Heidi Scrimgeour reviews – and falls in love with – the Galgorm Resort and Spa County Antrim, Northern Ireland – and reveals details of its £10m expansion in September 2015
I’ve had the privilege of reviewing a few spa hotels – it’s a definite perk of my job – but I’ve yet to find one that that I’ve loved enough to want to revisit on my own time. Until now.
By some inexplicable act of alchemy, the Galgorm Resort and Spa manages to blend the very best of spa hotel luxury with the warmest of welcomes and most down-to-earth vibe imaginable. Its setting in rural County Antrim, nestled on the banks of the River Maine, probably has something to do with it. Little wonder Irish Tatler readers recently voted it winner of their prestigious People’s Choice Award and Best Resort Spa of the Year.
There’s something about this beautiful country house hotel – nestled in 163 acres of parkland on the banks of the River Maine – that coaxes you into instant relaxation upon arrival. It might be the tranquility of the beautiful grounds and gardens, or the soothing sound of the river. It definitely helped that to know that 48 indulgent hours lay ahead of us in which our only commitments were breakfast and dinner, a full body massage, and unlimited use of the thermal spa, complete with outdoor hot tub and jacuzzi pool.
Plenty of hotels claim to welcome children, but all too often that translates as a kids menu and a Z-bed. Happily, given that our 21-month-old daughter broke her leg and was accompanying us, we discovered that the Galgorm has reset the bar for family friendly hotels. Indeed, spa hotels and toddlers are an awkward combination, but our little girl was welcomed warmly throughout the hotel, without exception. We even arrived to find a tiny pair of baby spa slippers in our room.
My husband and I took it in turns to use the thermal spa facilities – including an outdoor hot tub in a spectacular setting overlooking the river – plus indoor and outdoor pools, heated relaxation loungers, laconium, herb caldarium, aroma grotto, ice-fountain, sauna and experience showers. Enjoying the spa facilities on my own was wonderfully relaxing, but sharing the experience looks like the ultimate in couple quality time, judging by the blissed-out look of those around me. They surely can’t all have been honeymooners, so I can only assume that the magical spa setting rekindles romance.
My spa treatment massage was exquisite. A short questionnaire invites you to indicate what music (if any) you’d like in the treatment room, and whether or not you wish your therapist to make conversation, so it’s a truly relaxing, personal experience with none of the awkwardness that spa treatments sometimes invoke.
My therapist ‘prescribed’ a repeat session in a month’s time, so it seems I am destined to return…
And there’s an even more compelling reason to return to this resort; in September 2015, the Galgorm is unveiling a £10m expansion complete with an indoor and outdoor thermal spa village – the first of its kind in Ireland. I scrutinised the plans; the existing spa facilities are first-class, but the revamp is going to be something truly special.
Plus, in Gillies Bar and Grill, our food was excellent, and breakfast was an equally impressive, expansive affair featuring everything from freshly-made crepes and beautifully-prepared fresh fruit, to every kind of pastry you can think of…the kind of cooked breakfast that leaves you unable to eat for days thereafter.
Come to think of it, I’d go back for that breakfast alone.
How to get to the Galgorm Resort & Spa without flying:
The Stena Line ferry sails from Liverpool to Belfast and the Galgorm Resort and Spa is approximately 40 minutes away from Belfast by car.
The nearest train stations are Ballymena and Cullybackey.
Words: Heidi Scrimgeour for Feet on the Ground
Images: Galgorm Resort and Spa