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HomeFeaturesSeaside saunas gain popularity across UK thanks to Covid pandemic

Seaside saunas gain popularity across UK thanks to Covid pandemic


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Seaside saunas were once just a distant dream, until 2018. Nowadays, strolling along a beach in one of the UK’s main resorts might lead one to encounter a converted horse box offering head and steam as a refuge from gloomy skies and chilly winds.

“Once you get down in the sea up to your neck, it sets off the endorphins in your body,” said Fidgeon

In Ireland, the Covid-19 pandemic launched a surge in sea swimming as a bracing escape from lockdowns. Mobile saunas became a post-Covid “add-on,” according to Deirdre Flavin, who operates several along the Waterford coast, towing them to beaches by car.

At sandy Clonea beach on Ireland’s rugged Atlantic coast, the 52-year-old artist talks about how alternating between the sauna and the icy seawater invigorates her, making her feel “incredibly alive.”

“After a dip in the sea up to your neck, the endorphins really kick in,” Fidgeon explained, wrapping herself in a dry robe and sandals before entering the barrel-shaped sauna stationed on wheels above the beach.

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In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, sea-swimming experienced a surge as a liberating escape from lockdowns in Ireland. Mobile saunas emerged as a post-Covid addition, according to Deirdre Flavin, who operates several along the Waterford coast, towing them to beaches by car.

“The market is expanding, awareness is growing, and people are embracing the experience and returning for more,” she noted, stoking the sauna’s stove with wooden logs.

Beyond their health benefits, Flavin emphasized how these cozy retreats offer solace in Ireland’s harsh and often damp climate, allowing people to comfortably sea-swim year-round by warming up in the sauna afterward.

Further along the southern coast in County Cork, customers at another sauna hailed its stress-relieving properties and its role in aiding post-exercise recovery.

“A lot of the lads in the hurling team enjoy the combination of water and sauna—it’s become a ritual for teams,” said 20-year-old student Rory O’Callaghan, referring to the traditional Irish sport.

Sauna owner Bronwyn Connolly, who suffers from arthritis, found relief in the sauna and cold water during the pandemic when indoor spaces were closed. As interest from sports teams and corporate groups grew, she expanded her operation, creating larger saunas for communal gatherings.

Reflecting on the trend, Connolly noted how Irish people are shifting towards wellness-driven activities over alcohol-centric ones.

The resurgence of beach saunas echoes an ancient Irish sauna culture dating back to the 1600s, known as the “sweathouse.”. Remnants of these stone structures, used for medicinal purposes, dot the Irish countryside.

Yoga instructor Carol Ni Stasaigh and her husband, Dara Kissane, named their sea sauna on the County Wexford coast “Sweathouse,” paying homage to this tradition.

“It’s an old Irish tradition. It’s really lovely to be part of something that is old and Irish. It’s magical and quite close to my heart,” shared Fidgeon, reflecting on the historical connection of her sauna experience.

Saunas also help heal arthritis. According to the British Sauna Society, there are now approximately 70 such saunas operating in the UK, predominantly located at beaches or lakes, fueled by the rising popularity of wild swimming and healthy lifestyles.


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