Originally posted March 2009, updated March 2023
With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, it seems only appropriate to blog about a green, holistic resort and spa on the Emerald Isle: Delphi Resort. (And by “green,” I’m thinking of the eco-friendly, sustainable type, although in Ireland, the term certainly applies to the vivid foliage too.) The unique location of Delphi Resort enables visitors to escape from everyday life to an environment where the sea and the land meet to form the most spectacular coastline in Ireland, along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Ireland is infused with myth and magic—from its misty mountains to its sea-swept cliffs. When I visited in 2004, I couldn’t help but envision legendary Irish heroes at Delphi, a contemporary timber-and-stone lodge that’s hidden in Connemara’s remote fjords a little more than an hour’s drive from the city of Galway.
The ancient Celtic stories are, in fact, part of the area’s colorful lore. On a hike through the mountainous terrain, our guide regaled us with the romantic tale of Diarmuid and Grainne, passionate lovers who escaped the wrath of Grainne’s husband-to-be (legendary chieftain Fionn MacCool) by fleeing to various hiding places throughout Ireland. Diarmuid, a fabled warrior, is said to be buried on Mweelrea, the mountain that towers above Delphi Resort. The guide mentioned that Diarmuid is supposedly buried in the area.
This nature-oriented resort’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. Delphi also offers water sports such as kayaking and canoeing on the lake, as well as surfing and sea kayaking at the nearby Atlantic coast. Land adventures include zip-lining, archery, bushcraft, climbing, orienteering, and, mountain biking.
A Magical Spa
The resort’s spa area, which has fabulous mountain vistas, is the ideal resting place for modern-day heroes and athletes just returned from kayaking, hiking, rock climbing or surfing. It welcomes them into a sanctuary built of local materials.
Pampering body and beauty treatments are done in candlelit treatment rooms designed to resemble the early-Christian “beehive” cells that Irish monks built and lived in during medieval times. The present-day massage therapists use certified-organic and herbal products, including Irish seaweed hand-harvested from Ireland’s west coast nearby.
Relaxing yoga, tai chi, and meditation completed my spa experience, which was nearly as epic and wonderful as the tale of Diarmuid and Grainne themselves. One quiet morning, I gazed out through the spa windows onto the green hills covered in yellow flowers and iconic mountains. There was a light morning drizzle, and I watched fog shift over the landscape. I slipped out of the 21st century and into ancient times—though I appreciated all the contemporary comforts: my cushioned recliner, the warm thermal pool, the foot baths, the relaxing music playing, the lemon water I sipped on.
Delphi’s health-minded gourmet cuisine—much of it local and organic—is divine. I happened to visit on my birthday, and I dined on an exquisite lamb dinner with chocolate gateau for dessert—an unforgettable meal in the lovely restaurant, which managed to be both rustic and elegant all at the same time. At another meal, I ordered the fresh-caught salmon and began musing about the ancient legend of how a boy, Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool), accidentally tasted the Salmon of Knowledge, which he was cooking for an aged poet who caught it. Some dripping oil burned burned Fionn’s finger, and without thinking, he popped his finger in his mouth. This destined him to become one of Ireland’s most mythic heroes.
Legendary Environmental Policies at Delphi Resort
Delphi Resort was built and is maintained in a way that is supportive of the natural environment. These include:
- 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 a wind-farm operation in the U.K. and Ireland.
- An 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.
- Rooms are fitted with energy-saving cards that ensure that there’s no energy wasted when units are occupied.
- Outdoor activities are designed to minimize impact on the environment.
If you’re watching your budget, The Wild Atlantic Hostel, set on the grounds of Delphi Resort, is the perfect low-cost accommodation. It’s ideal for families, outdoor enthusiasts, hill walkers, and backpackers. Hostel guests have access to the resort’s spa, adventure, dining, and business facilities. The hostel consists of dorm-style ensuite rooms and is located onsite at the resort.
—Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor
Read more about my travels in Ireland:
- An Irish Dolmen and a Magical Dog
- Full Circle: Standing Stones & Driving in Ireland
- Time Traveling to Ireland’s Temple House
- Take a Celtic Seaweed Bath
- On Downings Beach
- Jedi Knights Arrive in Ireland
- A Visit to Mythic Ireland
- My Hunt for Irish Sheela-Na-Gigs
- Archways into the Irish Past (about sheela-na-gigs)
P.S. For more tips on places to visit in Ireland, visit Discover Ireland.