Satisfying a self-confessed spa junkie is no mean feat, but Ashford Castle hits all the right notes, says ROSALEEN McMEEL.
Feel free to hate me for the following sentence: I have visited countless spas, both at home and abroad. Yes, I know, living the dream. But the truth is I’ve become quite fatigued, and not in the sat-in-the- tranquility-room-too-long kind of way. In my overly-pampered defence, most of said visits were during the course of my work as a beauty editor for several national magazine titles, and while I understand it’s a complaint most people would relish, after a while they all start to look and feel the same. No, really. The thrill of being somewhere luxurious with the sole purpose of being pampered starts to seem, dare I say it… boring. There seems to be a spa template that salons and hotels of all grades have simply followed. While pleasant for the occasional spa dweller, the more seasoned among us start to see it as something less than special and more often than not, ridiculously overpriced. The exact opposite of what these pampering palaces are hoping to achieve.
While I’m aware that my levels of spa fatigue make me a therapist’s worst nightmare, it also means that when
I do experience something special, it is really special. Cue the spa at Ashford Castle. Delicately scented and decorated in muted greys, earthy greens and purifying creams, it boasts an invigorating hammam, a tranquil relaxation suite and an outdoor terrace with views over Lough Corrib. A central design feature is the beautiful Tree of Life mural by celebrated South African ceramic mosaic artist Jane du Rand, which stretches across an entire wall of the pool area. Drawing inspiration from Irish folklore, the mural centres around an oak tree, which the Celts believed was a cosmic storehouse of wisdom. The woodland creatures in the tree’s branches and roots are also found in Celtic mythology, although I suspect the turtles were artistic licence.
While I greatly value a stylish aesthetic, when it comes to a punchy price list, I need it to be backed up by some serious substance. Thankfully, Ashford delivers on all fronts. A warm welcome from the spa manager goes a long way in terms of making (and leaving) an impression. Her passion and attention to detail is obvious from the onset and has been clearly distilled down to each member of the team I meet during my visit. Guests can choose from several product ranges: organic Irish spa brand Voya, hailing from nearby Co Sligo; internationally renowned Elemis; and Red Carnation Hotels’ very own B|Africa product range.
I opted for the Natura Bisse? Diamond Life Infusion Ritual, €250, which is unique to Ashford in Ireland and therefore a very rare treat. Plus, they had me at “diamond”. This treatment is capable of regulating four key skin age biomarkers, dramatically preventing premature ageing while providing maximum firmness and elasticity. The highlight of this sophisticated ritual is the diamond dust as well as the gold and natural pearl nanoparticles incorporated into this treatment.
The treatment begins with the pomegranate-extract ritual to cleanse and brighten. This multi-sensory experience with a delicious lavender fragrance leads to a relaxing massage, inspired by Ayurvedic techniques, followed by a deep exfoliation with their unique Carboxytherapy technique. It’s then time for the “youth elixir”, the Diamond Experience Biomarker Nectar, which is applied after an exclusive massage performed using magnet therapy. While this part is less relaxing, the massage stimulates micro-circulation and helps erase stress and fatigue, both of which I’ve supplied in abundance. The lifting and smoothing effect of this ritual is boosted by a myofascial massage performed on the face, neck and de?collete?. A lovely rejuvenating cream with diamond dust is applied to skin in a soft, velvety veil. ThThe treatment ends with a luxurious mask. ThThanks to the gold and natural pearl particles, the mask infuses your skin with maximum luminosity and firmness. It leaves the skin feeling renewed, luminous and spectacularly rejuvenated.
Just what the pampered princess ordered.
This article originally appeared in the September issue of IMAGE Magazine, on shelves nationwide now.