The Luxe of the Irish

While millions of tourists flock to Ireland each year in search of everything from four-leaf clovers to the perfect pint of Guinness, those looking for a unique experience can head to the southwest of Europe’s third largest island for a breathtaking view of the rolling countryside and an authentic taste of Irish hospitality at The Lodge at Doonbeg. Located on the Atlantic coast in County Clare, this luxury resort boasts 189 rooms within 59 suites and cottages, an award-winning Greg Norman-designed golf course, two restaurants by consulting chef Tom Colicchio, and, nestled beneath the lodge, the 1,000-square-foot White Horses Spa. 

The Lodge at DoonbegLike the rest of the lodge, which opened in May 2006, the spa exudes the warmth and comfort of a cozy cottage, featuring a polished stone floor, a beamed ceiling, and an antique fireplace. “We wanted the decor to match that of the country house-inspired lodge that harkens back to the rich history of Irish country living,” says spa director Niamh O’Reilly, who has been working at the spa since its inception. Under the guidance of Irish-born designer Clodagh Kenneady, the spa’s ambience reflects the natural elements of earth, water, fire, and air. The nearby Atlantic Ocean and surrounding countryside are represented in the color palette of muted blues and greens. “Like The Lodge at Doonbeg, the spa is an interior design masterpiece,” says O’Reilly. “The attention to detail, the furniture, and the finishes are second to none.”

In addition to four treatment rooms, the spa, which derived its name from the rolling waves of Doughmore Bay referred to as white horses because of their foamy crests resembling a horse’s mane, also features two wet treatment rooms with Swiss showers, a steam room, a sauna, and deep-soaking whirlpools. Guests can relax and enjoy these amenities pre- and post-treatment, which prove to be a much-desired perk for the majority of the resort’s clientele, who are golfers.

Also beneficial to those who’ve had a long day on the links are unique treatments designed just for them, such as the Deep Tissue Golfer’s Massage ($114, 30 minutes; $164, 60 minutes; $228, 90 minutes). Recommended before or after a game, this treatment focuses on providing relief from muscle aches and stiff joints. It includes a combination of techniques, as well as the application of a heat pack, specifically designed to increase circulation, promote detoxification, and help muscles recover quickly.

The Lodge at DoonbegIn addition to golfers, the spa also sees resort guests who are visiting the area with family, as well as some locals. According to O’Reilly, the spa is equipped to service approximately 30 clients daily, with six full- and four part-time staff members available. O’Reilly says guests especially enjoy treatments that are indigenous to the region. “We recently began using a seaweed-based product called Voya that is manufactured in County Sligo,” says O’Reilly. “This company uses generations of acquired wisdom about the sea and local traditions of seaweed baths and treatments to help us provide great experiences.” One such experience that is getting a lot of praise is the Voya Anti-Aging Reviver Facial ($128, 60 minutes), which uses a blend of antioxidant-rich algae along with organic extracts to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while hydrating and tightening the skin. 

Currently in low season, the spa is using this downtime to revamp the menu, adding new treatments inspired by the healing techniques of the area. “When updating the menu, we are making sure that the massages are tailored for both the golfer and the relaxation-seeker,” says O’Reilly. But not all aspects need to be improved upon, according to her. “The team that started when the spa first opened in 2006 is the same team here in 2011,” she says. “This makes for great team spirit, respect, and loyalty. In my opinion, these feelings are reflected in every treatment a guest receives.”

(Country Clare, Ireland)

OWNER: Kiawah Development Partners

SPA DIRECTOR: Niamh O’Reilly

OPENED: May 2006


50% female

50% male






1,000 square feet; 4 treatment rooms 

OFFERINGS: acupuncture, body treatments, couples’ treatments, energy work, facials, fitness, hand and foot treatments, hydrotherapy, massage, nailcare, prenatal services, reflexology

Jane Iredale­–The Skincare Makeup, Kerstin Florian,
Mama Mio, Voya


ARCHITECT: John Haley, KDP (Kiawah Island, SC)

INTERIOR DESIGNER: Clodagh Design (New York City)

SPA CONSULTANT: Kim Matheson, Natural Resources Spa Consulting (New York City)