Never before have I set out for a road trip with boiled eggs in Tupperware for snacking, instead of bags of Haribo on the dashboard. Diets are deeply unfashionable at the moment so, not for the first time, I find myself on the wrong side of a trend. I tell myself it's fitting though, because I am bound for a "Wellness Weekend" in Knockranny House and Spa in Westport, Co Mayo, complete with a sound therapy session, a yoga class and, most delightfully, an aromatherapy massage – lots of that calm and quiet we all crave in January.
Three boiled eggs and seven Jon Ronson podcasts later, we arrive at Knockranny House, which sits on a hill over Westport town. With its plush swirly carpets, high ceilings and long meandering corridors, it's a grand dame of a country house. Our room is huge, has two writing desks should the urge take you, and would easily rent for €4,000 a week in Dublin.
Breakfast here is a delight, primarily because the view from the dining room is so spectacular. On the first morning Croagh Patrick is obscured by mist but on our second the sky is blue and the mountain can be seen in all its pointy glory. We all know someone who walked it barefoot but we admire it from afar and keep our feet intact.
After breakfast, we embark on a drive: Bertra Strand is about 20 minutes from Knockranny, and after a windy morning walk we head back to the hotel to hit the steam room and warm our bones. As part of the Wellness Weekend, I have an aromatherapy lymphatic massage. The masseuse tells me she came here for a six month placement, fell in love and is still here two years later. With an Irish man? No, with the town, she says.
Later that afternoon, we have the sound therapy session, led by two women from Westport. Lit with fairy lights, the dark room is lined with yoga mats and there are seven white crystal singing bowls laid out to align with the seven chakras or energy centres of the body, and three big gongs sway in the corner, waiting. Our body is made up mostly of water and the vibrations from the sound changes our energy, we’re told. We get in under the blankets and are led through a mindfulness exercise, working from our heads down our necks, relaxing our shoulders, feeling our chests expand with breath. We’ve no sooner got to our elbows when my travelling companion emits a loud snore. He’s the only man in a room of women, and two of them – who’ve been on the afternoon wine – have a fit of the giggles. I lie there for a while torn between letting him live his truth in the sound therapy circle or pinching him really hard so everyone else can get their zen. I pinch for the patriarchy.
We tune into the variety of sounds and somehow hear what sounds like the sea, then a hail shower, a wet dog shaking itself off, the sound of lashing rain in a tent at a music festival and, finally, a tea trolley in a hospital corridor. Everyone staggers out of the room gong-stoned.
Which makes the dinner all the more pleasant in the hotel’s La Fougere Restaurant. Croagh Patrick is now cloaked in darkness but the curtains are still open and it’s out there somewhere. No, please don’t bring the bread to the table, thank you. (The waiter looks rightfully horrified.) I have a cod tart to start, then a perfect fillet steak. There are several little tasty morsels served in between which are gobbled up inelegantly.
After dinner, we trot down the hill to Westport’s famous Matt Molloy’s pub for a drink. We set ourselves up at a table near a trad session but, conscious of tomorrow morning’s yoga session, don’t go too mad. As we climb back up the steep hotel driveway in the lashing rain, we realise this is the closest thing to a pilgrimage we’ll be doing this weekend.
Soul Serenity at Knockranny House Hotel includes two nights' bed and breakfast with one dinner, one hour spa treatment, yoga session, sound therapy led by Olivia Varley, access to the vitality pool and thermal suites each day and a late checkout on Sunday, from €279pps. The next weekend runs on March 22nd and 23rd. See knockrannyhousehotel.ie