Re­stored by the heal­ing power of touch

Clodagh Finn feels the full ben­e­fits of Hugh Wal­lace’s new spa at the Osprey Ho­tel

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Beauty -

IF celebrity ar­chi­tect Hugh Wal­lace were a con­tes­tant in his own show Home of the Year, he would choose the sea­weed bath as his favourite spot in the lux­u­ri­ous new spa at the Osprey Ho­tel in Naas, Co Kil­dare.

Bare­foot and robed, he is en­thus­ing about the plea­sure of soak­ing in the de­li­cious unc­tu­ous­ness of a hot sea­weed-filled tub at the €1.4m spa he de­signed with his as­so­ciates at Dou­glas Wal­lace Ar­chi­tects.

In con­trast, his se­nior in­te­rior de­signer col­league Katie Jakkulla opts for the calm of the dark re­lax­ation room, which suc­ceeds in bring­ing the out­side in with its nat­u­ral wood pan­elling and tex­tured wall­pa­per.

For this spa visi­tor, how­ever, there is only one place to be in this mag­nif­i­cent 10,000 sq ft spa and that is on the treat­ment plinth un­der the heal­ing hands of gifted mas­sage ther­a­pist Ethna.

words pass be­tween us as she ad­min­is­ters an ex­cel­lent Swedish mas­sage which, con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, is not all karate chops and vig­or­ous pum­melling. In fact, it uses long, sweep­ing strokes that are in­cred­i­bly gen­tle and re­lax­ing.

There is pres­sure too, of course, all the bet­ter to tease out those rock-hard knots that have taken up per­ma­nent res­i­dence in the mod­ern hu­man shoul­der-blade.

I tell her she has a vo­ca­tion. She replies that she loves mas­sag­ing peo­ple and then pauses be­cause she’s aware that might odd to those who flinch at the thought of lay­ing them­selves bare (or bare-ish) to be han­dled by strangers.

We have for­got­ten the heal­ing power of touch, it seems — or, at the very least, un­der-rated it. It is more po­tent and more last­ing than I re­mem­bered. Some of the ben­e­fits of mas­sage in­clude im­proved blood cir­cu­la­tion, pain re­lief, and re­lax­ation but none of those things quite cap­ture the feel­ing of com­plete well­be­ing af­ter an hour-long mas­sage.

There is some­thing of the sea in the gen­tle mu­sic play­ing in the treat­ment room and that is en­hanced by the spa’s de­ci­sion to use Voya, the Irish range of or­ganic prod­ucts made from sea­weed hand-har­vested at Strand­hill, Co Sligo.

There is a dis­tinctly Irish cast to the decor too. Un­like other spas, which draw on Nordic or Far East­ern de­signs, Osprey Spa is in­Few her­ently Irish, says de­signer Katie Jakkulla. The colours are soft and nat­u­ral — greens, duck-egg blue, and sand — and the curved walls make use of sooth­ing nat­u­ral oak.

Post-treat­ment and feel­ing all floaty light, it’s a chal­sound lenge to find your way to all that is on offer over the spa’s three floors. Help is at hand, though, to take you to the two types of re­lax­ation room, the salt grotto and/or the heated mo­saic loungers.

There are seven treat­ment rooms. Mas­sages start at €50 and there are sev­eral good­value pack­ages.

There is also a dry floata­tion bed (€45 for 30 min­utes) and dou­ble and sin­gle sea­weed baths (€45 for a 30minute detox bath).

Sea­weed baths, says spa man­ager Blanaidh Bai­ley, were tra­di­tion­ally known as the ‘sailor’s cure’ and are one of Ire­land’s few na­tive ther­a­pies, dat­ing back 300 years.

“Sea­weed,” she ex­plains, “nat­u­rally ab­sorbs the nour­ish­ment from the sea and con­tains count­less min­er­als, vi­ta­mins and ben­e­fi­cial in­gre­di­ents in high con­cen­tra­tions.” To ab­sorb all of that good­ness, all you have to do is soak in it, pre­lim­i­nary stud­ies at UCD and the Irish Sea­weed Cen­tre have shown.

Hugh Wal­lace cer­tainly has the right idea, although, Ethna and the mas­sage ther­apy still gets my vote. Make up your own mind at os­

NA­TIVE THER­APY: Dat­ing back 300 years, a sea­weed bath was tra­di­tion­ally known as the ‘sailor’s cure’.

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