So there are two ways to approach Valentine’s Day: hide away from the scramble for your hard-earned cash from card sellers, restaurants, supermarkets and jewelers; or realise that there are some fantastic things to see and do to gain some serious Brownie Points.
Whether you’re an old or new romantic, here are some ways to ensure 2014 is full of love and, er… perhaps other stuff too.
Something old – inspiration for old romantics
Love at first sight on the Isle of Wight
Step onto the Isle of Wight and experience the love-at-first-sight romance of Lord Randolph Spencer Churchill and Jennie Jerome, who married just three days after their romantic rendezvous on the Diamond Isle.
The Isle of Wight was also famously home to another loved-up pair: Queen Victoria and her consort-King, Prince Albert. Their home Osbourne House was the ultimate island escape for our Victorian monarchy. Spend a day frolicking in the sumptuous surroundings of the royal apartments as historic experts guide your through an exclusive journey of marriage, love and romance, and hear stories once privy only to those of the royal.
Relax at the Terrace Restaurant for a sumptuous afternoon tea with a glass of bubbly overlooking the beautiful grounds where once Queen Victoria proclaimed “it is impossible to imagine a prettier spot”.
Channel Romeo & Juliet
Stroll hand-in-hand through the award-winning gardens at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, where a young William Shakespeare once courted his future bride.
Steal a kiss in the willow arbours, where you can hear recordings of Shakespeare’s sonnets, or in the Shakespeare Arboretum, where inscriptions on trees, shrubs and roses are all inspired by Shakespeare’s writings. Don’t miss the heart-shaped lavender maze – the perfect place to declare your love or even propose.
And if you’re ready to tie the knot but not to walk up the aisle, then take part in a hand-fasting ceremony at the Cottage and have love bind you eternally – just as Shakespeare and his bride would have done all those years ago. Finish up with a delicious Valentine’s dinner in the Rooftop Restaurant at the Royal Shakespeare.
Discover Legendary Love in Nottingham
You and your loved one will be welcomed with a complimentary bottle of Champagne and special alfresco touches including a wood-burning stove to snuggle beside and views across the woodland for your morning coffee. Don’t forget to pay a visit to St Mary’s Church, where Robin and Marian were allegedly married.
Or take a brisk walk around the wild landscape that so inspired D. H. Lawrence, author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Follow the Teversal trail up to Silverhill – one of the highest points in the city – and set down a Valentine’s Day picnic (Bovril, anyone?) to enjoy glorious views over Hardwick Hall.
Be Royally Romantic
The gem country house of the Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace re-opens its doors on 15th February for couples looking to slot in a second celebration on Valentine’s weekend.
Treat your special someone to lunch in the Orangery which overlooks the spectacular Italian Garden, and present her with her very own red rose. After lunch, talk a stroll through the rolling parkland, landscaped famously by Capability Brown. Once you’ve set the mood, consider a perfect proposal in front of the temple where Sir Winston Churchill once proposed to his Clementine.
Make a weekend of it with a stay at Woodstock’s Feather’s Hotel, whose Valentines’ Weekend Package includes Champagne on arrival, a five-course gourmet dinner, The Feather’s breakfast and even a special gift for Her. Prices start at £140 per person per night.
Something new – set your own scene with something different this Valentine’s Day
Fifty Shades of Grey
If you’re more of a 21st century couple, the Play Package at The Arch London could be the fantasy break you’ve been waiting for.
Your night’s stay includes an intimacy box, filled with treats including an all-important Do Not Disturb sign to hang up right until your much needed late check-out. If you can be enticed away from your sumptuous room and various toys and games, the hotel restaurant will be hosting a special aphrodisiac four-course menu.
For a top ‘dirty weekend’, head for bohemian Brighton. With its laid-back beach town attitude, ‘London-on-Sea’ has seen it all and has plenty to keep you both in trouble.
Designed to lower inhibitions and lead you into temptation, the Hotel Pelirocco’s Play Room features an eight-foot round bed, a mirrored ceiling, a pole dancing area, a giant plunge bath and its own entrance to the street. Book a LoveBird package this Valentine’s weekend for just £99 per night.
Luxurious pampering is in store for guests at the Clumber Park Hotel and Spa this Valentine’s weekend. Sip on pink Prosecco and strip off at the New Leaf Spa, where a scrumptious full body treatment includes a chocolate and peppermint exfoliation followed by a chocolate and milk body wrap to melt away any stress before you spend a Valentine’s Weekend.
All spruced up with nowhere to go? Head for the Byron Brasserie for fine dining and classic cocktails by the fireplace. This is an ideal spot to uncover the paintings of the Lord’s past lovers and the lyrics penned by a Romantic poet, ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’.
Lock Down on Love in Oxford
Don’t forget to bring your velvet handcuffs this Valentine’s Day when you check into The Oxford Mal. This former prison turned luxury hotel offers a 15-person disco shower, a ‘balcony’ sleeping area and bath ‘on the landing’, all of which could provide for some interesting action.
This Valentine’s Day, the Malmaison has created a VIP package that includes a 4-course Valentine’s menu, cocktails, chocolate covered strawberries and a full English breakfast the following morning for £218 per couple. There is also the option of getting locked-in with your loved one for a quirky take on the romantic dinner.
Literally, take her breath away
Thrill-seekers can be sure to take their partner’s breath away by booking a weekend helicopter break with Chewton Glen, which includes a picturesque flight over the New Forest scenery.
Though hard to out-do, a two night suite in the luxurious treehouse suites, complete with a quaint dinner hamper, breakfast hamper and full use of the award-winning spa is sure to set you up to experience the ultimate Valentine’s Weekend.
If you’d rather take part than take a backseat, High Adventure offers weekend paragliding courses on the Isle of Wight.
For more inspiration this Valentine’s Day, visit VisitEngland.com/moreromance.