Helping mind, body and spirit at the Little House of Avalon

A holistic approach to well-being, one which focuses on body, mind and spirit, is the bedrock on which the Little House of Avalon in Taughmaconnell has been built, and which has seen the House engage with a growing number of clients in a professional and discreet manner over the past ten years. In mythology, Avalon is an island surrounded in mystery, the place where Excalibur was forged and the legendary resting place of King Arthur. Meaning ‘the Garden of Apples’, it is a mythological version of Tír na nÓg, a place of rest, relaxation, youthfulness and beauty. I ask Bearnairdin Ní Góibniu how she found the cottage in Taughmaconnell. ‘By closing my eyes over the map of Ireland and putting my finger down. I said I would find a place within 30 miles of the spot and gave myself five days. I found this on the second.’ That was November 1997 and now the Little House of Avalon has evolved into a beautiful and sumptuous set of treatment rooms for a range of therapies. ‘When I came here, there was nothing, it was painted white and black and there was an ugly wall surrounding the house. There were no neighbours but the birds were singing, so I decided it would be a good spot.’ ‘I went back to Germany where I was living at that time and packed up and flew to South Africa to pick up my fiance. We got married and came back here together and started renovating. Four months later the couple opened for business. The first B&B guests stayed in one of the rooms in the small bungalow. Bearnairdin is a qualified lab technician. She worked at that for a time in Switzerland, before going on to work in a private hospital in a ski resort in Switzerland. Patients of the doctor she worked for included Richard Burton and Sofia Loren and Bearnairdin describes her time there as ‘very interesting’! Her next career move saw her take to the skies and she spent many years as a cabin crew supervisor. While doing that work, she began to build up a practice in complementary health at home. Initially, her interest in complementary health was stimulated by her grandparents, who always used natural products where possible and advised against going to the doctor unless necessary. After this initial prompt, Bearnairdin went on to undertake a wide range of courses in complementary therapy, studying in Japan and India, among other places. In India, she became interested in Ayurveda, an Indian healthcare medicine which focuses on prevention rather than cure, on who a person is physically, mentally and emotionally. Bearnairdin adds to that elements incorporating the appropriate herbs, oil, nutrition, food and exercise. Bearnairdin describes Ayurveda as a way of life. ‘Not only does the body become detoxed, helping it to heal itself, but it helps the immune system.’ The Little House of Avalon has been transformed in recent months and earlier this month a new suite of rooms for guests was opened. The extension incorporates new guest suites, treatment rooms and relaxation areas and it is designed to work in harmony with the five shakras or energy centres of the body. For example, the yellow room is used by people that come for body cleansing packages, especially in relation to the liver, pancreas and spleen, while those with headaches or sleeping difficulties use the lilac room. Guests can also enjoy the facilities of the open plan lounge, perfect for reading or meeting fellow guests during the evening soirees hosted by Bearnairdin and her husband Anthony for residential guests. Upstairs, there is a large treatment area for Balneo (water) treatments. All of the products used are organic, such as seaweed from Donegal and LaPhyto clay products from France and products are also tailored to suit the individual’s colour therapy needs and bio rhythms. A sample day for guests at the Little House of Avalon begins at 8.45 am, with exercise before breakfast. Guests can choose from a range of exercise aimed at muscle relaxation. This is followed by a healthy breakfast, including freshly baked bread. After that, guests can chose their first treatment of the day. Following the treatment, they can choose to read or maybe use the sauna, hot tub or infra red box before lunch. The afternoon usually consists of a second treatment, while afterwards, guests can relax or go for a walk or a bicycle ride, or explore the library. Dinner is served at 7 pm, usually two or three home cooked courses. On Saturdays, sometimes a harpist or other musician entertains guests for a time and guests usually retire between 10 pm and 11 pm. There are lots of treatments to choose from. For example, you could opt for Rayner massage therapy, which is done on an intuitive basis working four approaches, Shiatsu, Thai, reflexology and aromatherapy simultaneously. The Five Tigers facial is the most sumptuous of the facials on offer, and is done with special reference to a person’s date of birth and time of birth, where known. If you’re worried about wrinkles or teeth discolouration, this can be looked after with natural products. Semi permanent make-up is available and proves especially popular with people who have lost their eyebrows. The services on offer at the Little House of Avalon are often enjoyed by cancer patients, especially post-operative female breast cancer patients. The House offers a MedEscape facility, whose patron is Dr. Scharf, a gynaecologist who has signed off many of the treatments for use for post-operative cancer and chemotherapy patients. ‘Here we provide a safe and discreet space for everyone,’ said Bearnairdin. Bearnairdin is joined on the team by her husband Anthony Smith and registered nurse Alice Holmen, with each person having different specialities and qualifications. Another innovative element at the Little House of Avalon is the design, which is completely eco-friendly. Ten solar panels on the roof supply hot water for the House and this is supplemented by two turbines and Hercules, the stove in the sitting room, which is the final link in the heating chain. Bearnairdin notes with approval that Hercules can feed all 23 radiators in the house. ‘Altogether we are quite self-sufficient. The electricity we have is from the wind turbines. Otherwise, we have electricity from energia and eirtricity. We have our own well and have excellent water.’ If you want to avail of the wide range of treatments at the Little House of Avalon, whether as a residential guest or a day guest, call Bearnairdin in The Little House of Avalon, on (090) 96 83002, email or visit the website on