Take a Celtic Seaweed Bath

I had a wonderful—and surprising—spa treat on a cold, rainy day near Sligo, Ireland: a hot Celtic seaweed bath. I’ve had what Americans call kelp baths before, and they usually consist of a tub filled with water turned greenish from powdered dried kelp.

However, a seaweed bath in Ireland is the real McCoy—complete with three- to four-foot strands of fresh-harvested kelp right off the Atlantic coast. Bathing with olive-brown chunks of underwater plants is a cross between a mermaid experience and “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Either way you consider it, your skin and hair feel silky afterwards.

Whole strands of fresh-harvested seaweed from the Irish sea turns bath water a rusty color, but the effects are great for the skin.

Strands of fresh seaweed from the Atlantic turn bath water a rusty color, but the effects are great for the skin.

My 50-minute treatment started with a 10-minute steam treatment to open my pores. Then I (gingerly) climbed into the tub where the seaweed (Fucus serratus) was floating. The water and tub are extremely slippery from the seaweed, so I clung to the grip rails around the tub. Thankfully, there’s a rubber “no-skid” mat on the bottom of the tub.

But ah, steeping in the rusty, tea-colored water and bobbing about with my seaweed felt divine. I massaged my tired traveler’s feet, did a few stretches, and submerged my head a few times so that my hair benefited from the treatment.

After about 20 minutes in the bath, I hoisted myself out (remember: slippery!), showered, and dried off—feeling as limp and drifty as, well, seaweed!

You can find Ireland’s only indigenous spa therapy at Voya Spa (formerly Celtic Seaweed Baths) in Strandhill, Co. Sligo. A single 50-minute bath costs  25.

Health Benefits of Seaweed Baths:

  • Relaxes the muscles
  • Infuses the skin with vital minerals (especially iodine) and antioxidants
  • Acts as a moisturizer by forming a protective gel-like layer on the skin
  • Supports skin regeneration with some anti-aging properties
  • Detoxifies the body
  • Moisturizes hair and decreases static charge

Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor

For information on visiting Ireland, check Discover Ireland.

On Downings Beach, Ireland

There’s a working-class beach town called Downings in northern County Donegal, Ireland. Located right on the Atlantic, the views are lovely, and Sheephaven Bay shelters this surprisingly long, sandy beach.

Oceanside Car Park

The Irish treat Downings’ Beach a lot like a local park. And here’s the funny part: They drive their cars right onto the beach and park them surprisingly close to the water. (I suppose it’s because that’s where the sand is hard-packed after the receding tide.) Still, it’s astonishing to see people use the sand as a “car park,” as they call it here. Many families set up beach chairs and picnic right beside their car!

©Laurel Kallenbach

Sunday on the Beach

I took this photo late on a Sunday afternoon in August, after most of the action died down for the day. (That’s why there are only a few parked autos—earlier at least 50 of them were lined in neat rows.)

The horse wagon is for the wee kiddies to ride, whereas the boys in the foreground were more interesting in net fishing. Or were they butterfly hunting?

Downings has a several hotels and pubs (which favor country-western music over fiddles and Irish tin whistles most nights of the week.) The tiny town was once a getaway for folks from nearby Northern Ireland fleeing “The Troubles.” There’s still a large caravan (trailer) park in Downings.

Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor

Read more about my travels in Ireland:

P.S. For more tips on places to visit in Ireland, visit Discover Ireland.

Legendary Green Spa in Ireland

With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, it seems only appropriate to mention a green, holistic resort and spa on the Emerald Isle: Delphi Mountain Resort & Spa. (And by “green,” I’m thinking of the eco-friendly type, although in Ireland, the term certainly applies to the foliage too.)

The Delphi Mountain Resort and Spa ©Laurel Kallenbach

The Delphi Mountain Resort and Spa   ©Laurel Kallenbach

I couldn’t help but envision legendary Irish heroes at Delphi Mountain Resort & Spa, a contemporary timber-and-stone lodge hidden in Connemara’s remote fjords a little more than an hour’s drive from Galway.

In fact, on a hike through the mountain terrain, our guide regaled us with the romantic tale of Diarmuid and Grainne, lovers who escaped the wrath of Grainne’s husband-to-be (legendary chieftain Fionn MacCool) by fleeing to hiding places throughout Ireland. Diarmuid, a fabled warrior, is said to be buried on Mweelrea, the mountain that towers above the resort.

Delphi’s architectural style draws from Ireland’s ancient standing stones and Celtic tree lore—reflected in its use of storm-felled oak, ash, beech and elm and (what else?) local stone.

The spa's relaxing area offers views of the Connemara foothills. ©Laurel Kallenbach

The spa’s relaxing area offers views of the Connemara foothills. ©Laurel Kallenbach

The spa, which offers fabulous mountain vistas, is the ideal resting place for modern-day athletes just returned from kayaking, hiking, rock climbing or surfing.

Pampering body and beauty treatments are done in candlelit treatment rooms designed like early-Christian monks’ “beehive” cells. The therapists use certified-organic and herbal products, including Irish seaweed hand-harvested from Ireland’s west coast.

The health-minded gourmet cuisine—much of it local and organic—is fantastic. I happened to visit on my birthday, and I dined on an exquisite lamb dinner with chocolate gateau for dessert.

Relaxing yoga, tai chi and meditation complete this spa experience, which is nearly as epic as the tale of Diarmuid and Grainne themselves.

Legendary Environmental Policies at Delphi

  • Waste reduction and recycling programs
  • A mechanical water-treatment plant that ensures that the water leaving the resort is as clean as the water coming in.
  • Solar panels (for preheating water) and wood chip boilers that use wood from the resort’s sustainably managed forest. Electricity comes from Air-Tricity, a wind-farm operation in the U.K. and Ireland.
  • A recent addition was constructed with recycled-copper roofs, recycled-newspaper insulation in the attics, and wood came from certified managed sustainable forests.
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs to save energy.
  • New rooms are fitted with energy-saving cards that ensure that there’s no energy wasted when units are occupied.
  • Outdoor activities designed to minimize impact on the environment.

Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor

Read more about my travels in Ireland:

P.S. For more tips on places to visit in Ireland, visit Discover Ireland.