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Boutique lodge stops offering ‘mental health breaks’ to essential front-line workers


The Elbowroom Escape in Donard, Co Wicklow. Photo: Paul McCarthy

The Elbowroom Escape in Donard, Co Wicklow. Photo: Paul McCarthy

The Elbowroom Escape in Donard, Co Wicklow. Photo: Paul McCarthy

A boutique lodge in the Wicklow Mountains which had been providing “mental health breaks” for essential workers during lockdown says it has now stopped doing so.

The Elbowroom Escape in Donard had been advertising offers on social media for essential front-line workers “who are in desperate need of a mental health break”.

In an Instagram post on January 30 – which has since been deleted – the Elbowroom said: “50pc off for bookings of two nights or more. This January we hosted nurses, doctors and carers who were broken and just needed TLC and a break. All safely. All following safety protocols. Now extended to February 21. We can provide a letter to travel for protection against psychological mental health injuries”.

Two doctors involved in the heroic rescue of a dog stranded in the Wicklow Mountains were staying at the Elbowroom at the time.

It is understood a member of the public contacted gardaí questioning if the couple – who live in Arklow, Co Wicklow – were within their 5km limit.

Gardaí then made enquiries and learned that the couple were staying at the Elbowroom.

A Garda spokesperson told the Irish Independent: “Gardaí in Wicklow are carrying out enquiries in relation to a premises in the Donard area of Wicklow. The premises in question remains closed pending the outcome of the gardaí enquiry.”

Under Level 5 restrictions, hotels and other accommodation may only open for essential non-social purposes and non-tourist purposes. This includes those who need to access accommodation because they are unable to reside at their usual residence due to the spread of Covid-19 or to access essential health assistance.

Lisa Wilkinson, director of the Elbowroom Escape, had been providing letters for guests which stated they were travelling for essential health reasons under the Health Act – namely “to seek essential medical, health or dental services or to accompany someone you live with”.

She told the Irish Independent the Elbowroom operates as a mental health retreat.

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Its website describes it as a boutique lodge which has a contemporary design with 18 luxury beds over seven rooms. The property has a yoga studio, an outdoor yoga platform, a wooden dining cabin, an outdoor kitchen, a fully working commercial kitchen and a hot tub.

It hosts weddings and hen parties in normal times as well as retreats.

Ms Wilkinson said the Elbowroom is now closed to essential workers as “we simply ran out of funds to accommodate them as we were operating at a loss”.

“We made ourselves available to several local hospitals several times during the pandemic to take essential workers who needed to isolate from families or other strategic reasons to assist in the running of the hospital. The Elbowroom Escape is closed to guests until travel restrictions are lifted,” she said.

Another section of the website stated: “We are also open to beautiful weddings of up to 25 people #mentalhealthmatters.”

Ms Wilkinson said this pop- up was put on the site during Level 3 restrictions and has now been removed as they “would only be open to bookings for weddings of six”.

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