Luxe of the Irish



Based On Dublin'S Lively Reputation—With Its football (a.k.a. soccer) fanatics, energetic music scene, and pint-swilling pub culture—it's easy to forget how relaxing island living can be on the other side of the pond. Although only an hour's drive southwest of Ireland's vibrant capital city, the idyllic village of Killenard feels a world away. Set in the picturesque County of Laois, this gem in the countryside of the Emerald Isle is home to The Heritage at Killenard.

Opened in June 2005, The Heritage at Killenard is a 300-acre, $123 million development, which includes a world-class hotel, a championship 18-hole golf course, residences, a 12,000-square-foot health club, and The Spa at The Heritage. Each amenity at the resort was developed with one goal in mind—providing guests with the spoils of luxury.

 LEFT: Hot stone therapy helps melt away tension. RIGHT: Footbaths offer gentle reflexology in a serene environment.
LEFT: Hot stone therapy helps melt away tension. RIGHT: Footbaths offer gentle reflexology in a serene environment.

The 25,000-square-foot spa, which cost $12.4 million to develop, does not stray from this mission. The spa comprises 20 treatment rooms, four of which are wet rooms. Almost one-third of the spa is dedicated to its star feature, The Heritage Spa Experience ($75, up to 3 hours). This series of rituals, based on ancient Egyptian and Roman bathing practices where the body is heated and then cooled by a series of sensory experiences, is meant to purify the system and induce deep relaxation.

The "journey" takes place in a 7,000-square-foot area devoted to different therapies. Heat therapy is available in the sanarium, offering a mild climate involving sauna, steam, mood lighting, and music; tepidarium, a lukewarm lounging area; caldarium, a dry, warm environment; steam bath, for a humid heat; and rustic sauna cabin, offering intense dry heat. The area also includes an ice fountain where crushed ice is gently applied to the body; "experience" showers, which involve different pressures mimicking everything from soft tropical rain to invigorating ice rain; and the resting zone where spa-goers can rehydrate with a beverage while soaking up the views of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. Footbaths and an open-air hydro therapy pool are also part of the Experience.

A journey map is positioned at the entrance of the area with suggested routes through the heating, cooling, and hydrotherapy rituals. Each patron of the Experience is allowed up to three hours to go through each station at his or her own pace. According to spa manager Neil Owen, it is difficult for guests who come in for an hour treatment to fully utilize the spa and relax. "The spa is very much a retreat, and people who travel here want to spend between two and four hours at the facility," says Owen. The Experience offers the opportunity to maximize spa visits in a therapeutic environment.

TOP LEFT: The spas resting zone has a view of the lush fairway. FAR RIGHT: The open-air hydro therapy pool offers waterfalls for neck and shoulder massage. RIGHT: The first-class golfing experience at The Heritage, which is crowned by the clubhouse, is expected to attract more male spa-goers.
TOP LEFT: The spas resting zone has a view of the lush fairway. FAR RIGHT: The open-air hydro therapy pool offers waterfalls for neck and shoulder massage. RIGHT: The first-class golfing experience at The Heritage, which is crowned by the clubhouse, is expected to attract more male spa-goers.

The importance of dedicating more time to rejuvenation was also taken into consideration when crafting the signature spa packages. Each package boasts at least two hours of treatment time with an additional window of three hours offered through the Experience—a component of every package. The most popular package is A Taste of Heritage ($325, 3 hours of treatment), which includes the Full Body Polish to revitalize the skin; the Aromatherapy Cocoon, a body wrap involving essential oils and a scalp massage; a Pevonia Prescription Facial; and a Heritage Luxury Foot Treatment, which includes an exfoliating foot scrub, gentle massage, hydrating mask, and polish.

In developing the ideal spa environment, product selection was an important component. According to Owen, Pevonia Botanica's philosophy of combining nature with the latest technology fit with the spa's holistic mission, and the line is represented in every package. "We feel that Pevonia enhances the customer's journey, which should be unique for each person visiting the spa. Pevonia also extends the spa experience effectively into the home," says Owen.

Although selecting treatments from a list of more than 70 choices may seem daunting, Owen says the menu is user-friendly. Offerings range from the classic Deluxe Manicure ($106, 90 minutes) to the more exotic Moroccan Cocoon with Rassoul Wrap ($112, 60 minutes). Despite the fact that most treatments are unisex, Owen felt it was important to have a section of the menu dedicated to men's treatments. Women currently make up 65 percent of the spa's clientele, but Owen feels this ratio will soon be balancing out because Heritage's first-class golf course attracts a large number of male players. "We expect more men will be using the facility not only due to the increased awareness they have of spas but also because more men play golf and want to relax after playing a round," says Owen.

The pairing of spa and golf will not only attract a male clientele to The Heritage, but Owen also thinks that it will bring more visitors from the U.S. "Having only recently opened, the majority of our guests are day spa and short-break guests from Ireland and the U.K. As the business grows, we anticipate more international guests—especially from America because they've given us phenomenal feedback," he says. Owen also believes this coupling will serve as a catalyst for a growing Irish spa industry, considered to be in its infancy.

As for managing the maturing spa at The Heritage, Owen has a busy year ahead of him. He plans on expanding the staff from 30 "colleagues," as he calls them, to 50. "Most are full time, as I feel this creates better team cohesion." Almost doubling a quality staff should help work to continue giving guests what they want. According to Owen, "Spa-goers get more than just a treatment when they visit The Spa at The Heritage—they get an effective and memorable experience."— Cristina De Oliveira

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