It’s not everyday that someone invites you to visit the Hebrides, let alone to go harvesting seaweed. Jumping at the chance, I travelled North, courtesy of new spa brand ishga (which means water in Gaelic) to the remote island of Lewis. Landing in Stornoway, I knew I was somewhere very different. The landscape is a touch barren, wildly beautiful and captured my heart in an instant.
I was given a guided tour by Malcolm Macrae and Martin Macleod, directors of ishga and lifelong residents of the islands. Visiting key sites where the natural ingredients are sourced, we stopped by the natural mineral well where the healing waters are drawn – it’s a secret location and my lips are sealed. We then headed down to one of the vast lochs to try my hand on one of the mechanical harvesters. ishga has an exclusive licence to harvest seaweed in the Hebrides signed with the Crown Estate, and does so in a sustainable method. Hand harvesting is a major part of the business too.
So on a still loch, I fired up the engines, was given a quick lesson in the controls and was let loose. I got the hang of the paddle controls quickly and then set to collecting some seaweed. the mechanical method trims a small section of the marine plant from the top which ensures its not only sustainable, but that regrowth occurs within a year. The Hebrides are huge and the seaweed stock is vast.
The weather soon turned a bit rough, so we headed off to the seaweed factory to witness the final stages of the process – cleaning, drying and milling to end up with the finished product. It’s this that is used to extract the potent polyphenols used in the ishga spa skincare. Formulated by Malcolm Macrae with assistance from his beauty expert wife, Joanna, the spa range is Hebridean through and through from inception to philosophy and production. It launched in Blythswood Square Spa in Glasgow, which is where I returned to that evening, to try the treatments after my Hebridean adventure. Bathing in seaweed was an experience like no other, surprisingly relaxing, it’s said to be detoxing and remineralising too. I then had the ishga facial and can report my face was glowing and looked refreshed and rather fabulous.
I will be reporting more on the brand and will deliver a full spa report on Blythswood Square too – as it’s quite impressive.