Ireland’s Enticing Spas

Clients will know the luck of the Irish at these resorts

By: Irene Middleman Thomas

Strolling down a country lane in rural Connemara, I hear a splash, and then several more. Foot-long salmon are leaping from the lake at my side. They seem to be enjoying the warmth of the coral-orange sunset dappling the lake’s surface and tipping the summits of the Twelve Bens, the majestic mountains of this legendary coastal region in northwest Ireland. Filigreed deep-green ferns and pumpkin-hued tiny funguses dot the ground, while lush rhododendrons and enormous wild fuchsia bushes surround me. Fluffy black-faced Scottish sheep and sleek cows fill the fields and rocky slope sides all around. My day has been deliciously full of the outdoors, as well as of nurturing spa treatments and sumptuous cuisine. I feel renewed and ready to venture back out, thanks to my stay at the Delphi Mountain Resort and Spa.

Traveling overseas is great for the heart and soul, but not so nice for the shoulders and neck. For the over 6 million people who visit Ireland every year, however, recent developments are making travel much more comfortable. Luxurious spas in the North American and European tradition have sprouted up throughout the country.

Plenty of Choices

One of the newest spas is the glorious Shandon Hotel Spa and Wellness in the Republic of Ireland, about three hours northwest of Galway and two hours from Belfast. With a spectacular rural location overlooking Sheephaven Bay, most of the rooms at Shandon have views of the Atlantic. The spa, just opened this year, sports such unusual features as a salt grotto and foot therapy. The countryside nearby is gorgeous and untouched, just waiting to be explored.

The Delphi Mountain Resort and Spa in Leenane, County Galway, is a 300-acre forested oasis set in the remote, craggy beauty of Connemara. Delphi is luxurious. It offers a full fitness and mind/body program, with over 30 activities including Tai Chi, Yoga and Tae-Bo, as well as a host of wilderness and adventure activities.

Delphi’s philosophy is one of serenity, natural awareness and rejuvenation. Take a discovery boat ride into nearby crystal-clear Killary Harbor, the only fjord in Ireland, lined by steep mountainsides and filled with seals, leaping dolphins, mussel and lobster traps and inhabited islands. Other guests might choose to cycle, hike or go on a nature walk.

Galway City is a lively university town known for its many festivals, saucy nightlife and abundant shopping. After a day of tramping about Galway, a visit to the Spirit One Spa at the Radisson SAS Hotel Galway is just what the doctor ordered. Oh-so-posh and indulging, the spa is also playful, encouraging adults to have their fun and feel it too. Spirit One’s treatments and services include mud wraps, a wide variety of massages, facials and other treatments, but the real treat here is the Thermal Suite, featuring such delightfully distinctive services as a Turkish hamam, rainforest and cool mist showers, heated lounge chairs and more. I moved from room to room in a dreamy daze, eager to find the most indulgent of all.

Another of the newest additions to Ireland’s spa scene is SAMAS, at the tony Park Hotel Kenmare in southwestern Ireland’s County Kerry. The $6 million SAMAS, which means “indulgence of the senses” in Gaelic, is 10,000 square feet of pure pampering and luxury. SAMAS is nestled in a lush wooded area full of rhododendrons, ferns, moss-covered trees and wild fuchsias, overlooking pristine seal- and otter-filled Kenmare Bay. The adjacent Park Hotel Kenmare, considered one of Ireland’s finest properties, has been open since 1897. The hotel features unsurpassed service and the finest accommodations, cuisine and amenities. While the hotel and spa are certainly a destination in themselves, the 17th-century town of Kenmare, located just a few moments from the spectacular sights of the Ring of Kerry, is enchanting in its own right. A delightful little Irish village, Kenmare has only 1,200 residents, but it also has 44 restaurants many of top quality fine craft shops (featuring the legendary Kenmare lace), as well as one of Ireland’s famed prehistoric Druid stone circles.

SAMAS features separate male and female spas; couples’ day suites with a private garden and an infinity outdoor pool with various built-in massage and vitality seats; Tai Chi pavilion; and the Lost Garden of SAMAS for reading and Tai Chi. The spa offers three experiences: heat, holistic and pure relaxation. Each treatment room is built to recording-studio-silencing standards (so quiet each room has to have its own fire alarm) and features fiber-optic lighting and indoor shower gardens. The spa has a traditional Irish thatched roof and stone walls.

Other Irish spas in just about every corner of the country beckon tourists to slow down, relax and take a break from their sightseeing. While spa treatments feel good just about anywhere, Ireland’s famous warm, welcoming spirit makes them even better.

THE DETAILS

The following three properties pay 10 percent commission:

Hotel Park Kenmare
www.parkkenmare.com

SAS Radisson Galway
www.radissonhotelgalway.com

Shandon Hotel Spa and Wellness
www.shandonhotel.com/spa

Delphi Mountain Lodge
www.delphiescape.com
(pays 12 percent on groups of six or more)
(Note: Delphi’s spa is closed until winter 2007 due to expansion and remodeling. Check Web site for details.) v

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