The smell of pine needles, brine and campfire smoke released into the air as I lifted my sweater over my head, and the scents once woven into the woolen fibers now lingered faintly on my bare skin. I had spent the morning searching for sea glass along the chilled sands of Maine’s shoreline, the sounds of seagulls accompanying the rhythmic crashing of the waves as I watched my toddler fill his cup with the tiny treasures and pour the contents back out in sloppy piles along the sand.
A few sips of hot herbal tea warmed me immediately upon entering the spa, and now each scent from my clothing acted as a reminder of how I had spent the last few days of our family vacation in York County’s former fishing village, indulging in pots of sweet lobster and briny clams before shrouding ourselves in blankets during nightly campfires. I saved my ultimate indulgence for last and would soon luxuriate like an Egyptian queen in a Cleopatra-inspired treatment within the spa of Kennebunk’s quaintly opulent White Barn Inn.
The lighting was low, and the air smelled of fresh rainwater despite the low-burning fire glowing in the fireplace of the spacious treatment room. The White Barn Inn’s spa specializes in both Eastern and Western wellness rituals, and the spa’s signature upscale Maine sensibilities paint a cozy backdrop for everything from 90-minute Japanese reiki treatments and Native American raindrop therapies to hydrating wraps and river stone massages using stones from the Kennebunk River. However, it’s the Cleopatra Milk and Honey Ritual most guests choose when seeking an ethereal experience at the spa.
The ritual was inspired by the Queen of the Nile’s own beauty routines, rumored to have included “the milk of 700 donkeys” for bathing after “invigorating her skin” with salt mined in caves or harvested from the sea. The White Barn Inn Spa’s version of the ritual is a bit more refined than the Queen’s habits (no donkey milk), and an elegant, infinity-edge soaking tub acts as the centerpiece for this three-tiered treatment that takes place all in one room.
The experience begins with a gentle exfoliation with mineral-rich sea salt and local Maine honey to gently remove dead skin cells and soften the skin. All of the naturally occurring magnesium and potassium from the sea salt help to reduce any inflammation and improve the skin’s hydration, while the honey helps the skin to absorb and retain moisture, repairing any damaged skin cells. A quick rinse is all it takes before heading to the next step of the treatment, where a warm bath infused with rich and creamy milk awaits. Flickering tea candles line the tub as the milky-white water gently trickles over the rim of the infinity-edge tub.
Cleopatra may have been the first to discover the benefits of bathing in a tub of milk, but she was far from the last. Long the secret beauty ritual of numerous English queens, Broadway starlets and Roman empresses, it continues as a tradition in many parts of India and beyond … including Maine’s White Barn Inn. The fat and proteins in the milk are intensely hydrating for the skin; the lactic acid in the liquid provides ample benefits after a long and relaxing soak. There’s no need to rinse off after leaving the tub, and a toweled pathway guides guests to a plush massage table for the final portion of the experience.
Therapists use hot river stones harvested from the Kennebunk River as the final touch for fully releasing any remaining soreness from guests’ muscles as raindrops of Manuka essential oils help the stones glide smoothly over the moisturized canvas. The entire treatment lasts 90 minutes and provides plenty of time for guests to enjoy the other amenities (fireplace and raindrop shower, among others) of the spacious spa suite.
The entire inn recently underwent a renovation in which New York design firm Jenny Wolf Interiors updated each of the 27 guestrooms and cottages throughout the property with a rustic yet modern motif. Spaces are luxuriously cozy, with Fermoie lampshades and Gustavian-style pieces creating a breezy ambiance while sumptuous throw blankets from local Maine-based Evangeline prove perfect for snuggling at the end of the day.
The spa itself received a fresh coat of paint to pair with its seasonal and year-round offerings, like its popular Spa Date Night that includes a 90-minute custom therapeutic massage for two and exclusive access to the couple’s spa treatment suite after the massage to either enjoy the infinity-edge soaking tub and raindrop shower or simply to lounge by the fireplace with a glass of sparkling wine and an assortment of canapés and chocolate- covered strawberries selected by the chef of the inn.