Five-star comfort at The Killarney Park Hotel
By Maria Moynihan
With an 18-month-old daughter/dictator who likes to stage an invasion of our bed most nights, I have spent the last few months in some uncomfortable contortion or other.
So when the opportunity arose to visit the five-star Killarney Park Hotel on a press trip, the prospect of a night’s undisturbed sleep was as alluring as the opportunity to try one of their new signature spa treatments and dine in the recently refurbished Peregrine restaurant, taking my sister for company.
Due to COVID-19, I have not been in a spa for almost three years and because we have a vulnerable family member, I wear a mask in many public settings.
However, the Comforting Ritual (€120 for 60mins or €165 90mins) allowed me to experience the bliss of this treatment without having to remove my mask, which helped me feel a lot more secure.
While there are three signature rituals, my therapist, Jib, chose “Comfort” for me as she had noticed on my screening form that I had suffered a recent miscarriage.
Described as a “skin softening and soothing body ritual which provides all the nurturing you need during times of transition”, warm calendula and jojoba oil was applied to my parched skin during a full body massage where Jib seemed to unpick the tight stitches of stress that have sewn themselves into my body, especially around my neck and shoulders.
What I really liked also about this massage was that I was able to lie on my side while Jib worked on my back, which I found a lot more comfortable than lying face down.
The ritual did live up to its name, in that I felt very much “held” and comforted after a challenging few weeks, physically and emotionally.
While the Killarney Park does not have an extensive thermal area like some other spas, after our treatment, my sister and I hopped into the outdoor hot tub in the hotel’s leisure centre, where there is also a lovely 20-metre pool, steam room and plunge pool.
That night we stayed in a signature twin room decorated in calming neutrals and heritage checks, with two queen beds, a sitting area, a bathroom stocked with Voya products and some lovely touches, like complimentary local chocolate, Keogh’s crisps and Apple Farm juice in the mini bar. The hotel itself has many cosy corners to relax with a book; light seekers might find it a bit dark, but it’s a cosy place to cocoon.
Dinner was served in the Peregrine Restaurant, which takes design inspiration from the Killarney National Park. Dishes were delicate and elegant; I had the hand-dived scallops with cauliflower confit and grapefruit citrus dressing (€22), perfectly cooked roast duck with plum, baby turnip, asparagus, almond and duck jus (€37) and for dessert, a decadent chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate egg with soft pear cream (€14), though the accompanying pear sorbet did not work for me.
While these prices are on the higher-end, the courses were interspersed with an amuse-bouche of pea velouté, a citrus granita and petit-fours, so it is more like a tasting-menu experience. More casual dining is available in the Garden Bar.
Breakfast is also served in The Peregrine, after which you are set up to explore all that Killarney has to offer, just steps away from the town centre.
That said, you might find it hard to leave. Killarney has no shortage of beautiful hotels, but The Killarney Park has a particular warmth that is like being enveloped in a hug. I’ll be back.
Current offers include The Peregrine Splendour Package, which includes a one-night stay in a classic king room, breakfast the following morning and dinner served in The Peregrine including a complimentary signature Peregrine cocktail on arrival. Promotional pricing available at present from €456 based on two people sharing subject to availability. T&Cs apply etc.
Glistening glamour at Powerscourt Hotel Resort and Spa
By Amii McKeever
A warm sun shone down on the Sugar Loaf as I lay back in the heat of the Powerscourt Hotel vitality pool.
The water lapped over the edge of the dark glistening tiles, the signature style of the spa. I closed my eyes and listened to the water bubbling around me, enveloped in tranquillity.
Just behind the pool is the glass-fronted sauna and from this vantage point – my personal favourite among all the spaces – I could still see the Sugar Loaf. But also, in the distance, a young couple playing giant chess in the manicured grounds.
The hotel is five-star and the spa is definitely at least one of those stars all on its own.
Within minutes of turning off the M50, the roads narrow and the countryside starts to green.
You pass the picturesque village of Enniskerry before entering the grounds of the Powerscourt Hotel.
Palatial in style, it sits fittingly into the backdrop of the Wicklow Mountains that dominate the views from almost every carefully designed space.
The ESPA spa area is over two floors. Checking in on the first level gives you access to the glass-fronted gym, the stunning dark atmospheric, crystal lit 20m swimming pool and the spa cafe.
A Hammam suite of thermal facilities offers a steam room, sauna, and, for the brave, a cold bucket shower.
If you opt for a treatment, you are brought up one floor to meet your therapist. There are 20 treatment rooms, the most spacious I have seen.
After your treatment, there is time to relax in the Serenity room silent space and the thermal suite.
Something I had not seen before, and it may appeal to some and not others, is that there are two thermal suites, male and female.
The facilities include the aforementioned sauna and vitality pool, heated loungers and a steam room.
The choice of treatments is extensive. Day spa packages, which include lunch in the spa café, are also available.
I opted for the hour-long “Inner Beauty” facial. This included a skin analysis with a skin vision lamp (combination if you must know, some damage and scarring but not too bad!) followed by my skin being triple-cleansed, exfoliated and massaged before being treated with a personalised mask (based on the aforementioned analysis).
While this worked its magic, my scalp was massaged. After, my skin felt quenched and clean insofar as I didn’t wear makeup to dinner. I felt good enough in my natural state.
I ate in the Sika restaurant. Tables are spaced generously, the food is divine and the service excellent.
A three-course meal was €75, which considering the quality, presentation and flavour, I felt was excellent value.
For starter, my fois gras was exceptional – buttery, rich and decadent – served with pineapple and gingerbread. Recommended by the Maître D, I chose the halibut and mussels with a side of fresh leaves for my main.
The fish was perfectly cooked with the lean, mild, sweet white flakes firm but tender in texture. The leaves were garnished lightly with radish and a balsamic apple cider dressing. A trio of Irish cheese and crackers completed a delectable dinner.
I slept soundly, waking early to use the pool once more before returning to eat breakfast on the balcony. Sipping strong coffee in my dressing gown, the gurgle of the fountain was only broken by the voices of ladies doing a morning yoga class just beneath. The sun was again shining on the Sugar Loaf and I didn’t want to leave.
All packages include access to the thermal facilities and relaxation area. Day spa experiences start from €155. Double room B&B from €350.
Gallop to the Galmont
By Amii McKeever
For me, Galway is an annual trip for a few days in late July.
The destination, however, is never a relaxing spa break, but Ballybrit! A hotel synonymous with race week in Galway is the “old Radisson”, now the Galmont Hotel and Spa.
Travelling to the city in 2022 with the races still weeks away, other activities, namely that relaxing spa, were high on my to-do list.
There is no real thinking required to understand why the Galmont is so popular on race week. Location wise, it’s walking distance to the bustling Galway nightlife.
But nestled underground, cocooned from the hectic world above, you will find serenity in Spirit One Spa.
The spa can be accessed, in your robe, from the bedrooms, but if you are day-spaying, changing areas are shared with the leisure centre.
I checked in and did exactly that, donned the robe and meandered down to the spa.
I was slightly early so took the opportunity to use the thermal area and as I sauntered about, I read about what each of the areas would deliver for me.
With a bad back, when I see ergonomic loungers, I can’t resist, so my first step inside the door had me relaxing on the heated – to a comfortable body temperature of 36°C – lounger.
A sabia bed was something I had not seen before and it was my next stop. The experience is akin to lying on a tropical beach all day with a meditative light cycle guiding you from morning to evening.
Light therapy is again used to best advantage in the Laconium, a dryer, more gentle heat than my personal favourite, the Rock sauna. With temperatures up to 90°C, this is for a rapid entry and exit but the detox is second to none.
There are a number of experience showers to cool you and if that is not a big enough shock, there is plenty of ice, with the advice to massage toward your heart. Not for the faint-hearted.
An hour-long treatment followed, a deep-muscle massage that promised to alleviate any stress or aching muscles.
My therapist discussed pressure in advance and demonstrated an expert rhythmic technique. From there I moved to the relaxation area to rehydrate before returning to my happy place in the thermal suite.
All Spirit One packages include access to the thermal suite and outdoor hot tub and start at €70. Double room B&B from €230 (just don’t try booking for races week).
Fantastic refurb at the Johnstown Estate
By Amii McKeever
On check-out from our early 2020 visit to the Johnstown Estate Hotel and Spa, we were cheerfully told to return soon as a large-scale spa renovation was starting.
Unfortunately, our return was delayed by COVID-19, but that major refurbishment went ahead unabated. And what a transformation it is.
The house itself, a Georgian manor, dates back to the 1750s, but there is nothing dated about this hotel, from fairy garden walks to the swimming pool and state-of-the-art fitness centre. And being situated just off the M4 motorway at Enfield, it is easily accessible.
There are a range of spa break options to choose from and each one is different. You choose your treatments, but before that there is time to enjoy the new rooftop experience and the expansive thermal suite. All packages include an overnight stay, a four course dinner and full breakfast.
The spa experience starts at the new upstairs reception and spa café. A wristband allows you access the various different areas.
I know it might seem a small thing, but in the Johnstown Estate, everything is so new, everything works as it should, there is no wear and tear like you might see with some older, more established spas, some of which have lost their feeling of opulence for lack of investment. This is modern, fresh and fabulous.
Guided to the spacious changing areas, we donned our robes before returning to the café for lunch.
Our group of three picked the lemon pepper roasted chicken caesar salad, the falafel served with pickled red cabbage and seasonal salads and the frittata, a Spanish potato omelette with vegetables, feta and baby spinach. Although billed a “light bite”, there was no lack of generosity in the portion sizes.
From here, we spent two glorious hours enjoying the outdoor jacuzzi and hydrotherapy pools and comfortable fire pit seated area.
Despite the sun shining, the new thermal suite still tempted us inside to the steam room, rainforest sensory showers and salt chamber. You can walk through the reflexology pathway or simply relax on curved heated loungers.
Once your thermal suite experience is complete, you enter the treatment area, which although separate, continues the aquatic theme.
My full body massage was elevated by what was a new experience for me, the Gharieni technologies wet table.
Yes, I was lying on water with light and sound treating all my senses as the ELEMIS skin formulations soothed my tired body.
A further quiet room relaxation area awaits after your treatment, where the loungers are double water beds, surrounded by delicate curtains. Pure bliss.
On our previous visit, our group of six (can sleep eight) shared the Mulberry, a unique suite with three interconnected bedrooms.
On our return, we were three and accommodated in a family room with a double bed and two singles.
The rooms are finished to a very high standard, are spacious with large bathrooms, walk-in showers and bathtubs.
Following a glass of bubbles in the atrium, we enjoyed our dinner in the Fire and Salt restaurant. I love the privacy of the half-moon tables and the ambiance here.
Again we all picked different items from the menu to sample as much of this fine-dining as possible. Starters were pork shoulder, salmon and crab and a goat’s cheese parfait. Fillets of beef and hake and confit duck were our mains.
There was no disappointment across any course and this followed through to breakfast the following morning. To be honest, there was simply no disappointment at all – the venue, the staff and service, the rooms, the spa, the walks on the grounds. Don’t think about it, just book it.
Current offer: Rooftop and thermal experience, two-course lunch and a cocktail €99 for two Monday to Thursday. Double room B&B from €219
A Monday to Remember at Farnham Estate
By Ciara Leahy
Looking out at the rolling hills of Cavan, I exhaled, relaxed my shoulders and closed my eyes, allowing the water to gently lap around me.
I had been looking forward to this moment, envisaging myself in this exact spot of the outdoor pool at Farnham Estate in Cavan. Even the weather was co-operating, with the June sun warming my shoulders.
You see this wasn’t my first trip to the spa at Farnham and sometimes when you’re returning to a place, it adds to the excitement knowing the treat you’re in for. Their outdoor infinity and hydrotherapy pool is in my opinion one of the best in Ireland, which complements the whole experience.
And the whole spa area is adult only, which really adds to the tranquillity of the visit.
Personally, when I visit a spa, the treatment is only half the experience. To really get my money’s worth, I want to sweat it out in an aroma steam bath, clear my head in a salt room, soak my feet in a reflexology foot basin and challenge myself to hot and cold therapies, which help ease aches and pains.
The spa at Farnham offers all this and you can spend hours chilling out. I also love that if you are peckish, there is a restaurant in the spa area that offers lunch so you can dine in your gown and really make the most of the experience.
But of course, the treatment itself is what it is all about. The treatment area is bright and spacious with a forest, outdoor theme that makes you feel at one with the elements.
Originally, I was booked in for the “Lullaby Treatment”, but when I noted on my form that I was pregnant, the masseuse adapted the whole experience to suit my needs. Lying on my side, in order to avoid putting pressure on my bump, the ESPA maternity massage was just the escape I needed.
I have suffered with a lot of back pain since the start of the pregnancy and first, I was treated to a gentle back exfoliation to relieve stress. The masseuse was also aware that while I needed the massage to ease the tension in my back, I wanted a relaxing experience that wasn’t too intense.
Sometimes I find it hard for a back massage to strike that delicate balance, but on this occasion, it was just the right amount of pressure.
This was a massage which benefited me long after I left the massage table as my back pain eased for nearly a week afterwards.
To top things off, I also indulged in a mini-facial using the Yonka range of products using botanical extracts that re-energised my skin.
To really complete the stay, I relaxed in the Farnham suite, which embraces the old-world experience of the house. On past visits, I have stayed in their modern bedrooms, which are very nice, but the suite was something special.
Overlooking the beautiful countryside, it has a Downton Abbey feel, with all the modern luxuries. In fact, I didn’t want to leave and was so determined to embrace the suite life that I ordered room service from Maxwell’s Grill Room.
Sitting in my robe, enjoying the peace and quiet while savouring their tiger prawn linguine; well it really was a Monday night to beat.
Two nights’ bed and breakfast with dinner on one evening in Maxwell’s Grill Room and a 60-minute spa treatment from €338 per person including access to indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool and gym, and 11km of walking trails through ancient woodlands. See www.farnhamestate.ie/