Top photographer Paula O’Hara finds romantic castles, rustic bars and historical locations for dramatic couples …

Whether it’s a venue with lots of character or a blank canvas that can be personalized, a country estate or a city warehouse, my favorite spots are the ones that let the light in. It’s even better when we have access to private, interesting places where couples can escape for those romantic portraits for a while.

1. Mussenden Temple, Co Derry
One of the smallest venues I’ve ever shot, but unique in every way. It sits on a cliff with the north coast as far as the eye can see. It’s an epic place and its round brick interior makes the ceremony all the more intimate. For those who love scenic shots, there are plenty of spots here with 18th-century walled gardens, the cliffs and beach below.

2. Leslie Castle, Co Monaghan
This is one of my favorite romantic castles in Ireland thanks to perfect indoor and outdoor photo locations and everything within sight of the main castle. This place has so much original character. I fell in love with the floral femininity, the pretty furniture and the long sliding windows for maximum daylight. I also love the arched walkways for light. The building’s sandstone color adds warmth to photos, especially on cloudy days.

3. Clonwilliam House, Co Wicklow
This is just a gem of a place near the Avoca Valley. It’s a 19th-century hilltop house with breathtaking views, hidden rivers, and winding paths that make for magical portraits in shady light, while the interiors are flooded with light and luxurious. The whole place feels very welcoming and private. And a barn is even being renovated, making it all the more adaptable.

4. Ballyfin Demense, Co Laois
This is the pinnacle of size and historical drama in Ireland in my opinion, with no details overlooked in the restoration. Wedding parties have this huge property to themselves, and the staff takes care of all of their needs. It’s pure escapism between lords and ladies. From a photographer’s point of view, it’s a light-filled dream with old trees, orchards, lakes, opulent rooms and antique furniture everywhere.

5. The taproom, Co Antrim
Slightly different from the extravaganza of Ballyfin, but with a lot of boho charm, this is the place for laid-back parties that are great fun. I like the rustic vibe in the Tap Room itself, but there’s also the option to refine it in the on-site tipis which is quite a laugh. This is the perfect place for a summer wedding with plenty of room to shape your own personality.

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