Candlelit dinner . . . yawn! Log fire . . . really?
Romance doesn't need a roof. If you and your special someone love the outdoors, then why not take the love outdoors this Valentine's Day? With endless possibilities to suit any budget and level of ambition, the great outdoors is the backdrop for your perfect date, whether it’s your first or you fiftieth.
We want there to be love in the fresh air this February 14th, so we’ve got some suggestions for easy outdoors dates that won't break the bank or your body.
"Come on Baby Light My Fire"
Make like summer camp and build a campfire to snuggle around. You can tell each other stories, roast marshmallows and listen to the 80s tunes from the boombox. Ok, I may have gone a little too teen-movie there, but you've got to admit that campfires are romantic as hell. Plus you get to impress your date with some bushcraft skills.
To get a simple campfire going all you need is some wood, some dry kindling (grass, leaves, newspaper etc.) and a flame. Make a small pile of kindling and then layer small twigs on top, leaving room between the layers for the oxygen to reach the flame. Light the kindling and blow into the flames to give them a boost. Once you've got a strong flame going you can add gradually larger pieces of wood.
Be careful where you light your fire though. Open campfires are legal in Scotland, but the rest of the British Isles are more stringent. You need a landowner's permission to light a fire. Have a word with a farmer, or head to a campsite that allows campfires (there are lots of them now). Failing all that, just use your own garden. After all, the flames will still be romantic and you have the added bonus of a kettle close at hand.
"Waiting For a Star to Fall"
Picture the scene, the pair of you wrapped up in hats, scarves and gloves, staring up at the light that's travelled a billion miles just to be witnessed by the two of you. Stargazing is probably the most romantic thing you can do whilst wearing a big coat, and it's completely free.
All you will need is a blanket, a flask of hot chocolate and a compass if you want to locate specific stars or constellations. Alternatively, if old-school starmaps aren't to your taste, you can download an app like Star Walk 2 or Stellarium. These will help you find and identify stars, though any wishes you make are entirely up to you.
Star visibility varies throughout the lunar cycle. The best time to go stargazing is in the first quarter of the lunar month, and as chance would have it, this year Valentine's Day falls right around this time. You will want to pick a place away from light pollution, so that means getting away from the cities. The Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia and the South Downs are classic places to check out the night sky. Plus, this gives you the chance to pair your stargazing with a day in the hills and the evening in a cosy B&B.
"They Call It Puppy Love"
The only thing better than your special person, is your special person with a dog. It's scientific face; the addition of a four-legged friend increases attractiveness by 127%.
If either have your own dog or, even better – a dog each, then this is a no-brainer. Pick a location, pack the tennis balls and head out for a day of holding hands and saying "awwww" whilst your dogs bound about looking cute. This can be an especially good option for a new couple or first dates, as it alleviates a lot of the Valentine's Day pressure with a ready-made conversation-starter. Plus, if you both have a dog, chances are you'll have a lot to talk about.
For puppyless couples, however, there is a rewarding solution: shelter dog walking. Dog shelters across the country are eager to pair eager volunteer with dogs. Contact your local RSPCA for more information on the practicalities and availability of dogs in your area. The Cinnamon Trust is always looking for volunteers to walk dogs belonging to elderly or ill owners. In both of these cases you need to register with the charity before you can shout "walkies", but it's worth it.
Alternatively, if there is a local dog shelter in your area, contact them directly and ask if you can take Buddy for a stroll. Just make sure your date doesn't pay more attention to him than you.
"Treasure … that is what you are"
Inject some old-school adventure into the big day with a treasure hunt. The twist: it's a bang-up-to-date version using GPS technology. Since the 90s Geocaching has become increasingly popular with outdoor-lovers who enjoy the exploration, teamwork and adventure – all things that add up to a perfect date.
It's a simple idea with a real sense of reward. Thousands of small treasure boxes or 'caches' are hidden across the country. Sign up to Geocaching.com and locate one in your area. Then use your GPS device or smartphone to hunt down the treasure using co-ordinates. You'll see parts of your local area that you didn't know existed, you'll overcome a challenge together and, like all great adventure stories, you'll hopefully fall in love by the end.
Who knows what you'll find inside the cache. A message book? Photos? Trinkets? Take a memento but leave something of your own. Our tip – write something in the log book that commemorates your date forever.
So forget Netflix and chill. This time when you ask someone "out" you can mean it. Just remember to invite us to the wedding.