When it comes to Valentine's gifts and romantic gestures, don't let anybody tell you It's the thought that counts. It rather depends on how the quality of the thought marries with the quality of the gift. I once received a food processor for Valentine's Day; that's why he's history.
This selection of romantic gifts and ideas is bound to get a better reception. It ranges from the budget minded to the extravagant. What all these romantic ideas have in common is a spirit of joy and romance that's bound to be partner-pleasing.
1. Surprise Your Partner - and Yourself - With a Luxury Getaway or Treat
Are you the sort of gift-giver who just can't keep a secret? UK travel specialists Lastminute.com have come up with a nifty solution. Book one of their Top Secret® Hotels and you get a 4 or 5-star hotel for a 3-star price or less. They'll tell you the hotel's location, star rating and description but you won't know where you are staying until you've completed the booking. Not only do you get a surprise - you get an impressive upgrade as well because hotels are guaranteed to be really top drawer.
No time or budget for a romantic getaway? They are also offering Top Secret® Restaurants deals where both of you can lunch at a Michelin-starred London restaurant for as little as £30. You choose the location, the type of cuisine and sample menu but you don't know the restaurant until you've booked.Visit the lastminute.com website to check out the offer.
England's Lake District is unfailingly romantic at any time of year; it's varied landscapes, hills and fells, and dramatic lakes, softened by wintry mists or shrouded in snow are ideal backdrops for getting cosy with someone special.
Windermere is, arguably the most romantic of all the lakes, surrounded by woodland gardens and heathery hills dotted with sheep. And don't think the innkeepers and restauranteurs of the area don't know it. Every February, they lay on special treats and deals for Valentines and lovers.Try one of these:
- Wrap up warm and snuggle up together on a Lake Windermere cruise. Steamer cruises on the deep dark waters run throughout the winter.
- Take a hand-in-hand woodland stroll through the season's first carpets of snowdrops in the 30-acre gardens of Brockhole, a beautiful country house with views of Windermere and the dramatic Langdale Pikes.
- Run away to the wonderful Arts & Crafts period hotel, Holbeck Ghyll, overlooking the lake across gently undulating fields. You can plan your wedding while dining in the hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant. See what other visitors have said about it on tripadvisor.
3. Make a Mess with Food
Food is sexy. Cooking together is sexy. Getting sticky fingered together is fun. And sexy. Take a cookery class with your partner at a romantic restaurant with rooms so you can slip upstairs for dessert. Make some cupcakes. Or join a chocolate workshop. It doesn't have to cost a lot. You could set up your own romantic cooking session at home. Get in exotic ingredients, follow recipes from your favorite celebrity chef. And so what if you're not that good in the pots and pans department. This isn't only about eating, is it?
More serious gourmets might want to try one of these:
- Take a Cookery class at Simpsons in Birmingham and book one of the restaurant's four, exquisite rooms. See what the tripadvisors think.
- Pop on paper hats and try a Chocolate Making Workshop for Two, using Green&Black's Chocolate, in London, Brighton or Manchester.
- Or how about this prelude to making whoopie. Lastminute.com adds some alcohol to the cookery school experience by offering a Cupcake, Whoopie Pie and Martini Experience for Two.
4. Treat Yourselves to Spa Treatments at Home
London Serenity, a company that provides in-room massages and beauty treatments at some of London's most famous 5-star hotels, will also come to your home or vacation rental. The therapists, in designer uniforms, bring their own aroma therapy oils and candles, soft music and comfortable treatment beds. The two of you can have a couples massage, manicures, pedicures, an assortment of beauty treatments or what the company calls mobile well-being treatments in Yoga, Pilates or personal training.
Although this is a London service, it should not be too difficult to find licenced and qualified therapists in your own area who'll deliver at home services. Ask at your gym or beauty salon for recommendations. Just think of it - what a nice way to get all mellow and flexible without having to rush out into a wintry night to meet your Valentine's date.
5. Hideaway in Scotland
If you really want a romantic retreat à deux, it's hard to beat Scotland for combining romantic luxury with a true get-away-from-it-all atmosphere. The highlands are dotted with dreamy inns and hotels that seem to be beyond the edge of the known world yet offer up style, pampering and great cuisine. Two we've tried, that would make terrific honeymoon destinations too, include:
- Ardanaiseig Hotel, a delightfully idiosyncratic place overlooking Loch Awe in Argyll. The hotel's "boatshed" is a private, luxury cottage for two where you can hide away and never bother visiting the main house. The hotel staff will deliver meals right to the boatshed and prepare them in the cottage's small pantry kitchen. If you long for company, there's a golf cart at your disposal to drive up to the main house for drinks or dinner.
- The Isle of Eriska sits on its own private island, reachable from the West Coast of Scotland, near Oban, via a rickety bridge. The hotel itself is a bit sociable, but there are private cottages near the pool and spa, some with their own hot tubs, so you never have to dress for dinner - or anything else for that matter.