Helen McGurk unwinds and gets back to nature at Finn Lough Resort in Co Fermanagh
So, here I am floating in a large concrete-like tank of warm, super-salty water, my head resting on an inflatable pillow, drippy new-age music thankfully absent from the serene scene.
The water isn’t deep, a foot, maybe, but I feel slightly anxious at first as, firstly, I can’t swim, and secondly, I am completely starkers!
However, the door is locked on the inside and I soon relax - my limbs get lighter, my thoughts get looser, and I soon feel as weightless as a whisper.
I am staying, with my family, at Finn Lough Resort in beautiful Co. Fermanagh and doing the two-hour self-guided Elements trail through the forest spa.
The receptionist at the spa is warm and friendly, her demeanour immediately soothing, much like the water I was about to be immersed in.
And so, bestowed with aqua shoes (necessary for walking over the forest floor), water flask, and a rather exuberantly patterned robe, I embark on my spa adventure through the sun-dappled woods.
The first stop on the trail is the float room, a utilitarian, wooden-clad building, where the focus is on wellbeing, rather than frilly design flourishes and whale music.
I was told I could wear my bathing suit in the tank, but the Epsom salts in the water can sometimes damage the fabric, so I opted for my birthday suit and felt like a bathouse-loving Roman as I took to the waters (after a shower, of course).
Flotation and hydrotherapy have been much lauded for their health benefits. The calm induced by the lack of gravity and the absence of worldly distractions is said to help restore our chemical and metabolic balance. After 20 languorous minutes on the water I felt unbelievably relaxed, my lower back pain lessened, my mood as mellow as yellow.
After the satisfyingly soporific effect of the float room it was onto the lake sauna, a Finnish-style affair with steps straight down into the water, should you decide to take a cold plunge after the heat, and a floor-to-ceiling window that frames a stunning view of the glistening lake - Finn Lough literally means ‘the Fair Lake’ and never has a name been so apt.
Finn Lough aim to time the Elements trail so guests have each spa facility to themselves - sadly this means there is no one to slap me with a damp birch leaf in the Finnish sauna, but gladly it means not having to make small talk with a stranger in 70 degree Celsius heat.
I am too namby-pamby for the sensory assault of a dip in the lake, but do take a cold outdoor shower and feel freezing, but in a good-to-be-alive kind of way.
I warm up in the herbal sauna, which uses the aromatherapy of herbs found in the local area, including heather, rosemary and birch, then it’s off to the lakeside outdoor hot tub, which is a magical experience.
The bliss factor is ramped up as I bob about in the bubbles, with only bird song for company, and two swans in the distance who, heads dipped below water, look like giant poached eggs.
Finn Lough Resort is probably best known for its quirky, transparent bubble domes, but as these are adult-only accommodation, we opted to stay in one of luxury lakeside lodges. Wow. Just wow. It’s the sort of place you want to take up full-time residence in, with interior design straight from a glossy home style magazine.
Split over three levels, the three-bedroom lodge is the epitome of design panache.
My children loved the fact that the kitchen is upstairs, with a huge floor-to-ceiling window giving awe-inspiring views of the lake. At night we experienced a true Kodak moment as a full moon spilt a beam of light on the water, creating a giant glowing exclamation mark.
The kitchen is kitted out with every conceivable gadget you could require during your stay, including a nifty Nespresso machine for fresh coffee, a large island with industrial-style stools and a great family-sized dining table.
There are wooden floors throughout, giving a beachy, Scandi feel, two stylish bathrooms, a balcony and patio doors that lead out onto your own garden, and down to the reed-fringed lake.
The eye-pleasing living-room has comfy sofas with colourful cushions, a wood-burning stove, large arched floor lamp, and quirky, arty additions like a fishing rod on the wall
If you enjoy the spirit-restoring nature of nature, then Finn Lough is the place for you. We loved the woodland walks (though this may not be for the mud adverse), there are also bike trails, or you can simply sit by the lake and drink in the beautiful surroundings.
The owners of the resort, brother and sister duo Michael and Gillian Beare, have thought of everything. There are so many nice, clever touches at Finn Lough, such as the seats dotted around the lake, with fire pits and boxes containing blankets, should the weather kick up - we were there over Easter and blessed with sunshine.
There are also a range of activities on offer, including watersports, fishing and cycling.
My other half and 10-year-old daughter Maria had great fun on a Hobie pedal craft - a type of kayak which hails from California.
They loved exploring the vast waters of the lake with its scattering of islands, sandy bays and river inlets, whilst my landlubbing son and I explored the idyllic surroundings - he was particularly intrigued by an old red telephone box in the grounds.
And when the ‘owl and the pussy cat’ returned from their kayaking, it was time for dinner.
Finn Lough has its own restaurant, The Kitchen, serving Instagram-worthy food, with a firm focus on local, seasonal produce.
There is also The Snug, for less formal, lunchtime dining. But as we were staying on a self-catering basis, we decided to nip into nearby Belleek for a pizza - it’s about 15 minutes away, as is Kesh, in the other direction.
Back at base , I decided to check out the bar and lounge area, which has been designed with impeccable taste - an antique grandfather clock looms large, classy artworks adorn the walls and coffee-table tomes line the bookshelves.
The bar boasts an extensive gin menu and the friendly barman created a cocktail so delicious, I can still taste it.
I moved from the bar area to the darkly-painted lounge and, curled up in a leather Chesterfield armchair quaffing the juniper-flavoured spirit from a bulbous glass, and felt as placid as the lake outside.
Occasionally you find a place so utterly sublime, you want to rave about it to everyone, but you also want to keep it all to yourself because it is just so special - Finn Lough Resort is one of the places. The staff are charming, the accommodation is second to none, the surroundings are the stuff of holiday fantasies - and best of all, it’s right here in Northern Ireland.
*The Lakeside Lodges start at £185 per night (based on two guests occupancy), self-catering. For more information contact Finn Lough on 028 683 80360, email:email@example.com