Many Irish hotels have spas but there is only one destination Spa hotel in Ireland – Monart.
It was only when I was booking Monart that I realised the difference between the two. The only reason people go to Monart is for the spa experience, it’s not like there is an entertainment programme or a golf course on site. They don’t even allow kids! I think this is what makes Monart special. They are not trying to be all things to all men and cater for the masses. They are an adults-only luxury destination spa hotel and what you see is what you get.
I travelled with my sister and my mother, a gift to my Mum for her 91st birthday. Let me start by saying none of us are big Spa fans, but we wanted a luxury hotel for a ‘girly night’. I asked a few people where they would recommend and Monart cropped up time and time again. It was important for us to find somewhere that my Mum could relax, without the need to go sightseeing in the local area. We wanted to check-in and stay put for 24 hours, which is exactly what we did.
After a short 90 minute drive from Dublin, we arrived at an 18th century house which looked like a stately home. Initially, I thought we were in the wrong place. That notion quickly passed when we were greeted by a gentleman in a tailored suit, ‘Welcome to Monart – shall I park your car for you?’ – a nice first impression. The main Georgian house has two reception rooms decorated in traditional style. We later found out that this is where you go to read the complimentary newspapers or use the WiFi – but a digital detox is encouraged in the main hotel. We walked straight through the glass corridor into the reception area. A strong aroma of essential oils filled the air and I immediately liked the décor, it was classic but with a modern twist. The floor to ceiling glass offered stunning views of the grounds, but the spiral staircase with the massive bog oak tree, stole the show.
We arrived in time for lunch in the Garden Lounge. This restaurant / bar serves food throughout the day until 7.30pm. The first thing that struck me was everyone was dressed in their white towelling robes, even in the restaurant! Our room wasn’t ready until 3pm, so much to my Mum’s relief, we had to dine in our clothes! We had a tasty lunch, washed down by a nice Sauvignon Blanc, which was recommended by our friendly waitress. We shared a smoked salmon starter which was particularly good, as was my sister Anne’s pulled beef BBQ brisket sandwich. However, I expected more flavour from my dressed pink prawn bruschetta with tomato tapenade, gem lettuce and toasted sourdough… Overall it was a lovely experience, in a pleasant room overlooking the grounds of the hotel. The extensive menu also has some vegan dishes if you fancy combining your visit with some lighter food options. The bill came to €100 for the three of us, which was quite reasonable considering we were in a luxury five star hotel.
After lunch our rooms were ready so we checked-in and got ready for our spa treatments. The rooms are bright and very spacious, with nice views overlooking the gardens. We donned our robes and made our way to the Spa. Anne and I booked the hour long Cellulite Smoothing Green Coffee Wrap (€100), hoping against hope that we would look a half stone lighter afterwards, just in time for Summer holidays! My Mum clearly wouldn’t have the same desires so she opted for the prescriptive facial, (€90) also an hour in length. This facial is tailored to the needs of your skin so it was the perfect choice for my Mum. She took the first appointment and was extremely impressed with her therapist, Sreeja. She loved every minute of it and happily read her book afterwards in the relaxation room – there are several!
While Anne and I waited for our treatments we decided to check out the Thermal Suite. There is a 2 hour circuit which we would have liked to complete, but time was against us. I particularly loved the salt grotto, in fact I fell asleep within minutes of going inside. I’m not sure if it was the couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc or the hot steam that made me nod off though, but either way I loved it. This salt and steam treatment room softens the skin and aids circulation; I had to be woken by my sister to tell me it was time to go! We moved on to the Aromatic Steam Room, which had the most divine scent of eucalyptus. This is supposed to cleanse the body of impurities and revitalise the mind. I’m not sure about the latter but my body certainly felt cleansed after it. I also liked the Caldarium, which is like a large dry room, not as hot as a sauna, but very relaxing. In between the heated rooms, I tried the experience showers which have a range of temperatures and pressure. The idea is to mix hot and cold to stimulate your body. We had time for a quick dip in the small hydrotherapy pool but not enough time to enjoy it properly. There are four heated loungers at the top of the pool, which we would have loved to relax on, but as we were only staying one night, we didn’t have enough time to do it all.
After mixing hot and cold temperatures a few times, I decided to go one step further and try the outdoor sauna ritual, something some my Facebook followers had advised me to do. This ritual happens every day at approximately 4pm. Located just outside the Thermal Suite, it practically begs you to try it. I sat in a sauna that had such intense heat I thought I was going to pass out. I was never so relieved to have an ice-cold bucket shower in my life. I then had to rub ice all over my body, before going back into the sauna to start all over again. I must confess I cheated half way through the second round and had to escape. I’m not sure if it had the relaxation effect that it mentioned in the description, but I certainly felt invigorated after it! The time went by so fast and suddenly it was time to de-robe and go for my body wrap.
I was greeted by my therapist Sreeja, who explained the treatment and what I should expect. Following a full body exfoliation and massage I was cocooned in a mountain of towels. The lotion started to tingle on my skin when I was wrapped up, something Sreeja had warned me about. I actually liked the sensation and thought to myself that it must be working. I could smell something that resembled coffee and I had visions of it breaking down my cellulite and eliminating toxins from my body. I hoped my skin would look polished and my physique leaner, as I had packed my white trousers for dinner that night, and hoped that they would fit better than they had the previous time I had worn them! After a while I stopped overthinking and finally relaxed. The combination of the massage, the perfumed oils and being wrapped up in a cocoon of hot towels, gave me a real sense of indulgence. I haven’t had many spa treatments before so I felt I deserved this little piece of heaven, even if it was only for an hour. When it was all over, Sreeja took my slippers and placed them on my newly moisturised feet. The slippers were hot! She had put them in a microwave or some similar heating appliance, before placing them on my feet. It was the perfect ending to my spa treatment experience.
Unfortunately I didn’t stay relaxed for long. After my treatment Sreeja advised me to not to drink alcohol and to wait a while before showering… Unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to do either. We had dinner reservations for 8pm and it was 630pm when my treatment ended. It felt a shame to wash my beautifully moisturised skin and I wondered if the creams were still working to eliminate toxins and combat cellulite? I also knew we were going to have wine with dinner and maybe even a cocktail beforehand – we were on a ‘girls’ night away after all. I began to wonder whether I choose the right treatment. Was the whole thing a waste of time? I still loved it, the experience, the feeling of being utterly spoilt, but in hindsight I wished I had chosen this treatment for the following day. TOP TIP It is vital that you plan your visit and book treatments in advance. Think about what time you will arrive, how long you will be staying and plan accordingly. We booked late and were lucky to get availability, although we all had treatments at different times, which meant we couldn’t use the thermal suite together. Perhaps a facial before dinner and a body wrap the following day would have been a better choice for me.
For a brief time I did feel a little slimmer and loved the feel of my freshly polished skin. I also managed to fit comfortably into my white trousers for dinner in the fine dining restaurant. This is the only place where Monart ask you to dress in appropriate clothing. At all other times you are encouraged to wear your robe.
I was really impressed with the food in the main restaurant. From the amuse bouche right through to the dessert, each course was delicious. After a tasty starter of seafood lasagne, I enjoyed the rack of lamb followed by a cheesecake that was perfect and light. However Anne’s choice of ham hock with smoked pudding for starter and the Asian infused hake for main course was the winner! The flavours in both were sublime. We were all amazed at the set menu price tag of €45, it was excellent value for such high quality food. There is an extensive wine list too and contrary to Sreeja’s advice, we couldn’t resist the beautifully balanced L’Amourier…
It was a long time since the three of us were away together so we retired to the bar after dinner for a nightcap. It was great to catch up with our news, without having to rush to work or to collect the kids. I made a mental note to myself that we need to get away together more often! My only complaint about our stay is we didn’t have long enough. I think you need a two night stay to completely ‘switch off’ from the stresses of everyday life and enjoy complete relaxation.
The following morning we enjoyed a tasty breakfast and went for a short walk around the gardens. The stone bridge, greenery and duck filled pond reminded me of Monet’s ‘Japanese Bridge’ painting. It is not only the Spa that is relaxing, there is something very peaceful about the gardens too. In fact Monart created an atmosphere of pure relaxation from the moment our car was valet parked at the entrance. It’s almost symbolic, like you are handing someone the keys and you are escaping ‘normal life’ for a day or two. Everyone walks around in their white towelling robes, the smell of aromatherapy oils fill the corridors, mobile phones are discouraged (the signal is really poor in the main hotel) and there are countless friendly staff at your beck and call. Now I finally understand the difference between a hotel with a Spa and a destination Spa hotel. There is only one Monart.
Prices from €219 mid week and €269 weekend for a two night stay with breakfast and one evening meal. Visit Monart.ie for more details.