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Feature: Valentine's Day

A hot air balloon over the clouds

All the days in February pale in comparison to Valentine's Day. Even the cynical have to admit a twinging of the heart strings when the card companies inundate us with naked babies shooting arrows. To help all types make it through the day, we've collected the best activities for romantics and the not-so-romantic. Impress your better half with these thoughtful ideas or survive the day with your sanity intact with our useful tips.

Valentine's For Romantics

Valentine's Day means different things to different couples. For some, it's an opportunity to be cheesy and pour over one another like besotted teenagers. Others use it to say scathing things about commercial holidays – while secretly planning a romantic excursion behind a partner's back. Certain couples outright cannot stand it, and go out of their way to escape the hype – together, at least.

No matter how you feel about St. Valentine's Day, it is a fantastic time to be with a loved one – it's cold at home in the UK (ideal for cuddling), there are fantastic winter season deals abroad (if you'd like to get away from said bad weather) and February is a short month, so payday doesn't feel like an eternity away. To give you some inspiration for this famous Hallmark Holiday, we've decided to compile a list of the best Romantic Holidays Ideas for all couples – from romantic novices to full blown Casanovas…

Romance Level: Casanova

For the couples who name stars after one another, hold hands at the movies from the previews to the credits, and continue to embarrass their friends with outrageous displays of public affection…

City Break At The Valentine Guest House, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Valentine's Day at home or in the countryside with a delicious meal and a bottle of bubbly won't go out of style in a hurry. It's a classic formula that has warmed people's hearts for decades - even the most hard-boiled cynics. But for couples wanting to combine a holiday experience with romance and something extra, an impromptu city break offers a refreshing change of scenery to complement the occasion.

You don't need to look as far as Europe or South America to find world class options – we have several right on our doorstep. The Valentine City Centre Guest House is a stunning 19th century Georgian townhouse, located in the south west corner of Edinburgh's Old Town. As a couple's venue, it provides all the trimmings of a romantic weekend away: five star accommodation, customer service that is renowned for friendliness, and a huge, complimentary breakfast to ease the champagne blues in the morning. Above the magnificent room you're staying in, the city is right on your doorstep, offering its castles, museums, restaurants and romantic lookout points to you. Edinburgh scarcely looks as mystical and epic as it does during winter.

Romance Level: Adventurer

For those crazy couples who have pictures of themselves sky diving, making faces on a rollercoaster and petting crocodiles on the fridge…

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Hot Air Balloon

Hopping into a giant picnic basket and sailing high above the routine of our daily lives is a wonderful experience - best enjoyed with a glass of champagne and good company. It's the flying equivalent of a slow, relaxing stroll through the clouds, which adds a nice twist to the traditional afternoon walks you may normally take. What's more, viewing your neighbourhood or the countryside from a bird's perspective will remind you of something that is easy to forget: the UK is a beautiful country…

Booking a hot air ballooning trip with your partner as a Valentine's Day treat will require some spontaneity. It is a weather permitting activity – fog, rain and extreme winds are no good. It's best to speak to your tour provider a day ahead of schedule to find out about the upcoming conditions. But if you get it right and the trip works out, it'll be a wonderful excursion you and your partner won't forget.

Couple's Suggestions: hot air balloning can also be a great group activity for like-minded couples who share a love of new, thrilling experiences. Balloons Over Britain offer trips for 2-16 passengers at a time, so you can share the experience with your friends. Tours are available throughout the UK, which makes it easy for anyone.

Romance Level: Sun Worshiper

For couples that take strain over the winter season and count the days down until summer arrives…

Go To The Beach

Beach Getaway

The romance of sitting by a fireplace and enjoying a cold evening indoors can get lost in the prevailing season – it's what most people are doing in February, anyways. If you are keen to spoil your partner (and yourself), head across the pond and beat the summer crowds at one of the Top 10 Winter Sun Destinations, including Cape Town, Oman, Malta and more.

Choosing where to go can be tricky. To start your search, Room for Romance offer a selection of luxury, budget, spa and boutique hotel options at a wide range of choice destinations – from Tuscany to Marrakech, the exotic Isle of Capri and more. Their website is 'packed with details of romantic hotels, intimate inns and chic hideaways perfect for a romantic getaway'.

Romance Level: Trendy Romantic

For modern couples who work and play hard, live manic lives in the city and spend most of their days attached to an electronic device of sorts…

Spa Weekend Or Single Treatment

A couple at the spa

For many people, the New Year just sneaks up and doesn't give you a chance to recover from the festive season. Before you know it, you've been back at work for a month, the Christmas tree is still standing in the lounge and it feels like the holidays were a fragment of your imagination. If your partner is in a position like this (or they so happen to enjoy a good pampering), a spa retreat or treatment makes a wonderfully romantic gesture.

Your options for spa treatments are as varied as you need them to be. From hot stone treatments, to essential oil massages, shiatsu, yoga infused stretching workshops and good old steam baths – just tell the spa therapist where it hurts, and they'll do the rest. For those wanting to keep the spa retreat local, we've compiled a list of the best spas in the UK. If you are prepared to cross international borders, we've also counted down the Top 10 International Detox Resorts.

Romance Level: Cynic

For those couples who swear Valentine's Day is total bollocks…

An Angry Death Metal Concert – Together

Head-banging Rock

Nothing says "I love you… but I don't care about Valentine's Day" quite like watching a group of angry individuals on stage, beating their instruments and screaming aggressive lyrics about their broken hearts/egos/maternal relationship. We're not talking about rock music, either – forget the Foo Fighters or Radiohead. We're talking death metal. Look for bands with names that point to their anti-romantic sentiment: keywords like "shame", "scars", "pain" and "sin" are normally a dead give away. They are normally at bars and venues that offer nothing in the way of romantic ambience, and very little choice when it comes to suggestive dining – there's beer, vodka or gasoline on tap. A good session in the mosh pit should leave you and your equally cynical partner purged of any Valentine's Day nausea, and ready to carry on with your lives.

Check out www.allgigs.co.uk for listings…

Valentine's For Singles

Another year dodging Cupid's arrows and here you are again - single on Valentine's Day. Fear not, we have a remedy for your plight. On a day when being single is akin to having a disease, we have a few activities to keep you busy, without having to hideaway like a leper, and far away from hand holding couples that look at you with barely-disguised pity in their eyes.

Laugh the heartache away

Comedy Club

They say that if you can't cry then laugh; the ludicrous things we do for love are good material for comics. There are a number of comedy shows, with a Valentine's Day theme, on the 14th. The Comedy Carnival will be playing again at the Grand in London. Acts performing include Kerry Godliman, the devilishly funny Andrew Lawrence and musically gifted Earl Okin. The Manchester equivalent will be at the Comedy Store with performances from Mick Ferry and Steve Shanyaski.

Settle in for an anti-romantic film fest

Film Screening

Film is most responsible for the monster that has become Valentine's Day. The guy with the Boombox outside his girlfriends flat, sex symbols such as Ryan Gosling and Leonardo di Caprio and every French 'art' film ever made have all made romance a tad more difficult for the average guy. Luckily there are films out there for the level-headed and single. EverymanCinema is showing Fatal Attraction with Glenn Close as part of their Valentine's special; a film definitely not for kids or the romantically-minded.

The great thing about an anti-romantic film fest is that you don't have to go anywhere to have one. Round up all the unlovable louts you know and have a film party of you own. Films worth watching include: The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, War of the Roses, Mr and Mrs Smith (before they kiss and make-up), Kill Bill, 500 Days of Summer and Closer.

Scare the heartache away

Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like horror - whether it be film or performance horror. Baronial Hall in Blackpool will be hosting the Carnevil of Horror from 12pm to 9pm for the brave. The gothic horror show brings together 'scare acting and convincing' special effects in a chilling show presented by Valentino - the ghoulish and eccentric showmaster. Your heart will be lodged in your throat by the end of the show.

For more information visit www.showzam.co.uk

Shoot something

Clay Pigeon Shooting

Cupid's aim may be off, but you can practice your own shooting and relieve some stress at the same time with clay pigeon shooting. Clay pigeon shooting is all about precision and focus, requiring you to completely zone everything out and just focus on aiming. The sport grew out of a need for competitive shooting after pigeon trap shooting was outlawed in 1921 . There are many different types of shooting, but the most popular is trap shooting: where birds (i.e. the clay 'pigeons') are released from the trap by voice or manually by an assistant. The activity is perfect for a lads or ladies day out.

The West London Shoooting School offers beginners shooting events so that you can learn to handle your weapon and become a keen shot. To find out more about their program visit www.shootingschool.co.uk

Ultimate Valentine's Date

Sherilyn Yacht

There are dates and then there are dates. A trip around the beautiful Cape Town coast fits into the latter category. For the couple who has done everything and is looking for a Valentine's to remember, the yacht Sherilyn is a once in a lifetime experience. Essential Travel sat down with Shaun Mundow, the friendly captain of Sherilyn, to find out more about the yacht.

The Italian-built yacht, built in 2004 and the only one of her kind in Africa, is described by her captain as a 'beautiful boat for passengers and crew alike' - having seen the boat ourselves it's a sentiment we share. The Sherilyn has enough space aboard it for twenty people; technically making it a mini-cruise ship - without a crazy captain at the helm trying to do wheelies on water (incidentally the man most known for doing crazy things on four wheels - Jeremy Clarkson - was recently a passenger). Entering from the stern of the yacht, you'll be greeted by a well appointed lounge area fit for one of those 'lives of the rich and famous' shows. But the magic is really downstairs where you'll find cabins that put classy hotel rooms to shame. Even a sea weary landlubber will have no problems just lying in bed contemplating their own good fortune - not that lying in bed is what you'll want to do with all there is to see.

Captain Shaun Mundow on the yacht SherilynThe control room of the yacht

The most romantic option is the three-hour sunset cruise that takes you past the beautiful vista of the sun setting just beyond Table Mountain, a quick jaunt to Robben Island (an unmissable Capetonian experience) and an off-boat swim at Clifton - the beach to be seen at with the body beautiful. On clear days Shaun is even able to include some sightseeing of the shipwrecks near the Cape coast - all in just three hours.

Cabins in SherilynSherilyn Cabin

Luxury like this is usually beyond most of us, but considering that a ten person party (i.e. five couples) could experience this romantic date on water for £140 a pop (even less for larger groups), this makes it a great way to end a holiday in Cape Town and will earn you enough brownie points for at least the next year.

Last Updated: February 2012

Gugulethu Hlekwayo

Gugulethu Hlekwayo

A timid traveller, but a traveller none the less; Gugulethu is in his element lost and without a map - preferably with a companion willing to listen to his tall tales. He's our resident expert on the best muffins in town.