Irish Spa Hospitality
With a comprehensive Thermal Village – fire and ice is a recurring theme – through to locally sourced produce in their restaurants, the Galgorm Resort & Spa is simply one of a kind in Northern Ireland
Review by Catherine Ferguson
I never thought I’d find myself reminded of a Padi Villa in Ubud, Bali, in the heart of County Antrim, but that’s exactly what happened last weekend. Perched on the banks of the River Maine in 163 acres of lush countryside, Galgorm Resort took me straight back to the leafy green tranquillity of the Indonesian rice fields and their equally luscious hotels.
Whilst I’ve been known to dip my toe in the waters from time to time, I’m no spa bunny, but I really was wowed by the Thermal Village: it’s absolutely huge with so many options that you’re actually issued with a much-needed map to navigate your route through “rediscovery, relaxation and rejuvenation.”
Between saunas, snail showers, hydrotherapy pools and an aroma grotto, every pore in your body can be suitably detoxed and your senses thoroughly re-awakened by a visit to the Snow Cabin, full of ice crystals and snow, designed to enhance blood circulation and lung function. I have a funny feeling that our ‘first one to leave the snow cabin buys the drinks,’ contest might have slightly detracted from its positive impact on our wellbeing, but then again, a little bit of healthy competition never hurt anybody.
Another ‘must’ is the Celtic Sauna Ritual. The only sauna experience of its kind in Ireland, Galgorm have purloined the concept from their distant Finnish cousins and have appointed Sauna Master, Jack, to lead the über-invigorating, yet calming ritual. I’ll admit to a little scepticism at first, but I was genuinely revitalised by the energising mix of heady botanicals in the log cabin sauna by the river. The Sauna Master is central to the practice, circulating the air and scents in the cabin, quite literally throwing hot air at you, then proffering a bucket of ice chips with which you’re encouraged to douse yourself. It seems fire and ice are something of a theme at Galgorm.
If all this detoxing is a little too much, there are three restaurants, ranging from a family friendly Italian to a bar and grill with local live music and a pub vibe. Opting for the River Room Restaurant, I was impressed by the host of regional suppliers listed on the menu, boasting local seafood, meats, butter, beer and even rapeseed oil. Averaging £28 for a main course, the seasonal menu was impressive, but perhaps slightly overpriced and whilst the service was flawless, it was a little intense at times. Breakfast in the River Room was a veritable feast with a view; although there were plenty of alternatives, anyone who’s anyone opted for the traditional Irish Breakfast – for the uninitiated, that’s a full English sans baked beans topped off with black pudding, potato bread and soda bread. Suffice to say, I needed a post breakfast nap.
Galgorm is truly unique in Northern Ireland, there’s simply nowhere else like it. Twenty five minutes from Belfast International Airport, half way between Belfast and the Atlantic Coast, it’s ideally located for a spa break en route to visit the Giant’s Causeway or to sample the whiskeys of Bushmills. Spring breaks start from £110 per person, including use of the Thermal Village, a three course meal with wine and a full Irish breakfast.
Enquiries: Galgorm Resort & Spa, 136 Fenaghy Road, Ballymena BT42 1EA / 028 2588 1001 / www.galgorm.com