Ben Tarnowski

Boston, MA

Everybody here at Tenon Tours is proud to be able to say that we make dreams a reality on a daily basis. It’s what we live for and why we wake up in the morning genuinely looking forward to another day’s work. But every now and again we have the honor of assisting in life-changing events. It was last October when Ben Tarnowski asked Tenon Tours to help arrange a trip to Ireland for his girlfriend, Bridget, and him. But what started as a romantic getaway blossomed into a full-blown secret operation to secure the woman of his dreams as his lifelong partner! Ben started working with Katie Fleming , our Managing Director, who put together a fairly standard self-drive vacation with 10 nights in B&B’s scattered throughout the country. Slowly, over the next few months, Ben started to realize just how deep his feelings for Bridget went and started to devise a plan of his own. That’s when the fun began…

First it was question of where he could stay on Valentine’s Day that would surely impress his lady. After reviewing several options, he decided on the Clontarf Castle Hotel in Dublin. It was the perfect setting for a romantic evening. But it wasn’t enough. He needed chocolates… flowers… champagne! How could he possibly pull this off?! Ben and Katie, with the help of the staff at the Clontarf Castle, worked it out so everything would be waiting for them when they arrived. He even opted for a suite with a four-poster bed, and upon entering, he would lead Bridget to where the chocolates, flowers, and a bottle of bubbly await them. From there, Ben would treat Bridget to a dinner at the Fahrenheit Grill, all the while nervously going over the master plan in his head. So did it happen the way he planned?

We’ll let Ben himself tell you…

So tell me Ben, did Ireland inspire you to propose to the girl of your dreams, or did the girl of your dreams inspire you to take her to Ireland to propose?
“The girl of my dreams definitely inspired me to take her to Ireland to propose to her! Your own employee, Katie Fleming, inspired me as well. My fiancé is Irish, so if figured a trip to her homeland would be great fun. I wanted to propose to her, but I thought it might be too sappy. Katie said “If you put off the proposal for a month and do it in the states, then you’ll forever regret not having proposed in Ireland!” I realized that the stars had aligned for my fiancé and me: she’s Irish, we’re in Ireland, it’s Valentine’s Day, we’re in a castle hotel suite – what better way!”

How did the actual proposal go down?
“Well, not as I had planned. It turns out that an engagement ring burns a hole in your pocket! Being able to talk to your friends and family about the ring, and your proposal plans, helps to quell your nervousness; however, spending an entire trip with your soon-to-be-fiancé , while trying to keep your mouth shut, is too much for any one man to handle. I was becoming a nervous wreck and was making the trip less than fun. So the second night there, we went dinner, got a drink or two, and went back to our B&B (Pinebrook in Arklow, Co. Wicklow). I took a few deep breaths, told her I wanted to give her my Valentine’s Day gift early. I got down on one knee, opened the ring box, and asked for her hand in marriage!”

How did you celebrate after she said yes? Keep it clean now, I do realize you were in one of the most romantic countries in the world!
Well, she said yes, we both cried a lot (I’m a big baby, go ahead and laugh…), and we then snuggled up in our bed. We didn’t really celebrate then; we mainly cuddled and talked about the moment and the ring, and our future together! It was a weight off of my shoulders, so I fell asleep shortly thereafter. My fiancé told me that she couldn’t sleep at all and instead stared at the ring all night! The real post-proposal celebration happened when we got to the Clontarf Castle. We got a Four Post Bed Suite, and I added a big bouquet of flowers, a bottle of champagne, and a box of chocolates. We had dinner that night at a restaurant in the castle. It was a great meal complemented with free champagne (for the occasion and holiday). We definitely celebrated our engagement that night!

Besides your engagement, what was the best part about your trip?

  • We really enjoyed the town of Arklow. It was quaint, friendly, and easy to get around (walking distance for everything). And our B&B in Arklow was very nice, we highly recommend it!
  • We also really enjoyed Kilkenny Castle. The city of Kilkenny was fun to walk around. We saw the Rothe House, the Canice Cathedral, and of course the castle itself.
  • Blarney was a fun town! We really liked our B&B. We saw the castle and walked around town. There were some lovely restaurants in the town center.
  • We didn’t like Cork City very much. We walked around town and it felt very congested and uninviting. We visited the Cork City Gaol, and that was the best part.
  • On our drive to Galway we saw the Cliffs of Moher. They were breathtaking and impressive. It was a relatively overcast and windy day, but their beauty showed through!


Thinking that you were going to propose on your last night, where did you keep the ring hidden and were you nervous that it would be lost or stolen?
Since I proposed early, it wasn’t sitting around too much while in Ireland. We flew to Dublin from JFK International in New York.  On the flight I carried my camera bag, and I hid the ring in that. I figured A.) I can keep the ring close to me (as I would never have checked the ring in any baggage), B.) she really wouldn’t have a reason to look in that bag, and C.) hopefully security would be discrete if I had my bag searched for whatever reason. When we got to Ireland, I kept the ring in my camera bag, as it was on me pretty much 24×7. So I was never really nervous it would be lost or stolen. The night of the proposal, I tucked it into my luggage for easier access. Everything worked out perfectly!

Anything you want to add? Advice for other guys who are considering popping the question overseas?
As far as things to add:

  • If you’re driving yourself around Ireland, THEN GET A GPS!!! We would have ended up in Siberia without that thing! Small town/Rural Ireland has narrow, windy roads with no route signs or road signs. Bigger cities were better about signage, but not much better. The GPS was a Godsend.
  • As far as popping the question to a girlfriend: propose early in the trip! I was driving my fiancé nuts for 48 hours. Maybe you can take the stress better than I can, but I felt that we had a better trip because I proposed earlier than originally planned. Oh, and definitely keep the ring on you at all times!

From our point of view, a job well done by Ben and congratulations to the both of them!  May they enjoy a long and happy life together. Readers, feel free to leave your congratulatory comments below!

P.S.  They don’t know it yet, but we’ve given them a free 2-night stay back at the Clontarf Castle as a little gift!

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