Gifts From The Sea – The Perfect Midweek Escape to The Wild Atlantic Way

Never underestimate the power of seaweed…these were the thoughts that flitted through my mind as I experienced a nourishing and calming seaweed bath in Strandhill, Co. Sligo.

Here I was in the final hour of my indulgent midweek break on the Wild Atlantic Way and I didn’t want it to end.

My journey began early the previous morning when my group met seaweed harvesters in Easkey, Co Sligo. When we arrived, the harvesters had been gathering the precious seaweed used in VOYA skincare products and their famed seaweed baths.

I hadn’t been sure what to expect when I arrived at the beach, but was amazed at the sheer ocean of seaweed on view.

Paul Scanlon, head seaweed harvester for VOYA skincare, was on hand to explain the process. The seaweed in Sligo is hand harvested quickly and efficiently from the Atlantic seabed.

A time sensitive process, the workers cut the seaweed but leave an inch or so untouched to ensure the seaweed grows back again the following year.

It’s an organic, natural process and the seaweed harvesters work with the tide, careful not to over farm the area and they only return to particular spots once a year.

From the shore to the massage room, we ventured to The Ice House Hotel in Ballina, Co. Mayo, for a warming lunch before our spa treatments.

Wanting to start my meal with a health boost, I chose the Super Food Salad (€8.50), which was packed with delicious goodness, including roast sweet potato, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, organic beetroot, toasted pin kernels, macadamia nuts and a splash of avocado oil. With vibrant bursts of flavour, the generous portion quickly disappeared with a flick of my fork.

Looking to add a bit of spice to my day, I opted for the Moroccan Style Chicken Tagine (€14.50), which was served with mixed vegetables, cumin pilau rice, flaked almonds, apricot and raisins. A dish with a kick, the succulent chicken was just what I needed.

Never one to refuse a sweet treat, the ice-cream proved too tempting to resist, especially after my warming main course. The selection of raspberry, vanilla and mini meringues satisfied my pleading sweet tooth.

After eating it was time to visit the Ice House Hotel’s spa facilities. Walking through the door of the Chill Spa, the perfumed scents were instantly calming and I found myself eager to begin my treatment.

While waiting for my allocated time slot, I slipped into the thermal area, enjoying the steam room and sauna before my eyes drifted towards the outdoor jacuzzi.

Overlooking the river, the heated jacuzzi was just heavenly. There’s definitely a certain thrill that comes with being in an outdoor pool in Ireland. I feel like even if it had lashed raining, I would have been perfectly content sitting outside admiring the view.

My treatment was a 55-minute-long Hot Oil Back, Neck & Shoulder Massage with a VOYA Taster Facial. My masseuse gently massaged a specially designed oil candle into my back, neck and shoulders, removing stubborn knots and creating a tranquil atmosphere aided by the accompanying music. Following my massage, she used tailored VOYA skincare products to give my skin a deep cleanse and moisturise.

Feeling thoroughly relaxed and content, I was taken to a relaxation area where I enjoyed skewers of fresh fruit and VOYA’s special fennel infusion tea, the perfect way to end an indulgent afternoon.

Hopping back into our coach, we travelled down the road to Strandhill, Co. Sligo where we checked into the Strandhill Lodge and Suites.

My double deluxe room in this 4-star boutique hotel was spacious and also had a balcony boasting impressive views of Strandhill bay.

That evening, a short walk from the hotel brought us to Trá Bán, a lovely steak and seafood restaurant right on the shorefront of Strandhill.

Utilising locally sourced artisan produce; the restaurant is located above the Strand Pub and its menu caters to all food preferences.

While perusing the menu, we met proprietor Anthony Gray, who spoke so passionately about the food and his local suppliers that I couldn’t wait to sample the produce.

I began my meal with the warm Goat Cheese Salad (€7.95), a colourful plate of Fivemiletown goat cheese fritters on a bed of dressed baby leaf salad with sweetened beatroot and pan-fried chorizo.

As I was devouring my dish, I noticed one of our group enjoying a beautifully presented Black Pudding Lasagne (€8.95), which I then immediately had to sample.

Between courses, we had a lovely taste of the locality with a Mussel on a Strandhill rock, accompanied by edible Dillisk, a cream lemon foam and a subtle hint of creamy shallot sauce.

My main course was the shining star of the meal. A delicious piece of John Flynn’s Fresh Herb Crusted Hake (€22.95) with a creamy Lime & Mango sauce, accompanied by a julienne of Stir Fried Vegetables.

Feeling so full and satisfied, I was about to call it a night when the dessert menu arrived. Remembering that dessert resides in a separate stomach, I couldn’t resist ordering the indulgent Belgian Chocolate Fondue, with accompanying marshmallows, blueberries and strawberries for dipping.

The next morning after a restful night’s sleep at the Strandhill Lodge & Suites, it was time for my trip to the renowned Voya Seaweed Baths.

As soon as you enter this haven of relaxation, you are met with the most beautiful of scents. Being led to my private bathing room, I had a healthy amount of curiosity building up inside me as I had never experienced a seaweed bath before.

I began my treatment with a steam to open my pores and then carefully hopped into the bath. The seaweed is quite slippery and it’s advised you use the handrail getting in, especially if you’re in any way clumsy like myself.

From the moment you enter a seaweed bath, the oils instantly smooth and soften the skin and I found myself wanting to get the detoxifying oils everywhere, especially my face and hair.

While in the bath, you end up drinking nearly 2 litres of water to prevent dehydration and honestly, I’ve never been so thirsty in my life. With a soothing candle flickering to my right in the dimly lit room, relaxation was inevitable.

The time flew by and before I knew it, my time at Voya seaweed baths was over. You can either shower after your treatment or leave the oils soak in and work their magic…I chose the latter.

With only a short time left in Sligo, I popped next door to Shells Café for a bit of late breakfast. I decided on the Totally Smashing dish (€8.90), which consisted of Smashed Avocado on Toast with toasted seeds, poached eggs and green tahini dressing.

The dish was just what the doctor ordered, with the freshest avocado, nice crispy toast and eggs cooked to my liking, I happily munched away while chatting to the others in my group.

As you may have realised by now, I’m not one to turn down a sweet treat, so I had a Latte and a muffin. We also grabbed some fabulous banana bread for the road back to Dublin.

Two nights that were truly a gift from the sea, I can’t wait to continue using the Voya skincare range, now available on Emirates flights for both first and business class passengers, so you can take some quality Irish products with you when you fly.

As for me, you’ll find me hanging out where the seaweed lives!

FEATURE BY SARAH GLASCOTT

Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.

Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.

Sarah Glascott Sarah Glascott

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