VOYA is a journey that began in 1912 when the first seaweed baths opened in Strandhill, Co. Sligo, Ireland. Seaweed bathing is a 300-year-old tradition and Ireland's only indigenous therapy. The last of these traditional original bathhouses were destroyed in September 1961 by the worst hurricane to ever reach Ireland's shores, Hurricane Debbie. After this many people moved away from the coastal areas and moved towards the larger, densely populated cities and as bath began a norm in people's homes, the old bath houses remained closed.
VOYA reopened its seaweed bath spa in Strandhill in 2000 and is today one of the busiest spas in Ireland.
Since they opened, Strandhill's baths have received enthusiastic guests from all over the world. Over 40,000 visitors travel to Strandhill every year to rejuvenate their body and souls in the beautiful surroundings and settle in a VOYA seaweed bath, which has made Strandhill a travel destination and one of the most popular landmarks in the West of Ireland.
Strandhill is everything. It is an old-world village of friendly people; it is Knocknarea; Maeve's mystic mountain, and it is the Strand washed by the white-maned breakers of the Atlantic
Dr Canon Thomas Anthony Finnegan - 1978
The late Michael Walton, known to his friends and family as Mick was one of the original forces behind the organic farming movement in Ireland. Mick has the harvesting license for the seaweed on the west of coast of Ireland as he used the seaweed on the land to fertilise his award-winning crops. Mick’s passion of all things seaweed based was instilled in his children and would spark a passion within them which would lead to the creation of VOYA.
Neil Walton, Mark's brother has been passionate about sports from a very early age. The competitive instinct was sown when Mick introduced 11-year-old Neil to long distance running. Father and son quickly became a well-known competitive duo on the west coast. Neil then went on to become a triathlete and has represented Ireland in several European and International competitions.
Neil tested seaweed bathing on himself and was completely overwhelmed when he felt the effect it had on him in terms of speeding up muscle recovery and detoxification between events. This originally kick-started Neil's exploration of the business of seaweed bathing, a journey that would lead to Neil and Mick Walton reopening the first new seaweed baths in years, initially named the Celtic Seaweed Baths
From the very start, the Walton family have been conscious of preserving the tradition that is sustainable seaweed harvesting, strongly respecting their environment and its precious flora and fauna.
Meet Mark & Kira Walton, the husband and wife co-founders behind VOYA Organic Beauty. Over 12 years ago this couple decided to trade in their hectic corporate careers for the quieter, slower pace of the West Coast of Ireland. Mark holds a Master’s degree in Law and I.T but was working in investment banking as a business strategist when the company he worked for closed due to the economic downturn and he decided to make the move home. Kira, originally from Meath, was working as a creative illustrator in Dublin when the couple first met. Migrating west to scenic Co. Sligo, Mark naturally joined the family business. This business happened to be a traditional seaweed bathing house which was established by Mark’s brother Neil Walton, in Strandhill village in 2000. And in a lovely twist, subsequently Kira’s sister Bernice and Mark's brother Neil fell in love and have a family.
As the popularity of the baths grew and grew, the Walton family found more customers asking if there was some way they could replicate the soothing effects of a VOYA spa experience at home. In 2006, Mark and Kira Walton launched a retail seaweed bath which then led to further skincare and body care lines, evolving into range that now includes over 50 products, from advanced organic facial products for specific skin concerns to home fragrances; giving clients the power to emulate a full spa experience at home. VOYA was one of the first companies to produce certified organic seaweed cosmetics for over a decade.
The brand has grown from strength to strength, through economic turbulent climates over the last 12 years with Mark and Kira at its core. The duo have brought wellness into the workplace with yoga and meditation classes for their employees. Embracing the west coast quality of life, the importance of laughter, family and friends combined with a relentless hunger and drive in a team that strives for ‘a better way’ is key to the success of this business.
'There must be a better way’
Mark and Kira Walton