Newlyweds’ ‘surreal’ break as Donegal hotel is deserted

Newlyweds’ ‘surreal’ break as Donegal hotel is deserted

25 March 2020

BALLYNAHINCH newlyweds Aaron and Louise O’Neill thankfully did not have to cancel their wedding due to the COVID-19 outbreak — but say their mini-honeymoon to Donegal was “surreal”.

Married in the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Carryduff on March 14 with a reception in the Hilton Templepatrick, the O’Neills were treated to a few nights away in the Shandon Hotel in Dunfanaghy.

But when they got there, they found the hotel to be virtually empty due to people being scared off from going to the popular hotel because of the public health concern. 

Louise (27) said: “We arrived on the Sunday and were due to go home on St Patrick’s Day but it was really quiet and we didn’t expect it to be that quiet even due to the threat that there was talk that all bars and restaurants would soon close.

“But I have to be be honest, it was quite nice that it was so quiet.”

Husband Aaron (30) said: “Normally when you go to the Shandon, there are about 150 cars parked, this time there was less than 50. It was so different to what we normally experience at the hotel.”

Louise added that when they left the hotel on St Patrick’s Day, everything felt very strange as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ordered a shutdown in the Republic. 

“There were no bars, coffee shops or cafes opened when we left and it was very surreal and totally different to when we arrived.”

The few nights away was a wedding present from Aaron’s parents, ahead of a trip to New Hampshire in the US for a close friend’s wedding.

But this happy event too looks likely to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My best friend, who was a groomsman at our wedding, is supposed to be getting married next month but it looks like it will have to be postponed due to the need to self-isolate,” said Aaron.

“We had planned to have a few days in the States ahead of the wedding which would have been our honeymoon but it looks like this has been hit as well.”

It’s not only the young couple’s holiday plans which have been marred by the outbreak — Aaron had worked as a care worker but due to the outbreak has since been redeployed as a support worker for a centre which supports adults with learning difficulties.

Louise, a receptionist at Stranmillis University College, had just been told to work from home.

The cancellation of weddings over the next few months will hit hard on engaged couples.

Aaron said: “It’s really quite tough at the moment worrying about our mortgage as we have just moved into our home but in many ways, I feel a bit guilty as well as we were lucky enough to have had our wedding just before everything was shut down.

“My friend and a few other people we know won’t be as lucky and it’s so hard on them.”