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The spa-goers of this world are divided firmly into two camps: those who maintain that Monart Spa, an adults-only destination spa just outside Enniscorthy in Co Wexford, is the closest thing to heaven you’ll find while still breathing; and those who haven’t been there (yet).
For my part, I definitely fall on the heaven side of the equation – but, having spent a mere night away at Monart Spa, I’m not quite sure I’d consider myself an authority. (I’m already planning a return visit, “for research purposes”.)
I’m wearing: Jumper, Pamela Scott; skirt, Anthropologie (similar here); boots (wet from our little walk), Purple Tag (similar here).
Pulling up to Monart Spa
First things first: Monart Spa is faaaaancy. I’m saying that in my New Jersey accent, so we’re clear – it’s that kind of faaaaaancy. You’ve to buzz to get in the front gates, which sets out its stall pretty early – this is an exclusive spa experience, and not your average hotel-with-hydrotherapy-pool-attached.
We’re instructed to pull up at the front door, where a valet absolutely will not hear of Stephen carrying his own suitcase, and even takes our car (okay, Mam’s car) off to the car park for us. Props to Monart Spa for that; there’s something really nice about the avenue and the view of the main house, unobstructed by vehicles.
The spa itself
Check-in time at Monart Spa is from 3pm, and although we’re told to arrive any time from 12pm – from which point we can have use of the spa while we wait for our room to be ready – we arrive a little after 4pm, and quickly head upstairs to change into our robes.
Another subtle – but important – distinction here: the robes weren’t too big and fluffy (is it just me who finds those overly fluffy robes cumbersome? First-world problems abound) but they were in fact big enough to cover both my front bottom and my boobs, which seems to be a challenge for some skimpier hotel robes. Top marks.
The spa is on the first floor, accessed via a corridor from our bedroom, so we don’t need to go via reception – although it wouldn’t matter; throughout our stay, there are robed guests everywhere, with the noteworthy exception of the restaurant at dinner time. Every other area, at all points of the day, is full of people in robes.
First things first, we think – and we head to the dark relaxation room. It is, well, exactly what it says on the tin, and we proceed to fall fast asleep for about an hour. It’s amazing. There’s something about the level of darkness (juuuuust right, Goldilocks style), the calming spa music (you know, a little bit jingly jangly but nice all the same) and the incredibly comfy lounge beds that just lends itself to total relaxation.
After the relaxation room, we spend an hour or so wandering between rooms in the spa – we try the steam room, the sauna, the infra-red therapy room, the caldarium and the hydrotherapy pool (pictured above, and definitely the most eyecatching and photogenic of the areas, although the pool was colder than I thought it would be and quite the shock after the heat of the sauna).
The spa is busy on the Sunday afternoon we spend there; there are probably more than 30 other people there, mostly couples, although it doesn’t seem crowded and (thankfully) everyone’s pretty hushed. It seems like we’re all there for the same thing: R’n’R, baby.
My treatment – the prescriptive facial (€90)
My therapist, Róisín, has amazing skin – I’m kind of mesmerised by it, to the point that I can’t quite figure out if she just has the world’s best skin, or the world’s best makeup but, either way, I feel like I’m in good hands.
My facial is, in a way, the usual – cleanse, steam, extractions, exfoliate, mask (with a bonus head massage, which ruins my ‘do – see below) – but, as facials go, it’s a pretty damn good one. The products used are by Pevonia, a natural skincare line which is sulfate-, alcohol- and paraben-free (yay) and contains a lot of active ingredients, which means that a tingling sensation on the skin is to be expected.
Afterwards, Róisín recommends a few products I should consider using – which, honestly, I hate. I don’t really like being sold products directly after an expensive service, although I do understand that retail is a part of the business. Maybe it’s a matter of sussing out which customers are and aren’t interested in the products (and to be fair to Róisín, I may well have seemed interested!).
Here’s my skin directly post-facial: I felt like it was definitely quite glowy, felt a lot more hydrated than it had beforehand and the extractions didn’t leave me all red and swollen, something that happens all too frequently with a thorough facial.
The rest of the Monart Spa experience
As I said, our time at Monart Spa was short, but we manage to take in a short walk around the grounds – which are really beautifully manicured. It’s that kind of moneyed thing of incredible attention to detail while still giving the impression of very natural surroundings. You get the impression that there is no tree that hasn’t been carefully planted, no water feature that hasn’t been pointed in the right direction – and yet it all feels serene and unfussy.
On the day we arrive, the sun is splitting the skies – but the following morning, when we take our little jaunt (of course) the heavens have opened and the morning is grey and damp. These photographs somehow don’t do it justice, though; it was slightly eerie but very beautiful on the grounds, all light rain and patches of fog and ducks waddling around, as my Mother would say, “without a bother on them.”
We also eat a really good meal at Monart Spa, in the restaurant which, for dinner – we’re told – is “smart casual”. Dinner jackets aren’t required for men (which is just as well), but robes are out, and I’m surprised by just how dressed up people get for dinner in a hotel. (I would quite happily spend every hour in a hotel wearing leggings and hoodies; I just love feeling at home!)
We start with an amuse bouche of seafood chowder, which I would ordinarily avoid because I’m fussy about seafood, but this is creamy and delicious and, due to its teeny size, incredibly moreish. Next up, I choose wood pigeon – delish – and my main course is venison (I’m obviously feeling gamey), served with sweet potato and some kind of amazing sauce. It’s very good. Dessert is a chocolate fondant that is kind of middle-of-the-road, but elevated by a very nice Prosecco sorbet and some stewed strawberries.
At breakfast the following morning, I go for French toast, served with cream and strawberries, and tack on some bacon because I’m greedy – all super tasty, washed down with some good coffee. (I don’t know how hotels can subsist while serving bad coffee; it’s sinful.)
So: is Monart Spa really all that?
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it’s kind of tough for anything to live up to the kind of hype Monart Spa gets. We had a really exclusive, five-star experience in a really exclusive, five-star Irish destination spa, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for a luxurious break away. But, look: like the Dyson hairdryer, it’s not going to be for everyone – and I wouldn’t necessarily be advocating blowing your life’s savings on a weekend away (easily done).
There are plenty of more wallet-friendly spa hotels in Ireland that are really good, too; they just might not have the generously sized robes or the valet parking. It’s those little touches that, for me, elevate Monart Spa to being that little, teeny tiny step above the rest. Like I said, I’m already planning my return visit. monart.ie
I was invited, as a guest of Monart Spa, to experience a one-night stay with breakfast, dinner for two and one spa treatment. This does not affect my review, and is not a guarantee of coverage, on my blog or otherwise.