Restored by the healing power of touch
Clodagh Finn feels the full benefits of Hugh Wallace’s new spa at the Osprey Hotel
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 ospreyspa.ie
NATIVE THERAPY: Dating back 300 years, a seaweed bath was traditionally known as the ‘sailor’s cure’.