Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Make a date with a difference in Nothern Ireland

Miss Ireland Rebecca Maguire and Chris Hughes visit the Kissing Gate at Tannaghmore Gardens in Co. Armagh
Miss Ireland Rebecca Maguire and Chris Hughes visit the Kissing Gate at Tannaghmore Gardens in Co. Armagh

Valentine’s Day is on the horizon and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is encouraging couples to take time out and make a ‘Date NIght’ with Northern Ireland.

Busier lifestyles, longer working hours and a hectic home life have led to many couples spending less time together but according to NITB there are so many new activities to try, places to explore and skills to learn, there is no better time to make a Date NIght in Northern Ireland with your loved one.

“With so many demands on our attention nowadays, couples find it increasingly difficult to capture quality time together,” said Pauline Gormley, NITB’s Destination PR Officer.

“It’s the perfect time of year for couples to discover something new about your local region or learn a new skill together,” she continued.

“There is so much to do on a date NIght in Northern Ireland to suit all types of couples from canoeing to cooking and pottery making to burlesque dancing.

“Whatever your taste may be, and whether you only have a few hours to spare or a full weekend, there will be an activity or place for you and your loved one to enjoy quality time together,” she added.

To help get you started, NITB has put together some suggestions to suit all different types of date nights:

Take an adventure

Couples with a sense of adventure can canoe to a deserted island, build your own shelter and cook your dinner over an open fire in the ‘Become Bear Grylls’ adventure package with Four Elements Adventure in Omagh. The guides will ensure you get to the island safely before giving you materials, tools and ideas for you to build your own outdoor shelter before its time to cook and chow down.

Discover another side of Northern Ireland by exploring the underwater world with Aquaholics. Meet your guide in the dive centre in Portstewart to be fitted out with diving equipment before being led to the water’s edge where the adventure will begin.

Learn how to negotiate the urban landscape during an Urban Mountain Biking course with Far and Wild in Co. Londonderry. If you’ve ever struggled with kerbs or you’re too nervous to try a set of steps then this fun-filled session is perfect and you’ll get to see the sights of the walled city on your journey.

Go navigating in the Mourne Mountains with Tollymore National Outdoor Centre and learn how to map read, route plan and use the required equipment. This course is for those people that are new to hill walking and want a gentle introduction to the basic skills and equipment.

Discover the mystical waterways of Northern Ireland on a one day beginner’s canoe course with your partner at Life Adventure Centre in Annalong. With the aid of skilled coaches you will enjoy a guided trip of the local area and develop the basics of canoeing.

Ready, steady, cook!

There is no better place to learn how to cook than Belle Isle Cookery School, the ultimate destination for food lovers. Discover the delights of cooking modern cuisine in the stunning Lakelands of Fermanagh. The school offers many classes in different cuisines including Italian, Chinese and Thai as well as traditional Irish food. A four-week diploma programme as well as one day courses and evening demonstrations are all available at Belle Isle.

Nestled in the heart of Belfast city centre is the Belfast Cookery School which offers a range of courses for everyone including those donning an apron for the first time. The school has 16 fully equipped, individual cooking stations with many different courses on offer including a seafood master class, Thai cookery, bread making and family baking classes.

The James Street South Cookery School in Belfast opened its doors in 2011 and is the perfect place to learn how to entertain effortlessly. The classes are suited to all skill levels and cover a wide range of cuisines including fish, Italian, curry and French bistro food.

Learn how to make delicious three course dinners at the Orange Tree House Cookery School in Newtownards. Designed with both the experienced cook and beginners in mind, the classes are informal and the menu can be easily recreated in your own home.

Discover a new hobby

Why not learn a new skill together at The Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast which offers a wide range of beginner and advanced language classes in Italian, French, Japanese and Russian. As well as languages, the centre has a full programme of various classes and workshops such as Burlesque dancing, African drumming, singing for adults and graffiti workshops.

If you are aged 50 plus and want to find an enjoyable way to get active together then why not join the Body Wisdom classes by the Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company in Co. Londonderry. The movement style is very relaxed and exploratory and each participant will follow their own imagination to create movement.

If you love photography then why not brush up on your technical and practical skills with a photography courses at Belfast Exposed. The courses are open to people from all backgrounds and levels and include introductory photography, portrait photography, street photography and one to one tuition.

Expand your minds together and join the Linen Hall Library’s reading group to debate and discuss the chosen title for the month. Admission is free and the group meets on the last Thursday of each month.

Get crafty

When it comes to picture perfect scenery you are spoilt for choice in Northern Ireland. Escape with your loved one to Tyrone on a painting break with artist and tutor Dermot Cavanagh who teaches all levels of artistic ability. Develop your painting skills during a one, two or three day course and learn how to create a splendid watercolour.

Get a real hands-on creative experience with Ballydougan Pottery at the picturesque Bloomvale House in Craigavon. Learn how to paint a pot, hand-build with clay or throw on the Potter’s Wheel with a range of classes to suit individual needs.

The Island Arts Centre in Lisburn runs various courses throughout the year for anyone interested in arts and crafts. There’s sure to be something for all in its wide variety of classes including dressmaking, painting, pottery and textile art classes.

Romantic walks

Head to the breathtaking north Antrim coastline and lose yourself in local myths such as the legend that the Giant’s Causeway was built on a fairytale of love when the giant Finn McCool wanted a way to reach his lady giant who lived on an island on the Scottish coast.

Take a romantic stroll with the breeze of the Atlantic Ocean in your hair with a visit to Downhill Demesne and Mussenden Temple which is perched dramatically on a 120 foot cliff top or discover the rich history of Dunluce Castle and make a wish at the wishing well or the mermaid’s cave.

Another local legend suggests that couples who canoodle over the Kissing Gate at Tannaghmore Gardens by the Craigavon Lakes in Armagh will marry within the year. Or follow in tradition at the Celtic Holestone in Doagh which attracts couples all year round - here the woman should reach her hand through the circular hole in the stone and her partner should take her hand and pledge their love forever.

In Co. Armagh Slieve Gullion is located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the purples of the heather contrast with the yellow of dwarf gorse and the orange of the bracken to create rich colours and an ideal setting for lovers.

Take your partner to the shores of Lower Lough Erne to explore Castle Archdale Country Park which offers a variety of walks on a five mile trail with lots to see including a deer park enclosure, wildfowl ponds, wildflower meadow and butterfly garden.

For more information and ideas on planning a date night visit www.discovernorthernireland.com/valentines or call into your local tourist information centre.



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