are planning your trip to Ireland, attend the Marquee Event in September 2024.

FAQs

Do they celebrate Valentine’s Day in Ireland?

Yes, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Ireland, although no specific Valentine’s Day events or traditions are unique to the country. 

Irish couples often incorporate the Claddagh custom into their gift-giving, and many other romantic traditions are innately Irish.

What is the day of love Irish?

Women traditionally propose to their other half on 29 February (also known as leap day). 

According to old Irish legend, the tradition began in the fifth century, when St. Brigid of Kildare vehemently protested to St. Patrick that women had to wait too long for men to propose.

Why is St Valentine’s Heart in Dublin?

St. Valentine’s heart is in Dublin because the remains of St. Valentine, the patron saint of love, are enshrined in the Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin. 

In 1835, his remains were passed on as a gift from Pope Gregory XVI to the respected Irish Carmelite friar, Father John Spratt. 

Father Spratt brought the beloved saint’s remains back to Ireland, and today, they can be found in the Whitefriar Street Church near Dublin’s city center.

Which holiday was invented in Ireland?

The holiday invented in Ireland is St. Patrick’s Day, which is celebrated on 17 March every year. 

St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland and is celebrated with parades, festivals, and other events worldwide.

When is Valentine’s Day in Ireland celebrated?

Like many other countries worldwide, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Ireland on 14 February. 

The holiday is a time for love and affection, marked with various romantic traditions, such as exchanging gifts, cards, and gestures of love. 

While there are no unique Valentine’s Day celebrations or traditions completely exclusive to Ireland, the country has its own romantic customs and a strong connection to St. Valentine, making it a special and cherished holiday in the country.

What is the Irish Valentine saying?

The Irish Valentine’s Day saying is “Love is in the Éire around Valentine’s Day.” 

This phrase reflects the romantic atmosphere and traditions innately Irish during the Valentine’s Day celebrations in Ireland. 

Is tú mo rogha means You are my chosen one. Grá go Deo means love forever in Irish.

How is Valentine’s Day celebrated in Ireland?

Valentine’s Day in Ireland is celebrated with various romantic traditions and gestures. 

Irish couples often exchange gifts such as jewelry, flowers, or chocolate to express their love and affection.

Many Irish couples exchange Claddagh rings, which are traditional Irish rings that symbolize love, loyalty, and friendship.

The remains of St. Valentine are enshrined in the Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, and the shrine is open to the public for anyone who wishes to pay their respects to the patron saint.

Image: Rte.ie

Aashima (1)
About the author

Aashima is an avid traveler who seeks out thrills and lives a simple, peaceful life. Bright clear skies are her calling.