Outdoor bathing is having a moment around the country – and for once we’re not talking about sea-swimming dips
Looking for a hotel with a hot tub in Ireland? There’s little more luxurious than being enveloped in a cloud of hot air while gazing at the scenery or stars during wintertime.
Not content with building gigantic kitchen islands and utility rooms, the economically privileged are now installing outdoor bathtubs into their rolling gardens. And we’re not just talking Jacuzzis, the 1980s status symbol that enjoyed a revival in the Noughties and peaked in 2012 when a YouGov study found gardeners were more likely to splash out on a hot tub than a potting shed.
These days, al fresco dippers worth their Himalayan bath salt are more likely to scour vintage shops and junk yards for reclaimed clawfoot roll-tops or wood-fired cauldrons, for that ‘rustic’ vibe. Not everyone though can afford such indulgences but, thanks to hotels and lodgings investing into wellness amenities like never before, we can all tap into the outdoor bathing trend.
Just add champagne, cocktails, and a smug face for when you inevitably Instagram the occasion.
Here are 10 top tubs worth dipping more than one’s toe into (note: room/lodging rates are based on two sharing).
Press Up may be synonymous with city-slicker hospitality, including The Dean, whose newest property opens in Galway on February 25. But it has worked its millennial magic on what was once a tired Co Westmeath golf resort and now Glasson Lakehouse, transforming it into a haven of on-trend ‘cabin porn’, with a trio of steaming bathtubs overlooking Lough Ree and an all-year-round heated outdoor pool. The pièce de résistance, though, is the one-bed cabin suite which has a free-standing copper bathtub on a private outdoor deck.
Details: €€€; glassonlakehouse.ie
The humble copper bathtub – set beside an open hearth back in the day, its filthy water shared by entire families – is the literal hotspot du jour at Cliff at Lyons in rural Celbridge, Co Kildare. The estate’s Well in the Garden Spa was always a triumph for its expert therapists, cottage-chic relaxation room and own-brand natural body and skincare products. The lack of a pool has been more than compensated for with a beautiful new outdoor thermal suite, where a pair of copper tubs sit side by side in a private garden beside an outdoor shower and sauna.
Details: €€€€; cliffatlyons.ie
Get bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after a loll around The Rabbit Hotel’s Relaxation Burrow Spa. Tucked away in Templepatrick, Co Antrim, a 20-minute drive from Belfast city, the Rabbit has a supernova spa stretched across the rooftop, with salt, sauna and steam rooms nestled in different nooks and crannies. The giant disco ball suspended over a large pool complete with swim-up bar is certainly attention-grabbing, but simple pleasures await in the many hot tubs and jet pools, as steam billows around the mezzanine area.
Details: €€; rabbithotel.com
If you go down to the woods today while at Cabü by the Lakes… you might see the resident red squirrel(s) leaping about the canopy as you repose in your very own private Japanese bath. Its woodland vantage point is just right – far enough away from the main buildings to feel immersed in nature but close enough should a scary movie, such as Eden Lake or A Quiet Place, pop into your mind. The tub itself is single-person sized and adjacent to a Hobbit-ish sauna. Pan out further and there’s a bevy of traditional hot tubs beneath a gazebo and some of the loveliest and hippest cabin accommodation in Ireland – Cabü, a very special self-catering retreat in Co Cavan’s Killykeen Forest. Read our Cabu by the Lakes review here.
Details: €€€; holidays.cabu.co.uk
Those moments when day turns to dusk turns to night become even more magical when winter slowly but surely segues into spring. And where better to enjoy the sunset than from one of Galgorm’s many, many hot tubs. In fact, the Ballymena resort’s outdoor wellness facility is so vast it’s called a Thermal Spa Village, such is the plethora of wallow-worthy pools, chill-out spaces, steams and saunas. As such there are more package options – including day passes for non-residents – than you can shake a birch branch at, some including suites with private outdoor hot tubs. Pure escapism.
Details: €€€; galgorm.com
Wicklow’s BrookLodge was an early exponent of the outdoor hot tub and little beats having a good bubble on the lawn before sloping back to your stylish room for the necessary ablutions before a certified-organic dinner at The Strawberry Tree, many ingredients of which have been foraged, or grown, on the estate. It’s not called Macreddin Village for nothing, with a spa, golf course and more cafes, delis and restaurants on site.
Details: €€€; brooklodge.com
The exquisitely curated Unique Homestays currently has five Irish rental properties on its books, two of which have outdoor baths. But arguably it’s Limehouse Cottage in middle-of-nowhere Co Kerry that has the edge, for its astonishing site beside Coomasaharn Lake and enveloped by MacGillycuddy’s Reeks. The cottage itself is a Famine-era dwelling, its renovation worthy of an interiors magazine centrefold, a glass box extension offering superlative views of the valley. Even the bathroom bathtub is special, positioned flush beside a picture-box window that opens fully. However, it’s the double-end tub carved out of stone on the lakeside that takes outdoor bathing to an almost mythical level. Read more about it in our Fab 50 list of the best places to stay in Ireland.
Details: €€€€; uniquehomestays.com
8. Center Parcs Longford Forest
Center Parcs Longford’s Subtropical Swimming Paradise gets much of the fanfare, as a 3,500sq m enclosed wonderland of swimming and paddling pools, rapids and water slides at an all-year-round temperature of 29.5˚c. But for relaxation fiends, Aqua San Spa makes the biggest splash: 2,500sq m of swish Nordic-inspired wet rooms, saunas, solaria, pools, high-tech chill zones and hot tubs with dreamy woodland views. Minimum age for spa entry is 14, while all guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult – so parents will have to draw straws as to who’s watching their child whoosh down a water slide for the umpteenth time and who’s chilling in the spa. Also note: spa access is €56pp for a three-hour session, with treatments priced separately. Read our Center Parcs Ireland review here.
Details: €€€€; centerparcs.ie
The banks of the River Moy in Ballina, Co Mayo, were always a canny spot for the Ice House, which opened during the 1990s and, three decades on, is in rude health. It recently expanded its outdoor thermal facilities with a raised deck featuring sunken outdoor tubs, plus private baths for seaweed treatment rituals – and those nourishing waterside views. Read our Ice House hotel review here.
Details: €€€; icehousehotel.ie
If you’re planning a milestone event, such as a wedding, birthday or anniversary, Cloughjordan House, in the wilds of Co Tipperary, ticks a plethora of boxes. It’s available for exclusive hire for up to 86 guests across its stately main house, coach house and dairy house, while the stylish and cosy Cow Sheds and glamping pods rock a five-star music fest vibe, the nearby wood-fired hot tub for blissing-out the body and soul.
Details: €€€; cloughjordanhouse.com
€: Budget bolthole
€€: Affordable for most
€€€: Mid-range magic
€€€€: Luxury at a fair price
€€€€€: Eye-watering, but worth the splurge
NB: This story has been updated since it first appeared online on 20/02/2022
Hidden away in the mountains, this semi-open-top bus served the London streets in the 1990s, but is now a quirky place to rest your head. Sleeping up to six, the bus has a kitchen, TV, and a cool balcony on the upper deck, as well as decking out the front.