European Sauna Traditions Warm Stones (& Hearts) on Brighton Beach
An authentic Finnish sauna experience may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Brighton but thanks to entrepreneurs and sauna pioneers Liz Watson and Katie Bracher that’s exactly what’s on offer at Brighton’s unique Beach Box spa. Set on a secluded area of Brighton beach Beach Box is an all year round, wood-fired sauna created from a beautifully converted horse trailer, with the English Channel as plunge pool.
The pair originally conceived Beach Box as a Brighton Fringe event in 2018 and hired a sauna to run it. But, Beach Box quickly built up a loyal clientele and proved so popular that they decided to build their own wood-fired sauna from an old horse box and create a semi-permanent home at Sea Lanes on Brighton’s Madeira Drive. Since moving to its new home the sauna has been operating at full capacity every weekend and its popularity means it’s already looking to expand.
Speaking about the popularity of Beach Box and their ambitious expansion plans, co-founder and former homeopath Liz Watson said:
“We’re delighted that our passion to bring authentic sauna culture experiences to the UK has found such a receptive audience. We thought that people were ready for it, but it has exceeded our expectations. In general spa and sauna culture in the UK is either exclusive and overpriced, or low quality and inauthentic, a sweaty box stuck in a gym changing room. People don’t understand or feel comfortable with using sauna facilities and we really wanted to change that.’
“What we’re creating at Beach Box is accessible, quality sauna facilities based around European models that provide an authentic experience. Our current sauna holds 7 and we are building a 2nd larger capacity sauna for 15 people. Our vision is to create a sauna village on our beach site, where people can connect with their bodies and nature, whilst providing a new way to relax and socialise.”
Both Katie and Liz are well placed to lead this British revolution into sauna culture as the pair have undertaken extensive research and travelled widely to discover and learn about the best European traditions. Katie Bracher is also co-founder of the British Sauna Society and has worked on several sauna projects in the UK, including one as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
Talking about why they were inspired to develop Beach Box Katie said:
“One of the key things is that we want people to have a really good quality and authentic sauna experience. We offer all of the elements that you would expect to find in a Finnish/European sauna from essential oils, to traditional ‘Vihta’ or ‘Venik’ which are bunches of birch branches for ‘whisking’ a gentle form of in-sauna massage. It’s these things along with the good ‘löyly’ (steam) and the wonderful views from inside the sauna that makes our experience special.”
She continues: “People come out of the sauna feeling relaxed and renewed and many say that they’ve not really experienced that amazing post-sauna feeling before. It is different to anything else they’ve tried.”
Visitor Jirshari Grossl reviewed her experience on Facebook:
“I absolutely loved it. Very nice and relaxing, sauna by the beach…it is a fantastic location with the best costumer service. I learned a lot about the finish sauna culture and left completely relaxed and renewed. It was like having a 2 hours express holidays. I totally recommend it.”
Visitors can also add extras to their sauna such as home-made salt body scrubs. It is also possible to book a ‘guided sauna’ with a ‘Sauna Master’ who will introduce guests to sauna use and its benefits, followed by a range of in-sauna treatments which can include natural body scrubs, face masks, body masks, leaf whisking and salt inhalations.
Beach Box visitor, Jane said:
“Fabulous little gem on Madeira Drive, we used salt to scrub ourselves clean and birch twigs as a whisk. The view from the sauna is lovely, watch the waves while you sweat.”
As part of its plan to become a destination for sauna aficionados and a hub for sauna culture, Beach Box will be hosting two special weekend events in May. On Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th May LöylyMasters from Belguim alongside Dr Steve Lewis will perform the energetic German sauna style called “Aufguss” in the new, larger sauna. On the weekend of May 31st and Jun 1st highly intuitive Lithuanian bathmaster, Birutė Lenktytė-Masiliauskienė will create a relaxing sauna using natural products, aromas, foods and leaf whisking to create a gentle and meditative space. Tickets can be purchased from the Brighton Fringe website.
Beach Box looks set to become a permanent attraction for Brighton as it fits perfectly with the growing movement around healthier lifestyles and alternative ways to boost wellbeing. Between them Liz and Katie have created a little piece of authentic sauna heaven on Brighton beach.
To find out more or book a session visit https://www.beachboxspa.co.uk and follow on social media @beachboxbtn.