Love is in the air

Just in time for Valentine's Day, the National Trust has come up with a list of its top ten most romantic locations. Scattered across the UK, there's bound to be one close by where you can take a romantic stroll away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Stourhead, Wiltshire
A valley near Bath, is home to the Stourhead eighteenth-century landscaped gardens with its magnificent lake, classical temples and follies. The Temple of Apollo is particularly romantic - so much so, that it was here that Matthew Macfadyen's Mr Darcy declared his love for Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Killerton, Devon
At 6,400 acres, Killerton is one of the largest properties acquired by the Trust, and the house, built in 1778-9, has seen its fair share of romance. On the weekend of the 13th and 14th February, the estate is hosting a Valentine's celebration where you'll have the opportunity to pen a love poem or learn the language of the fan in this tranquil spot set in the rolling Devon countryside.

Giants Causeway, Country Antrim
In the breathtaking scenery of the northern tip of Ireland, Giant's Causeway, a natural marvel of stone columns resulting from volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago, has its own air of mystery and magic. This year, the National Trust are offering the chance to adopt one of the 38,000 basalt columns at the World Heritage Site. What better way could there be to show your love than with a gift connected to such a timeless wonder?

Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire
Down through the years, Stowe has inspired writers philosophers and artists, and the family who created the estate were once so powerful they were richer than the king. There are over 40 temples and monuments scattered around the gardens which provide a delightful setting for a spring-time walk. It would also be a delightful place for a wedding, and from 13th to 21st February staff will be available to inform you about the options available in the licensed temples which will be appropriately decorated.

Gibside, Tyne & Wear
Spectacular vistas, winding paths, grassy open spaces... Gibside is wonderfully tranquil place and perfect for lovers who are also nature lovers. Much of the land is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and you may even be lucky enough to catch sight of a red kite. There are other timely attractions, though, as a widely published author will be on hand on the 13th to help you pen just the right words to win the heart of your Valentine.

Chirk Castle, Wrexham
If stones could talk, there's no doubt walls of Chirk Castle would have plenty of tales of love and romance to share: completed in 1310, Chirk Castle is still lived in today. Valentine's weekend is being celebrated this year with a special snowdrop walk, and potted snowdrops - the flower that symbolises purity and hope - will be on sale as a souvenir, a simple but romantic gift.

Polesden Lacey, Surrey
Back in 1923, George VI and his bride, the late Queen Mother, spent their honeymoon at Polesden Lacey. If that isn't recommendation enough of its romantic pedigree, the estate will be hosting a Valentine's fair on the 13th and 14th of February. Or you could treat your partner in style and book tickets for the Valentine's dinner dance being held on February 13th at the Courtyard Restaurant.

Attingham, Shropshire
Just a few miles from the fine Tudor town of Shrewsbury, Attingham is a grandiose classical house set in beautiful parkland. The mile-long ambulatory walk was a favourite with the mid-eighteenth century house owners and is particularly lovely in the spring.

Lyme Park, Cheshire
The love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy is one of the greatest literary romances ever and one of the most loved versions must be the TV adaptation starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Who can forget the scene when Darcy emerges dripping from the lake at Pemberley, to the consternation of Elizabeth? The lake in question was that of Lyme Park, where the magnificent house served as exterior for Darcy's country seat. The wooded slopes and rolling moorland, grazed by herds of red deer are the perfect setting for your own romantic classic.

Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire
A glorious variety of trees - oaks, beeches, limes and ashes - provide a stunning backdrop to the Wimpole Hall gardens which include a colourful parterre garden, Pleasure Grounds, and a walled garden. The landscape park is home to rare-breed cattle. The house also has a romantic connection as it was owned in the mid eighteenth century by Philip, first Earl of Hardwick, who was instrumental in the the passing of the Marriage Act of 1754 which established the legal basis for the conduct and definition of marriages in England and Wales.

Tips & suggestions:
With few exceptions, National Trust gardens are open year round, although opening hours tend to be shorter in the winter. Some of the houses themselves may not open until later in the year. Some of the Valentine's celebration activities may entail additional costs beyond the standard property entrance fees. Check the individual websites for full details.

Further information:
National Trust