How would you like to meet yourself today? In a forest, by the lake, all by yourself with Heather, Rosemary and Birch trees for company? British essayist Pico Iyer once said we travel initially to lose ourselves, and we travel next to find ourselves. The Element Trail Spa, set amid a forest in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, by the splashing waters of Lough Erne, is one such place. The self-guided spa experience offers a private two-hour trail through a series of cabins nestled in a forest. Based on the ritual spa practices of eastern Europe, it includes a drift pool packed with Epsom salts, a lake bank Finnish sauna (which uses dry heat), an aromatherapy room, a warm tub with a sight of the lake and a fireplace leisure room.
A lake plunge and a floatarium (a tank where one floats and experiences minimal sensory stimulation to enable relaxation) are a bonus. A serene countryside hideaway located near the Donegal border, the spa is part of the Finn Lough resort, a family-run property set on expansive grounds on a cape surrounded by Lake Lough Erne. One can feel the calming effect of the spa as one enters the forest after a 35-minute drive from Fermanagh.
The time slots are staggered in a way that the workforce is the only people you interact with, from start to finish. After a spa manager guides you into a private change room —complete with one’s preferred herbal teas and a personalised welcome note—you put on cosy robes to begin the immersive experience. Linked by a woodland track, and five sensory zones, that is, the ‘elements trail’ lasts about two hours. It moves among diverse woodland rooms and each session is programmed to last for 20 minutes.
The first few steps are all about tackling slimy stones with bare feet, which brings a comforting awareness of connectivity. Then a ladder leading from the sweltering Finnish sauna takes you into Lough Erne. Jump in if you are brave enough for an ice-cold plunge after the sauna, or relax in a hot tub while watching the lake. The floating room, with its gentle illumination and Epsom salts in the water, forms a buoyant awareness, against the backdrop of the woods and the lake.
The trail set among the Heather, Rosemary and Birch trees, known to revitalise the respiratory system, is rejuvenating. The aromatherapy room uses plants from the woodland itself. The dim wooden interiors of the herbal sauna make you peep out into the pictorial tree tops. The hot tub lets you soothe yourself as you take in the environs. The trail ends at the relaxation room where you sip on herbal tea, nibble nuts or just appreciate the woods. When here, you don’t need anything else.