– Amii McKeever
When he passed away in 2020, former racehorse trainer and tillage farmer Willie Fennin left behind a thriving business in the Athy, Co Kildare – the Clanard Court Hotel and Spa.
I have been going to the Galway Races for as long as I can remember. However, when Athy Spirit won the amateur handicap/Galway Hurdle double in 1990, I was not there, a totally age-related issue.
As I sipped a glass of champagne in the outdoor hot tub in the spa at the Clanard Court, I thought of that horse, knowing that the gallops on which he was trained were just beyond the fence separating me from the Fennin farm.
For my big birthday last year, a few friends and I sought out a conveniently located and reasonably priced spa break.
A spa, for me, is not a spa without water so we were also on the lookout for a hot tub or thermal area. Last on the wishlist was a suite-style room where we could relax without sitting on someone’s bed. All of these criteria were met by the Clanard Court.
With COVID-19 we unfortunately did not make it to Athy for my big birthday – or Christmas – or another two attempts – but each time, Mary Fennin and her staff patiently rebooked us to new dates. And finally we made it to that hot tub the week of the Galway Races in 2021. Our accommodation, the Retreat Suite and Garden Suite, are fabulous rooms. The Retreat Suite has a comfortable sitting room and private balcony while the Garden Suite is spacious with a free-standing bath and a large terrace off it. Both have views over the farm and mini bars, which can be stocked in advance by the hotel on request.
The Revive Spa itself has recently been renovated and we had exclusivity of the spa and thermal area for a few hours which was a real treat. I opted for the anti-aging restorative facial – suitable for all skin types, but as the name suggests, particularly for those in search of anti-aging results. This facial uses VOYA ingredients and anti-oxidant algae and aromatherapy oils known for their restorative properties, it promises stimulation of collagen production and the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles. Not sure I was 10 years younger instantaneously but it was one of the better facials I have had.
The hotel also organises other activities such as a boat trip on the barrow, bikes can be delivered to the hotel even electric ones if anyone is feeling a little less energetic. The hotel is also very close to Kildare Village and Mary might have some discount passes going if shopping was on your agenda.
There are a range of packages available with the “An Hour’s Bliss” offer great value at €85 for two treatments and access to the spa.
– Ciara Leahy
Earlier this year, I did something that I have never done before. I took 24 hours to myself and went off to a hotel on my own.
After months of lockdown, a busy work schedule and parenting in a pandemic, I needed some me time. And the K Club was the perfect escape.
In what could only be described as one of the most relaxing of days, I had a leisurely lunch in the Henry Lounge followed by an afternoon snooze under the duck down duvets in the plush bedrooms.
My book proved to be excellent company in the Palmer Restaurant as I sipped a glass of Chablis ahead of a sumptuous lemon sole meunière glazed with brown butter with pops of lemon zing.
However, it was the K Spa that made a good stay a great stay. I was offered one of the Ground Wellness treatments which I was excited by. Ground Wellness was set up by Cork woman Peigín Crowley during the pandemic and having tested some of her products at home, I was eager to see how they translate to the spa experience. I opted for the Grounding Ritual (€145, 60 minutes) and the treatment started with three different aromas presented to me. I was asked to pick the one I was drawn to most, which turned out to be Coladh – yes, that’s Irish for sleep... and I was exhausted.
The whole treatment focused on the back of my body and usually when it comes to massages, I don’t like them too intense, I prefer them to be relaxing. For this one though, I let the therapist gauge my tension and she read me like a book, focusing on the areas where I hold all my tension, in my upper back and shoulders. Afterwards, I felt like a big whoosh of tension had exited from my body and I was exhausted.
Which brings me onto the next part of the experience. I really feel the treatment is just one element of the spa and my rating is massively based on all the little extras.
Specifically, the relaxation area after. When you are in that blissful state after a treatment, the relaxation area needs to be warm and peaceful to ease you back into reality. And the Ash Suite in the K Spa is utter bliss. The dimly lit room is an oasis of calm where I was wrapped up in blankets on the day bed with fruit and herbal tea to awaken the senses. And then, the best part, when you are back in the land of the living, you can bathe in the extra large Jacuzzi which on that particular day, I happened to have to myself. With the gentle lapping of the water serving as the soundtrack, the Ash Suite brought the experience to another level.
One point of note about the spa however, is that it is a long walk from the bedrooms. You have to pass reception, navigate down small corridors and venture out into a courtyard, not ideal on a rainy day and definitely not a leisurely stroll that you would embark on in your hotel robe.
But that is my only complaint about the 24 hours of bliss (and uninterrupted sleep) in Kildare. Ladies, I know it’s hard to get away to take some time out of our busy lives but I can honestly say those 24 hours away on my own revived me for weeks. And then I couldn’t wait to get home to my little one.
– Ciara Leahy
If my treatment in the K Club was all about some “me time”, my trip to Fota Resort was a real family experience and lots of fun. Fota Resort is one of the most family-friendly hotels that I have stayed in.
The staff are exceptional and welcomed my toddler like she was a guest of honour, and this experience continued right throughout our two-day visit, from the staff at reception to the waiters serving us dinner and the host at breakfast the following morning.
But the pièce de résistance was the kids-sized dressing gown and slippers waiting for my little girl when we arrived into our room. We were straight into our matching gowns and down to the pool. We had a time slot booked which meant there was only a limited number in the pool which felt very safe. We all relaxed floating around the pool, a little leisure treat for the smallest member of the family.
But the following day, it was all about Mummy’s treat. Given the success of my treatment in the K Club, I opted for another Ground Wellbeing treatment, this time the Restorative Face, Neck, & Scalp Ritual (€115, 50 minutes).
This was perfect for me as I had a lot going on in my life at the time. It’s all about soothing the mind and giving you a bit of head space, reconnecting the mind and the body, helping to put it back in harmony.
This is a lovely slow massage focusing on different areas of the upper body. But it was the scalp massage which was just pure bliss and I also felt the focus on my forehead and around my eyes really helped relax the mind. This would be very helpful if you suffer from headaches or migraines or even sinus pain. But it’s great for anyone – just to help ease the stresses of life. It was extremely soothing and relaxing and afterwards, instead of feeling tired, I felt quite invigorated and rejuvenated, ready to take on my busy life again.
While Fota is a great family break away, it is also a good one for a girls’ day out. That’s because their spa facilities are excellent, specifically their hydrotherapy suite. It’s an adults-only heated pool with a “walking river” of water currents and reflexology. The water back massage is a personal favourite, feeling the weight of the world melt away as the water cascades onto your shoulders.
Afterwards I chilled out in the steam room and rested on their heated mosaic loungers. Then I put on my robe and was straight into the lift and back in my room within minutes for a cheeky snooze.
– Janine Kennedy
Do you know the feeling when you’ve been so stressed for so long you don’t even realise how stressed you really are? This realisation hit home after what was hands down the best spa visit I’ve had in years.
Cows completely dried off for the first time in a long time; my husband suddenly found himself available for a weekend away. The invite from Muckross Park Hotel & Spa arrived at just the right time. It was destiny.
We spent two nights in the cosy, luxurious hotel which is located just across from one of my favourite places – Killarney National Park – and indulged in an extra-long treatment each at The Spa at Muckross.
Before our treatments, I was able to sample some of their featured products which come from The Organic Pharmacy. The Purifying Seaweed Clay Mask (€49.95), Antioxidant Face Serum (€109.95) and Carrot Butter Cleanser (€49.95) were gentle on my skin, but didn’t leave any oily residue (which is a bug bear of mine when it comes to skincare products).
I was treated to their 90-minute Rose Crystal Lymphatic Facial (€140). Normally, if treating myself to a spa day, I would opt for a massage. This is because of my extremely sensitive skin – I just never know how I will react to a new product. In this case, I felt confident having already tested their product line. The facial also includes a foot, arm and head massage, so you end up getting a bit of everything.
I can hear you asking – what exactly is a “lymphatic” facial? Basically, acupressure and suction is used to decompress the skin on your face and neck. The suction bit feels kind of funny, though not in a bad way. Afterwards I felt drained and exhausted – like it purged the stress straight out of my body.
I am a complete facial convert after this experience. My skin was glowing for days after, and the drained feeling was simply evidence of the stress I’d unknowingly been holding in for months. I booked my husband in for their 80-minute Signature Massage (€140) and he felt similarly. The lesson we’re taking from this trip is to book spa treatments more often!
Besides our time at the spa, we also experienced Muckross Park Hotel & Spa’s brand new tea room for afternoon tea.
There is a wide range of speciality teas to try and the gorgeous top dessert tier is inspired by Killarney National Park – it’s well worth a visit. We will definitely be back again.