[UK] A tradition steeped in island life has been tapped into by an Achill entrepreneur, writes Tom Gillespie.
Mari Kilbane has revised an age old custom practised by her grandmother when she resided on the now uninhabited Achill Beg.
She has opened Achill Seaweed Baths, located at the seven-bedroomed Mulhollow B&B at River, Keel, Achill.
Mari had trained as an architect and when the bottom fell out of that she looked elsewhere to make a living.
She takes up the story: “I was doing a VTOS course at the time where we did project after project and put forward different ideas for websites.
“I was joking, looking at seaweed as I have arthritis. I felt there was something in this. I felt it was typical for Achill and something we could really use. I took the jump when I finished the course and gave it a go.
“I set up a little cabin with two baths and got it going for the summer and it paid off real well. People were really interested in it and I got great feedback.
“It was just small scale. I was working a part-time job in The Chalet restaurant. Last year I decided to concentrate on the seaweed baths but to get full employment you needed a full season and coming up to Christmas I thought of drying the seaweed in a pouch – like a big teabag for your bath.”
Having done research on the benefits of seaweed, Mari developed a unique experience which allows the bather to enjoy the Achill landscape and environment while bathing.
She added: “I wanted my guests to leave my baths with a truly reviving experience. One that would connect them in many different ways and through all their senses to the landscape they are here to discover.”
The ventilating room at local smoked salmon producers Keem Bay Food Products is where she dried the seaweed over two or three days.
Mari added: “I pick the seaweed – bubble wrack – from the shore at Keel. It is so full of goodness that when you put in into the bath the water goes all brown, with a silky quality. It is just pure softness rather than slimy. I bring it home, weigh it out, and put it in a pouch. I sell the pouch for €15 on Facebook, at country markets, and The Mulranny Park Hotel and The Yellow Lady are taking it.”
To indulge in a seaweed bath at the Mulhollow B&B is €30.
The instructions that come with the seaweed pouch read: ‘Steep entire pouch in a bucket of boiling water for 10 minutes. Empty the entire contents of the bucket into a bath of hot water. Lie back and soak for 20 minutes to get the full benefits’.
Referring to the healthy benefits, Mari said: “Our hand-harvester seaweed is a concentration of the antioxidants, analgesic, anti-vitals, natural minerals, essential oils and vitamins found in the beautiful ocean waters of the Wild Atlantic Way.”
Referring to the beauty benefits, she said: “The seaweed provides deep moisturiser for hair and skin. It is a natural detox containing antioxidants and essential fatty acids, and it cleanses, smoothes and tones the skin and reduces cellulite.”
She said the seaweed bath is traditionally used to treat arthritis, rheumatism, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, acne and underactive thyroid.
Mari continued: “My grandparents used to do it. My grandmother, Maggie ‘Jack’ Kilbane (nee Gallagher), was from Achill Beg. They brought up the seaweed at autumn time and made sure they had their seaweed baths.
“We always brought seaweed in for the potatoes. It is still being picked for that. So now we can use it first in the bath before it goes into the ridges to fertilise the crops. It is continuing the tradition. People are taking the seaweed home to use on their gardens.
“A lot of people get the seaweed pouch to send away at Christmas time as it can be vacuum packed for the post.”
Mari advisers those using her seaweed pouch to massage it into joints and muscles. The pouch can then be dried and reused three times in the bath. As to the future, Mari said: “I would love to expand and double in size, which I hope to do this year. I would love to get into the bigger hotels, particularly in London.”
View original article at: Relax, revive and reconnect at Achill Seaweed Baths