Continuing our tour of reviewing some of the best UK luxury hotels and spas, we found ourselves just outside Belfast, in a town called Galgorm. Rural and picturesque, it was the perfect retreat after visiting the Giant’s Causeway, and splashing our way about in the sea around it. We were so pleased to be asked to stay here, and our welcome was so lovely. Asking us about our visit, they noted how our next venue visit wasn’t until the next afternoon, and offered us a complimentary late check out. Totally amazing, as there is so much to do there, and we were desperate to cram it all in.
Set in 163 acres of parkland, and with the spectacular River Maine streaming through it with all its rapid-like goodness, it truly is a resort. With its variety of buildings, restaurants, spa facilities, and activities, you are spoilt for choice. It was the spectacular setting, and view from our superior double room, that instantly made us excited by the sheer tranquility of it all. So we did whatever any respectable couple does when they arrive, exhausted, into a beautiful bedroom in a luxury hotel….had a cup of tea.
There are various levels of room available at the 75-bedroom hotel. They range from elegant suites and classic rooms, all the way to cottages and log cabins. Our spacious, tastefully decorated bedroom led on from a small entrance area with wardrobe space, to the large comfortable bed and small seating area. The bathroom upon first reflection was very well designed, very luxurious in appearance, and had all the amenities that you’d expect. With both bath and shower, it also showcased some very lovely Aromatherapy associates toiletries, a nod to the spa below that utilizes the well-established brand for their treatments. However, it should be noted that quality was slightly poor with wobbly sinks and toilets, and a loose fitting shower that essential maintenance and cleaning checks should indeed have picked up upon. The cleanliness however, it can be said, was exceptional.
With dinner booked in one of the three restaurants, we had been booked into the spa downstairs for an early massage. Robes are provided in your room so you can wallow in the luxurious feeling of pacing around the hotel corridors in what is essentially a fluffy towel like a superstar.
The spa, in all its splendor, is truly lovely. It accommodates all tastes and all sorts of treatments. For the more traditional among us there are massages and facials in abundance, and for the more feminine types there are a variety of beauty options. Men are not put off the by environment, as they divide the treatments into different settings. The general areas and treatment rooms are reminiscent of tranquil style soothing decorations, with a hint of Thai styling, but juxtaposition with modern paintings. There are refreshments and fruity snacks available to wait with, and a questionnaire ensures your needs, as well as gives choices for music to have treatments by. There is a fabulously designed area by the shop that is gloriously feminine, and not to be ignored is the upstairs ‘boudoir’. The boudoir is an area specifically made for groups and events. It’s great for birthdays, hen-do’s, and bridal parties getting ready for their big-day. We loved the idea of maintaining the quiet of the spa by giving these large groups their own area, similarly, it gives groups the amenities and attention they need when indulging in the luxury of a spa-retreat.
Moving into our own treatment rooms, we glimpsed the ‘Paris suite’, a double room especially for couples to have their massages and herbal soaks side by side. We didn’t remain envious for long, as we went into our separate massages, we were whisked away into a world of calm by our expert masseuses. The half hour hot-stone back massage is a veritable treat, and focuses on you holistically, or indeed on problem areas. After, in the relaxation room, sipping our lemon sorbets and whispering, Mr Biscuit and I discussed the treatments, and whilst I had a more gentle experience, and enjoyed the soothing oils and pressure of the stones, he had a more intensive massage that helped his tense shoulders, which is what he needed.
With a new spring in our step, we retired to the thermal spa itself. An experience in itself, it is very well equipped, and all guests of the hotel have free access. The list of things to do is almost endless, and with a useful map with ‘recommended route’, my husband and I tried our best at being spa savvy. Starting with the hydrotherapy pool, for a brief swim and its many water jets, pads and mats for your continued massage needs, we spotted the outside hot tub with its views of the river rapids. From there, we sped in the breezy air to the outside Jacuzzi pool, where we bopped about luxuriously and admired the adorable mushrooms that had popped up all over the lawn making it feel like a fairy garden.
Inside, there are a variety of sauna and steam style rooms, including a laconium, herb caldarium, and a sauna grotto, whilst the ice fountain and experience showers help you maintain the temperature you need. We finished our tour of the spa with the heated relaxation loungers, holding hands, and with a contented grin.
As noted before, the resort offers a variety of restaurants, which we thought was great, as if you were staying a few nights, its not like you’d be bored! The River room is the 2 AA rosette winning culinary delight, whilst Gillies bar and grill, is more of a burger and steak kind of place, bringing a pub atmosphere in most weekends with live music. We however, opted for Fratelli’s Italian. A fresh and modern restaurant serving great pizza, indulgent pasta, and rustic salads. We enjoyed a crisp reasonably priced bottle of wine with our meal, starting with an almost tapas inspired selection. Rich meatballs, and spicy prawns, both soaked up with fresh garlic dough-balls were an absolute delight. In fact, by the time our handmade pizza, and steak with salad came out, we were really quite full. The nice thing about the relaxed atmosphere of the place was that they offered to box up any remaining pizza to take to your room, which we would have done, had we not chosen literally the spiciest pizza in the land. Totally our fault however, it’s not like they didn’t tell us it was like that! Taking our time to enjoy the ambience, we were asked if we’d like to sample a dessert also, and with enough rest time, and a cheeky look at the fridge, we ordered tiramisu. Desserts here are small, which we really liked. It was the perfect amount to enjoy with a coffee, in true Italian style, and the chilled delight did not disappoint.
We had the perfect nights sleep, especially knowing we had the luxury of the late check-out. So we literally pottered down to breakfast (held in the Gillies dining area), instead of ordering in our room, as we heard the Galgorm breakfast was something to behold. In a buffet style, it was literally the largest selection of breakfast foods we’d ever seen. Tea and toast is brought to your table, and plate in hand, you venture off to the side-rooms to choose from cooked items, continental tables, freshly baked pastries, and waffles galore. The fresh fruit wonders are great, and the fruit juices lovely. Highly recommended, and perfect before a day of travelling.
With its luxury amenities, woodland river setting, comfortable rooms, and spectacular spa, The Galgorm Resort is County Antrim’s star venue, and not to be missed!
Images, aside from first, courtesy of Galgorm Resort and Spa- www.galgorm.com/