Splish Splash: Takin’ a (Seaweed) Bath
Remember that amazing picture of my mom that I submitted for Vagabond’s photo contest?
Sadly, it didn’t win. The picture that did was taken from the top of a mountain…on a ridiculously beautiful day. Unfortunately for me (and my photography), we didn’t experience many sunny days while in Ireland. Occasionally we had good visibility, sure. But bright blue skies? Not so much.
The number of clouds we experienced on the tour certainly didn’t factor into the amount of fun we had. I took that picture of Mom on a particularly overcast day while at Kilcullen’s Seaweed Baths in Enniscrone. So rather than lament my lack of sunshine (and prize-winning photography), let me instead tell you about the hilarious trip I had with Mom to the seaweed baths.
When we arrived in Enniscrone, we were at days 7 and 8 of our 11-day tour with Vagabond. As much as we enjoyed the tour, being on the bus every day for several hours was exhausting, and we were looking forward to a little seaside relaxation. Our hotel, the Waterfront House, sat on the edge of Enniscrone Beach, with a view of Killala Bay. And one of the amenities the hotel offered was a trip to the seaweed baths down the street.
Seaweed baths have been popular in Ireland since Victorian times. In Enniscrone, you’ll find the remains of Cliff Baths. Built in the mid-1800s by the Orme family, this bath house sits right at the edge of the water. On one side of the building, a large rectangular pool carved into the rock allowed the bath house to draw fresh seawater, even at low tide.
Take a peek through the doors, and you’ll get a glimpse of a bygone era. Or possibly, you’ll feel like you’ve fallen into an episode of The Walking Dead and worry that a zombie is about to come screaming down that hall at you.
Today, Cliff Baths is closed, battered by waves at high tide, but you can still experience a historic seaweed bath a block away at the newer Kilcullen’s Seaweed Baths. Built in 1912, this bath house is decidedly Edwardian, built as an intentional “modern” step away from the Victorian Cliff Baths.
Under ownership by the same family for over 100 years (that’s five generations, if you’re counting), Kilcullen’s is known for their enormous, and original, Edwardian porcelain bath tubs, complete with solid brass taps. To be fair, the set-up in our double room reminded me of the Cialis commercial. Scoot the tubs a little closer, and we could have held hands. But that would have been weird, because I was with my mom.
The tubs were filled with hot seawater and several strands of fucus serratus, or toothed wrack, a seaweed found in the north Atlantic. The water’s amber tint was caused, not by dirty water, but by the iodine being extracted from the plant. Many people swear that the iodine, along with other minerals and oils the seaweed releases, helps with arthritis and rheumatism, as well as makes your skin feel silky smooth.
While the seaweed was certainly the star of the show, Mom and I were most intrigued by the large cedarwood cabinet in the corner. Once seated, this personal steam box left just enough space for your head to pop out the top. Inside was a simple wooden handle that, when turned, released a stream of thick vapor. Although comically weird, the experience was refreshing, and we enjoyed cranking up the steam before slipping and sliding across the floor to the tubs. (Of note, those floors were extremely slippery. If you have mobility issues, be forewarned.)
The “full treatment” at Kilcullen’s consisted of time in the tub, time in the box, and then a cold seawater shower. I should really stress the word “cold.” The water that came out of the shower was so frigid that I couldn’t take more than a few seconds. Between our squeals from the chilly water, giggles from the steam box, and occasional splash from the tub, I’m not sure the other people at the baths were able to truly relax. But Mom and I had fun.
I’d show some more pictures of the experience, but the photos my mom took of me are…a little awkward. At one point, I think she said, “Your husband’s going to love this. These pictures are so sexy.” Which resulted in me saying, “Ew. Mom. Gross.”
And that my friends, is what it’s like to being on the set of a Cialis commercial with your mom.
For more information about Kilcullen’s Seaweed Baths, click here. Pricing between €20 and €25 per person, depending on room and steam bath addition.
2 thoughts on “Splish Splash: Takin’ a (Seaweed) Bath”
I’m catching up on your blog – and crying at your mermaid in the tub picture. Awk-ward! 🙂
You have no idea. I have far more awkward and inappropriate pictures, but I’m going to keep those neatly tucked away with my NYE pictures from ’06. 😉