Valentine's Day Gift Guide
Show your love this year with these locally-sourced, creative ideas - from romantic experiences to beautiful, handmade items
Yes, February 14 doesn’t necessarily need to be about red roses and chocolates. In fact, Culture NI has dreamed up a list of alternative Valentine’s gifts and experiences that will no doubt score brownie points among love interests and - in keeping with St. Valentine’s original audience for the day – provide singletons with plenty of ways to fill that heart-shaped hole in their calendars. From local craft items to thoughtful, fun and indulgent experiences, we've got Valentine’s Day covered.
In and around Valentine’s Day, Bushmills Inn has an impressive line-up of love-inspired movies to enjoy, including Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman and Bridget Jones’s Diary. A movie ticket includes a two-course meal, your chosen film and in some cases a 'themed cocktail'. The only question is, who are you going to bring with you? The girls or the guy?
Best Buds’ pretty hand-picked posies wrapped in brown paper are a wee bit special and they do have a special 'Valentine’s posy' available if you’re looking to spoil someone (or yourself!) The only downside is that they only deliver and sell their posies within Belfast. However, love defies all distance, right?
Local company Bog Standard has a range of beautiful candles, diffusers and scented soaps that are perfect gifts for Valentine’s Day. What’s more, the company have a few offers available at the moment if you’re looking for something special that won’t blow the budget. Order any of their products here.
Belfast Whiskey Walk, a new experience on the Taste & Tour line-up, is proving very popular with whiskey aficionados and those keen to understand and experience the whiskey industry here in Northern Ireland. The stops on the tour to several whiskey drinking holes around Belfast’s city centre are probably best kept secret but rest assured, your Valentine (or 'palentine') will not be disappointed by all the samplings and special surroundings to be discovered along the way.
Itty Bitty Books Co, run by husband and wife duo Astra and Al, have a range of positive-thinking books, pictures and Irish linen-lined wall banners to choose from for your special someone. Better still, they have a unique Valentine’s gift box if you’re really wanting to impress.
Ninety percent of the company’s packaging is recycled and all their materials are sourced locally in Northern Ireland. If this ticks a few boxes then you can either pick up a gift from Itty Bitty Books at St. George’s Market at the weekend, or order directly here.
This weekend the legwarmers will be out in force for the MAC’s Valentine’s Roller Disco. A hit last year, the event will run on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 and the good news is there is a live DJ and after party to keep you entertained beyond the skating.
Pour Your Art Out
There are countless artists out there creating stunning works, but if you’re looking for something that little bit different to spoil someone with then a print from local painter Francis McCrory is sure to be a hit on Valentine’s. His impressive odes to some of Belfast’s iconic sites and everyday sitings are an absolute pleasure to look at - and no doubt to own!
Waiting for the Rain by Francis McRory
Another homegrown talent is Aly Harte and her take on familiar objects and local places, including standout 'The Hare'. To mark the occasion, the artist is giving shoppers the chance to get their hands on 14 prints from her Irish seascape collection, which aren't due for release until after May. Those intrigued will have to sign up to Harte's newsletter for further details.
Say It With Vinyl
Now that vinyl has staged its mighty comeback (even outselling digital albums in 2016) you might want to indulge your other half with a precious physical edition of one of their favourite records, or hit them up with a new sound. There's a wealth of independent stores throughout the country where you can rummage for hours, not to mention local labels stocking releases by some of the best artists from these shores.
One in particular which caught our eyes, not to mention our ears, is the somewhat fitting limited edition red vinyl of Malojian's new album This Is Nowhere. Renowned producer Steve Albini might have more of a reputation for recording abrasive rock bands, but this is nonetheless a beautiful collection of tracks from a seasoned songsmith.
If you’re still stuck for ideas then Craft NI has a plethora of local craft and gift ideas to choose from via its directory of artist-makers. Take for instance the wonderful jewellery by Diane Sutherland or Jan Campbell, or stunning scarves from designer Kelsey Tyson. Not forgetting you might need a card, Simply Special, a local card maker featured on Craft NI, has a unique range that will help you seal the deal while avoiding the annual lacklustre offering on the high street.
Tug at the Heartstrings
When it's all said and done, you just can't beat the classics. This Saturday (February 11) the Ulster Orchestra will whisk lovestruck audiences away with 'Golden Moments', an evening devoted to the most beautiful classical music ever written. Supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the mood will be set for a perfect Valentine's Day with romantic favourites by Tchaikovsky, Debussy and Rachmaninov at the Ulster Hall. Tickets can be booked here.
Ulster Orchestra violinists Niamh McGowan and Thomas Jackson