At One With Nature in an Ancient Land
The wellness and wellbeing renaissance currently sweeping its way across the Emerald Isle shows no signs of slowing. And, much like the Irish diaspora spreading its tentacles around the world over the last couple of centuries, a greater connection with both mind and body in Ireland is accelerating exponentially as a favoured tourism trend.
The Irish have always had a unique way of reconnecting with the earth and their environment. They’re a proud people, with an inextricable bond to the rolling green hills and torrid Atlantic coastline of their ancient Celtic land.
From coast-to-coast there are extraordinary back-to-nature experiences to be found, all of which are experiencing a revival from local operators.
There’s a new generation of travellers to Ireland favouring gentle bird calls, breathtaking views, centuries old oak-trees and storybook cottage accommodation over phone reception and Wi-Fi connection.
The tradition of Roman-Irish bathing actually dates back centuries and with the benefit of time and modernisation, there are newly established luxurious takes on this popular pastime.
Galgorm Resort & Spa in Northern Ireland's Ballymena has taken the experience of thermal bathing to another level. So much that they were awarded Global Luxury Spa Hotel of The Year in 2018.
Galgorm’s acclaimed ‘Thermal Village’ is a couple’s oasis with private log fired hot tubs, indoor heated pools, steam rooms, and saunas with varying temperatures. I even dare to brave their new snow room designed to help you cool off between sessions at a brisk minus seven degrees celsius.
All of these experiences are linked by elevated timber boardwalks which lead to the heated River House centrepiece in the village which is perched gracefully over the town’s River Maine.
IN THE WEEDS
To take this experience to another level, it needs to be done as was 300-years ago.
On the beleaguered County Sligo coastline of Ireland’s famed Wild Atlantic Way is VOYA Seaweed Baths in Strandhill.
Once considered a surefire treatment to rid the pain associated with arthritis or rheumatism back in the 18th century, ancient seaweed bathing has reached new mainstream heights to help treat skin disorders like eczema and circulatory complaints.
The iodine rich plants, farmed from the ocean just outside the bathhouse itself are believed to help leach toxins from your body and improve the function of your hypothalamus as you bathe.
FINN LOUGH LUXURY ECO RESORT
Where living life in a bubble usually has the connotation of being sheltered and disconnected from the outside world, at Finn Lough Luxury Resort in County Fermanagh, intricately designed Forest Bubble Domes allow you to be more connected to the outside than you’ve ever been before.
This is not camping or glamping. Each of the Forest Domes - complete with telescopes and constellation charts - are individually set on private allotments right on the water’s edge of the stunning Lough Erne. So private they are, they’re only accessible by a privately chauffeured golf cart from reception.
But the magic of Finn Lough doesn’t stop with their special dome accommodation. The resort’s Elements Trail is a magical solo stroll in a bathrobe through a wooded forest - best taken at dusk to the sound of bird calls - around five scandinavian-inspired huts. Each hut is specially designed for a sensory altering 20 minutes of bliss and are tantalisingly linked by very little light -- just the faint orange glow through heavy glass doors.
Start in their epsom salts Float Shed, before this choose-your-own-adventure spa experience has you blissfully meandering between a lakeside sauna, an aromatherapy room, a private hot tub and a relaxation den.
IRELAND’S 19TH HOLE
The Irish love the end of a big golfing day as much as they love playing the sport itself. Whether it’s beenEagles or Bogies, the “19th Hole” is a time honoured tradition in Ireland of relaxing in a great pub or clubhouse after a magic 18 holes with your mates.
Whether you’re at Royal Portrush, Ballyliffin or Enniscrone Golf Club (some of the greatest courses in the world) the Guinness tastes the same and it's during this post game tradition where plans are made and myths of physical prowess are born.
At the famous Galgorm Castle Golf Club, the favourite has to be the 16th hole which dog legs sharply over a fierce water trap. Like the rest of the course, the fairway is like a painting, flanked by huge oak trees, rolling green hills, hairy Irish cows and Galgorm’s Castle turrets off in the distance.
Saunter up to Galgorm’s refurbished clubhouse at the end of your round and whatever the weather, you’re sure to finish your time at the 19th hole warm - be it from the fire, the ales or from that traditional Irish welcome, much akin to a warm hug.
Qatar Airways are currently flying to Dublin to Belfast via Hamad Airport.
From Dublin, it’s a four-hour train trip west to Sligo, or you can hire a car from one of many providers at Dublin airport. From Sligo it’s a 15 minute drive to Strandhill.
From Belfast, it’s an 1hr 20min train North to Ballymena.
To get to Finn Lough, it’s 2hr 30min drive from Belfast. You can hire a car from many providers at Belfast airport.