At Ashford Castle Don’t Call it a Spa
In a courtly display of diffidence, what would be called a spa anywhere else is known as the Health Rooms at Ashford Castle, the tony baronial resort in western Ireland whose roots go back to the 13th century. Don’t worry, all the necessary facilities are on premises: three treatment rooms and three therapists, a sauna to sweat in, a jacuzzi for lolling, a workout room and an imaginative range of treatments to soothe mind and muscles. Just don’t call it a spa.
The only product used is Yon-ka, a group of essential oils and botanical extracts originally developed 75 years ago in France by two brother botanists. They pioneered what they called esthetic aromatherapy and phytotherapy, the use of essential plant oils and other aromatic extracts from nature to promote health.
In a nod to evocative branding the brothers named their company Yon-Ka, combining Yon, a French river of fast-flowing purifying water and Ka, a regenerative concept in Egyptian mythology. Together they evoke continuous regeneration, a nice symbol for skin care.
Yon-ka’s broad product line encompasses not only fragrant essential plant oils but such other plant and marine extracts as vitamins and fruit acids. The variety makes possible personalized treatments for all types of skin, including a line for men, as well as different skin conditions.
A few minutes before my appointment, I went down to the Health Rooms on the castle’s lower level to study the treatment menu, and, drawn to the rejuvenating promise of the Yon waters, I zeroed in on the Marine Therapy section. From its eight body treatments I chose “Soins Velours,” a moisturizing body polish with an intriguing choice: marine mineral salts for an invigorating scrub or a moisturizing, exfoliating soft gel peel for a more relaxing, gentler treatment.
Fiona Maye, my therapist, settled me in a cozy room, dimly lit by low candles, and explained the difference between the invigorating and relaxing treatments, both of which end with a light moisturizing massage for soft velvety skin. No contest: I chose relaxing, lay face down on the massage table, and asked Fiona to write down later exactly what she did. A few hours later her notes were delivered to my room.
“I applied Gommage Corps to the back and the back of legs and feet. It’s a plant based gel peel, which leaves the skin invigorated and exfoliated.
I then nipped out of the room to get hot towels to remove the exfoliant. Using brisk hand movements, I removed the exfoliant while getting an excellent peel. I further removed the remaining residue with the hot towels. This helps to loosen the muscles for the massage.
I then applied the oils and cream to the body. I used Phyto 152 which is a firming and tightening cream that contains rosemary which has brightening properties. I also used a relaxing oil with a combination of lavender and lemongrass to further relax.
I then proceeded to the front of the body. I repeated the above steps on the front of the legs, the feet, and the hands and arms. I also included the decollete and face.
I used Phyto 152 on the arms and decollete which is a body and bust tighten cream, and Phyto 52, a moisturizing and firming facial cream.
This treatment concludes with a scalp massage.”
Fiona was as good a therapist as she was a chronicler. As promised, the treatment did indeed leave my skin soft as velvet (“soins velours”), but, hands down, my favorite part was the relaxation lounge, a glassed-in terrace tucked against the castle walls that looks out on round turreted battlements and the tranquil lake beyond. A cup of herbal tea, an inviting bowl of fruit, a very comfortable lounge, and that view kept me relaxing there a nice long time.
Ashford Castle Treatments
Aroma-Stone Massage – 75 min, €130. An aromatic hot stone massage combining the therapeutic benefits of three aromatic oils with the relaxing, rebalancing effects of warm, smooth basalt stones.
Aroma-Luxe Massage – 60 min, €100. An energizing or relaxing aromatic massage with essential oils, including lavender, basil and verbena.
Back Massage – 30 min, €55.
Back, Neck, Shoulders, Face and Scalp Massage – 45 min, €75.
Swedish Massage – 60 min, €100. A full body massage to relax tense muscles, improve circulation, lymphatic drainage and muscle tone.
Gommage Marin – 25 min, €55. An exfoliation and toning body polish with Guerande sea salt grains, aromatic oils, verbena and rosemary.
Soins Velours – 60 min, €100. One treatment with a choice of an invigorating or relaxing body polish plus a nourishing soft-skin massage.
Hydralessence Corps – 75 min, €125. A deep hydrating treatment with an exfoliating soft gel peel and a seaweed body mask.
Phyto Marine – 70 min, €115. A slimming body treatment with a full body mask of either marine clay or micronized seaweed, both with precisely targeted healing and stimulating aromatic oils.
Body Detox – 75 min, €120. A deep detoxifying herbal wrap using brisk massage and specifically targeted herbal treatment creams followed by cocooning in a thermal blanket.
Secret De Beauté – 105 min, €170. A head to toe revive combining marine mineral salts and aromatic oils for full body exfoliation plus a nourishing foot mask and the Hydralessence facial.
Jambes Toniques – 35 min, €70. An anti-fatigue leg treatment that stimulates surface circulation and leaves legs feeling light and refreshed, perfect before or after a long flight.
Lavish Spa Foot Treatment – 50 min, €100. A smoothing scrub with Guerande sea salt grains and essential oils, followed by a relaxing massage and a warm wrap of marine clay.
Le Grand Classique – 60 min, €90. Cleansing, restoring and relaxing facial with balancing aromatic elixirs of lavender, rosemary and geranium.
Plaisir D’Arômes – 60 min, €95. A cocooning facial combining a warm aromatic compress and an enveloping relaxing massage.
Vital Intense – 75 min, €110. Deep regenerating facial to restore balance, elasticity and vitality.
Escale Beauté – 30 min, €60. A quick beauty break with aromatic citrus fruits and French lavender plus botanical extracts.
Hydralessence Visage – 60 min, €100. A deep hydrating facial for dehydrated complexions.
Optimizer – 70 min, €100. A facial contour “lift” for flawless skin and perfect tone.
Eclat Contour – 45 min, €70. Three eye “contour” treatments: Anti-wrinkle, anti puffiness, and anti-dark circles.
Men’s Grand Classique – 60 min, €80. A deep pore cleansing facial for men.
Swedish Full Body Massage – 60 min, €100.
Head to Toe Revive – 90 min, €135. Massage using specific techniques and aromatic oils to ease stressed muscles, followed by 30 minute facial.
Half and full day spa packages are available, as well as a complete menu of beauty services including manicure, pedicure, waxing and tanning.