How Galgorm Resort Offers Celtic Charm

The cedarwood sauna cabin is fragrant with frankincense and eucalyptus, and the music played is incredibly cinematic, the epic sound of violins rising to a crescendo. Outside the window, the Maine River flows serenely. It is an innocuous sight, since the interior temperature increases. When you think you can’t take the heat anymore, the resident sauna master whips towels violently through the air, letting you feel a wave of intense heat, mixed with pungent essential oils, wash over you as you lie in bed, eyes wide shut. After 20 minutes, the so-called Celtic Sauna Infusion experience ends in spectacular fashion: you plunge into an open-air pool of cold water, causing your heart to pound and your breath to stop. It is all-encompassing, yet totally life-affirming.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think this was happening in Finland or Denmark, where ‘Aufguss’ sauna rituals are the norm. In fact, Galgorm Spa, a luxury spa hotel, is located just 30 miles outside of Belfast and this is its own unique Celtic take on the traditional Scandi experience. It is made even more atmospheric by the lush and verdant sight of 163 acres of parkland, Irish woodland and rolling hills that surround the spa.

It may be in Northern Ireland (and not Norway), but at its heart Galgorm offers a true celebration of ‘spa art’. Home to one of the largest spa towns in Europe, you could spend days immersed in wellness activities. Along the riverbanks, there are private hot tubs, as well as a number of heated indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms, a salt cave, and glass-fronted saunas. The Snow Cabin, the only one in Ireland, offers an invigorating spa experience. At -15 degrees, you sit amidst powdery snow and ice crystals, which have been designed to stimulate the immune and circulatory systems. From hot poultice massages to SkinCeuticals facials, a wide variety of body and beauty treatments are also offered.

Galgorm is also the ideal place for groups of friends to get together and reconnect. After all, we’ve waited long enough and there’s an urgency in the air among loved ones desperate to spend time together again.

What you’ll find at Galgorm is spa with a serious injection of the fun factor: you can take a sip of fizz while lounging in bubbles; cool off with a strawberry cocktail after the heat of the sauna; Laugh over massages or manicures together in the glamorous pink and silver Boudoir Therapy Room (it’s purposely designed for groups of friends). You can even dine inside the spa in the unique riverside Halo Dome, an energy-efficient vaulted space made from reclaimed wood and one of only five of its kind in the world.

In 1857, Galgorm Resort was actually a working mill owned by the Young family. The current complex has sprung up around the original building, expanded with £11million worth of spa facilities and a range of stylish accommodation. You can still see the heritage in the main building, which houses the reception area and most of the bars and restaurants. Large period fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling sash windows, and ornate plasterwork reveal clues to its past.

Outside the lobby area, the Conservatory is, as its name suggests, a light-filled space offering fine afternoon teas and casual lunches (you can have crab and chili brioche rolls; warm sourdough brie and fresh salads ).

Speaking of which, when it comes to dining at Galgorm, you are spoiled for choice. Start your evening at the Cocktail & Gin bar, which offers over 400 varieties of gin, making it the largest in Ireland (there is a daily gin tasting for guests).

Fratelli offers rustic Italian dishes, from Sicilian-style pizzas topped with N’duja sausage to classic pasta carbonara. With its lively atmosphere, Gillies Grill seems to have captured the soul of the resort, featuring local Antrim produce with modern Asian twists, featuring Salt & Chilli Chicken; Irish piri piri mussels and crispy oyster mushrooms. In addition to drinks and snacks at the vibrant Castle Kitchen + Bar (it’s located on the nearby golf course and guests can take the shuttle to get there), guests can also enjoy fine dining courtesy of Chef Chris Rees at The River Room. One of four restaurants in Northern Ireland to receive 3 AA Rosettes for culinary excellence, dishes showcase local artisan producers and garden ingredients with menus that change daily.

While there are 125 contemporary rooms and suites at the hotel, Galgorm also offers charming shepherd’s cottages, spa residences, log cabins, and charming cottages on the grounds where guests can stay. All of which provide a private home-away-from-home feeling and are ideal for spending quality time with your loved ones.

Cabins are all the rage right now: they offer privacy and flexibility, and guests can access all of the resort’s facilities. They come with their own gardens and feature stylish kitchens and cozy living rooms, complete with fireplaces and flat-screen TVs. Rooms have luxurious en-suite bathrooms, with New York subway-style tilework and enough pampering details to feel like this is the equivalent of a hotel suite (only with a lot more space). So you’ll find thick rugs, thick towels and fine bedding.

Industrial-style lighting, splashes of color, with woven rugs and bright cushions on velvet seats, and mid-century-style furnishings add plenty of flair. Giving a destination feel, the painted wood paneled walls are adorned with elegant archival artwork showcasing classic Northern Ireland beauty spots.

Apart from the spa, you can spend your days exploring the city of Belfast; immerse yourself in the countryside by following one of the walking trails or head out to play pootle along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route.

For a change of scenery, guests can also eat at Galgorm’s sister hotel. Rabbit – a 30-minute drive to Templepatrick. The boutique hotel has a bohemian feel with its quirky decor, from vibrant and eye-catching wallpapers to retro tasseled lamps.

Like Galgorm, The Rabbit also boasts luxurious and extensive spa facilities, but has a younger, more modern approach compared to its sophisticated ‘big sister’. There’s a large open-air Roman bath topped with a giant disco ball, relaxing poolside cabanas, a salt chamber, and an aromatic steam room. At night, Relaxation Burrow brings Balearic vibes and a playlist to match, with guests who can kick back at the spa bar, party in the pool, or unwind in one of the hot tubs.

Meanwhile, dining at the Rabbit Restaurant is relaxed and bistro-style, with standouts including cauliflower and cheese arancini with saffron aioli; Hot smoked salmon nicoise; Seafood Orzo Pasta And Roasted Hake Fillet With Pomme Puree And Buttered Green Beans. Desserts are perfect for crowd pleasers and include Warm Cinnamon Apple Crumble with Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Worcestershire Sauce and Raspberry Ruffle Eton Mess with Toasted Coconut. Live music brings a joyful addition to the dining experience.

Not sitting still, Galgorm is eyeing further development, taking investment in the resort to more than £60m by 2023. First are the new treehouses due to open later this year, where guests can sleep on the grounds, as well as an additional 64 deluxe rooms. Then there’s the creation of ‘Log Village’, which Galgorm describes as his “answer to Soho Farmhouse”. Set in a secluded riverside location, it will offer a rural retreat for guests to stay, with cabins, tipis and caravans offering quirky accommodation, along with hot tubs, barrel saunas and an outdoor pool.

For those who yearn for carefree stays in an idyllic setting, Galgorm is ideal for what we have all been waiting for. After years of lockdown, it’s time to reconnect with our dearest people in a place that is inherently uplifting.

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