Just finding the place deserves a reward. Where exactly is Kilcullen's Seaweed Baths? Approaching from Sligo, head for Inishcrone; from Ballina, look out for the signs to Enniscrone.

How could one small town on the northwest coast of the Irish republic have the confusing luxury of two names. Nobody could offer an explanation. And having arrived at this schizophrenic seaside centre, there are no signposts to direct you to the seafront emporium.

Entering the plain white building alongside the small pier, you step into a bygone world of hissing pipes, bold brass taps and seven-feet-long baths, each weighing half a ton, and each in a private cubicle.

It all dates from 1912 when Edward Kilcullen, a local farmer who had hitherto been content to put seaweed on his land as fertiliser, decided that if it was good enough for his spuds, it was good enough to bathe in.

Sharing a bath with a drop of the green stuff is supposedly good for curing arthritis and rheumatism, and promoting a sense of well-being. Seaweed baths were popular throughout Ireland in the early year of the century, Enniscrone alone having two bathhouses. Whether or not an unpleasant, and it must be surmised, a rather pungent seaweed war broke out in the seaweed centre of Sligo, only Kilcullen's is left today.

Nowadays, the Kilcullen family collect their seaweed daily from the adjoining Killala Bay, steam it under high compression, fill a tub with hot seawater and a bucketful of seaweed and let you soak in it for up to half an hour, allowing the oils to seep into your skin. And all for six punts.

For an extra punt, you can enter a Spanish Inquisitionesque wooden hand-powered steambox, and sweat away any impurities before immersing yourself in the weed.

Somewhat surprisingly, you are not immediately savaged by rampant seagulls the minute you leave the building, the whole sequence of events being auspiciously odour-free.

After a lean spell in recent years, seaweed bathing is on the up again and the Kilcullens are hoping to open year round.

Kilcullen's Seaweed Baths Enniscrone (or Inishcrone]) Co Sligo, Ireland (010 353 96 36238). Noon-9pm daily but from 1 Nov-1 May Sat, Sun & Bank holidays, noon - 8pm.

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