GG and I spent a wonderful few days in Galgorm Resort and Spa in blue skies and pleasant weather the week before the Beast from the East arrived. Recognised as Northern Ireland’s premier luxury hotel and spa (and one of Ireland’s leading spas as well), it’s a 30-minute drive from Belfast and is just outside Ballymena in County Antrim.
Galgorm is reached by a long winding drive and the hotel looks like a country house as you first approach it. It’s set in 163 acres of lush parkland and the River Maine cascades noisily down one side while the sun glistened on the glass of a domed roof as we arrived. It’s also very close to the stunning North Antrim Coast and a day spent exploring its attractions will be the subject of a future post.
We were welcomed by the splendidly dressed doorman Paul who brought in our bags and then parked the car out of sight. Roaring fires greeted us in the rooms on either side as we entered the large reception area.
As we were staying in a deluxe room, we were whisked away to a separate reception where we were offered a refreshing water and tiny cones filled with something deliciously lemony as we checked in.
Galgorm’s outstanding Serenity Garden
Our room overlooking the thermal village was lovely, with a really comfortable large bed and high-quality linen bedding. The bathroom had a large bath and separate walk-in shower with high quality spa toiletries. Robes and slippers for the Thermal Village were delivered daily. A coffee machine and a fridge stocked with complimentary wine, craft beer, water and soft drinks are all part of this room’s package.
As part of the Deluxe Room package, we had our breakfasts in ‘The River Room’ where we helped ourselves to an array of prepared fresh fruits, yogurts, cheeses, meats and much more and then chose our made-to-order cooked breakfasts. Eggs prepared in various ways, pancakes, the famous Ulster fry, kippers etc. were all on offer.
Self-service breakfast was also served in ‘Gillies’, a buzzy, more casual dining setting, where a huge array of foods awaited. Some of the guests I talked to preferred the larger choice there rather than the waiter service in ‘The River Room’. I had a little peep for this post and thought the food looked wonderful, with the huge variety of breads on offer particularly appealing.
In addition to ‘Gillies’, where we had dinner on our first night, and ‘The River Room’, where we had one dinner and two breakfasts, Galgorm also has ‘Fratelli Ristorante Pizzeria & Bar’ on site, an Italian-style eatery which, like ‘Gillies’, is frequented by locals as well as guests. The food was excellent in every way, particularly dinner in the intimate River Room where we sat overlooking the river, watching the lights glisten on the water.
As you would expect from an establishment of this calibre, the choice of drinks was impressive, with an extensive Wine List with prices that were not OTT. But the Hotel’s piece de resistance is its ‘Gin Library’ which boasts a selection in excess of 360 different brands of ‘Mother’s Milk’. We sampled just a few in the attractive Conservatory which featured a spectacular chandelier (above).
All the staff were very welcoming, but I loved the two doormen Paul and Maurice (above) who always had a friendly word and were wonderfully attired in tweed jackets, waistcoats and felt bowler hats. ‘Larsen’ our porter, originally from Morocco, was particularly helpful and charming while the waiting staff in ‘Gillies’ were all sporting a brand new casual yet trendy uniform which was refreshingly different from the norm.
Village is not an exaggeration and there is a map to show you where all the facilities are located. You could spend an entire day here moving from sauna to ice room to hot tub, to hydrotherapy pool to heated lounger to relaxing in either The Orangerie or The River House. If you are so inclined, there is also a pool for leisurely swimming.
The private hot tubs overlooking the river were rarely empty and can be booked for an hour at a time for an extra cost.
We didn’t indulge in any spa treatments, but if you go, they need to be booked in advance.
There is also a cheaper option of booking a cottage or log cabin. I had a lovely walk by them and through the woods following the river to the local village of Cullybackey and also spied a tennis court and pitch and putt course.
Galgorm’s two Rolls-Royce courtesy cars, with almost perfectly customised number plates!
This is a luxury 5-star spa resort, so it is not going to be a cheap few days away, but a charming receptionist assured me that there were often special offers, for off-peak times and to keep an eye on the website, which you can access HERE.
Would I go back? In a heartbeat. We spent one of our days sightseeing as I am ashamed to say that I had not visited the northern coastline before; more about that in another post.