Feel the heat: the Northern Irish beach that’s embracing Scandinavian sauna culture

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The Finnish-style Hotbox is making waves on Benone Strand but Ireland has its own tradition of therapeutic ‘sweathouses’. Plus six more stylish beach saunas, from Shetland to Sussex

It’s a late-October afternoon at Benone Strand on the Causeway Coast in County Derry, and the low sun is collapsing between wedges of dense cloud. There’s empty beach as far as the eye can see, apart from the odd horse-rider galloping through the shallows. My boyfriend and I are in swim shorts on the hard sand, despite the temperature being in single figures. But we’re not shivering. Not at all. We’ve just boiled our bones in the Finnish-style Hotbox sauna perched at the water’s edge.

We sprint into the sea to cool off and a shriek or two later are back inside to restart the hot-cold cycle, our hearts pumping as we take a seat on the wooden bench. As I ladle water on to the stones for a satisfying sizzle, the sauna’s rectangular window affords a mesmerising framed view of the waves, the horizon and the darkening sky. This juxtaposition is powerful: an instant hit of happiness.

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