Feeling a bit sluggish after Christmas? Don’t worry, I’ve discovered the cure! Last week, I took a trip out to Glenmalure Valley to rejuvenate with a visit to Bosca Beatha, a mobile sauna currently residing part-time on the banks of the Avonbeg River.
I highly recommend the experience, which included plunging (several times!) into the icy-cold waters of the Avonbeg, not something I would usually be feeling enthusiastic about in December. However, when there’s a toasty sauna just a short sprint away, it’s definitely bearable. In fact, it’s more than bearable, it’s total bliss!
Where to find Bosca Beatha
This handbuilt wooden sauna has been touring around Ireland since 2012. At any given time, it could be in Cork, Galway, the Wicklow Mountains or out and about on the festival circuit during the summer months.
It’s best to check the Bosca Beatha Facebook page for the most up to date info on its whereabouts. However, it seems that for winter (up till March) it will be resting in the beautiful Glenmalure Valley in the Wicklow Mountains, just in front of Glenmalure Lodge. The sauna will open Friday to Monday, weather dependent. Again, it’s best to check on Facebook for the times and for any last minute changes if you’re thinking of visiting.
It’s pretty much first come, first serve as bookings are not usually taken. We turned up around 4pm and got lucky as another group were finishing up a little early. It’s best to get there earlier rather than later I guess. Then if it’s full, you can leave your details and go for a walk or cuppa and come back for the next available session.
Bosca Beatha – Box of Life
Translating to Box of Life, Bosca Beatha mobile sauna does exactly what it says on the tin, or in this case, the box. We chatted to some of the guys leaving, one of whom turned out to be the brother of a friend of mine (yup, it’s a small country!). I asked how he enjoyed the sauna and can’t recall his exact words but ‘joy’ was definitely the one that stuck with me. Who could say no to a bit of that!
How to use a Sauna – Irish style!
The Irish are not exactly sauna aficionados. I wasn’t sure of the rules, if any! For example, should you dip first or go into the sauna first? Does it matter? How long should you stay in the sauna between dips? So many questions!
The Finnish, on the other hand, are the experts on all things sauna. They’ve been at it a long time and with approximately one sauna per 1.8 people in the country, that doesn’t look set to change any time soon. From a young age most Finns enjoy regular sauna sessions with family. In fact, in the past many women gave birth to their children in the home sauna. It was common before hospital births became standard in Finland.
So it’s not surprising that you can find plenty of information online about Finnish sauna etiquette. In fairness, it’s pretty straightforward, though there is one notable difference when it comes to having a sauna in Ireland. Togs are definitely not frowned upon. They’re the norm. We’re just not a nation accustomed to being naked in front of strangers, or even friends!
Apart from that it’s pretty much the same, though we also didn’t have the Birch twigs. The Finnish use them to gently beat their skin to improve circulation. So really, all you have to do is alternate between hot and cold and repeat for as long as you like!
We took a quick plunge in the river before making a dash for the sauna. Others went straight for the warmth of the sauna, proclaiming there was no way they were going into the water first! The length of time you spend in the sauna and the number of dips you take is down to your own personal preference. I managed four dips in the river, though only got my head under water on one attempt!
There’s probably room for about ten people in the sauna at any one time. We shared it with a family we had seen earlier along the zig zags. We changed positions a few times as we moved in and out of the sauna. I ended up closest to the bucket of water at one point but wasn’t sure how often you need to pour it on the stones. Pressure!
Now that I’ve brushed up on my sauna etiquette, I know that the sauna is supposed to stay moist, not dry. So if you find yourself next to the bucket feel free to lash the water on!
How cold is it?
Actually, not as cold as I expected. In fairness the weather has been very mild, which helped. Strangely though, even getting into the water wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be. That includes the first dip we had before even warming up inside the sauna!
It was just my feet that let me down. After about five enjoyable seconds in the water, my feet suddenly felt raw! I mean proper stinging and painfully cold, resulting in a mad scramble back onto the riverbank each time. Once I got out of the water it was almost immediately better though, merely a tingle which was forgotten about by the time I got back to the sauna.
Best time to visit
Anytime! Though, as mentioned earlier, you might be best to get there early in case it’s busy, particularly on Saturday and Sundays.
It was really nice arriving at Bosca Beatha just before sunset though. As the daylight dwindled, the lanterns around the sauna were lit and a string of bulbs led the way into the river. It made it just that little bit more magical.
I should mention you’ll have to walk through the field when you’re leaving though. We were lucky to have a dry enough day but it could get quite muddy during winter, so you might want a head torch if you’re going to be leaving in the dark. The torch on your phone would probably do but it might be easier to have your hands free!
What to bring
It’s important to stay hydrated and there’s drinking water available but if it’s busy the cups may be used up, so bring your own cup or bottle along if you have one. Other than that, some flip flops, a towel and of course your togs, should be all you need!
Price and Parking
We paid €12 pp, which allows for an hour in the sauna and it was definitely worth every cent! It’s so refreshing and definitely a great way to clear away the cobwebs.
There’s plenty of parking at the Glenmalure Lodge and you can see Bosca Beatha down on the riverbank from there. It’s just a couple of minutes walk to get down to it. Head into the Lodge after your sauna for a warming meal or drink. It’s a popular spot with good food and a cosy atmosphere. What more do you need?!
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