Glass finds some serenity at the Galgorm Resort & Spa

An Angster’s Paradise – Glass calms those racing thoughts and finds some serenity in Northern Ireland’s new spa experience at the Galgorm Resort & Spa, Ballymena, Northern Ireland

I’m bit of a worrier, if truth be told. (I’m a Capricorn and it’s a typical trait, so they say.) But when the universe is good to you, it’s really worth putting any niggling thoughts into a box labelled “to fret about later” and bask in every second. This precise notion flashes through my head as I find myself partaking in a Celtic Sauna Ritual, which begins with a solemn clang of a gong. Our group are then led into the sauna itself and watch as as the resident Sauna Master – with an Olympic rower’s physique – adeptly fans a towel this way and that, surrounded by clouds of steam.

PEYE 290915KB1 0257The Galgorm Resort & Spa –  the new facilities at the resort

This particular ritual is called The Way of the Tree and as said Sauna Master disperses essential oils of pine and sage around the room, our group breathes it all in. Some close their eyes and relax; others exchange bemused glances at this slightly surreal sight. In all my years reviewing spas, I’ve never seen anything quite like this before …

We’re here in Ballymena, Northern Ireland for the launch of Galgorm Resort & Spa’s newly opened Thermal Village – a newly expanded spa, designed to take relaxation to the next level (and hopefully persuade mainland UK spa-lovers to venture a little bit further over the Irish Sea). And the team have really done their homework to make this new venture surpass expectations of the typical “hot tub and steam room” spa experience.

The Galgorm Thermal Village

This aforementioned Celtic Sauna Ritual is case in point, modelled on similar rituals performed in Finland where scents are similarly wafted around the room while participants simply sit and let off steam. One of our group dismisses it as a “gimmick” later on, but I disagree.

Indeed after our 45 minutes, something in my mind seems to shift and my past stresses and worries suddenly seem eons away. They say when you go on a trip, it takes a while for your brain to get in “holiday mode” but this slightly bizarre ritual seems to do the trick after just 30 minutes in.

The new pool at the Galgorm Thermal Village

It could be the reason that I later on drift off into a semi-comatose state on the therapy bed during my treatment, something which rarely happens when getting a massage in London, you can’t quite switch off the way you can when you’re out of the city. The Taste of Galgorm is one of their new treatments and is perfect if you’re not sure what type of thing you’re after.

It incorporates a little bit of everything and is total bliss. You begin with a tension-busting back massage and – if you can stay awake – there’s a head massage, hydrating hand and arm mask and brightening and glowing facial to follow. In short, a top-to-toe MOT for if you’re feeling a little frazzled (or maybe a jittery bride-to-be wanting to calm her pre-wedding nerves …).

The new sauna at the Spa

A 30-minute drive from Belfast, Galgorm is the perfect balance of tranquility and unpretentious charm, surrounded by 163 acres of countryside, with an impossibly picturesque river running alongside it. While some luxury hotel and spas might seem a little dour and intimidating in all their grandeur, here the staff and guests seem a happy-go-lucky bunch despite the plush trappings and I found it easy to slip into dressing gown and slippers and feel right at home.

LandscapeA view of the River Maine from the Hotel

But until recently, the beauty of the River Maine has been their trump card, running right next to the hotel and providing a magnificent view as you languish in the outdoor hot tub – not to mention countless photo opportunities for the many weddings that take place there. But it’s the Thermal Village which Galgorm hope to become their new pièce de resistance, a veritable spa playground connected by a stilted boardwalk, which so far seems to prove popular with newlyweds and burnt out city-dwellers alike.

Guests can book an aforementioned Celtic Sauna Ritual (45-minute rituals, like the one we enjoyed) that take place three times a day. Or you can take part in a yoga class in the tranquil River House. And if you want to up the ante, you can book a private log-fired Riverside Tub by the Maine.

Chose Dutch Tubs A hot tub in the grounds of the resort

Inside, one can expect the normal pool, steam and sauna affair, while the brave can venture into The Snow Cabin. With temperatures plummeting to -15 degrees, it’s said to boost circulation and benefit the respiratory system (for someone positively allergic to the cold, I sadly managed around 10 seconds). I instead sought solace in the scented Sanarium – which to the unaware, is similar to a sauna with less of the swoon-inducing heat.

And if all the rest and relaxation gets a bit too much, you can take a day trip to Northern Ireland’s famous World Heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway, a dramatic series of cliffs featuring interlocking hexagonal basalt columns, which for centuries have been the topic of ancient folklore.

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you can visit several locations where the show is filmed. (Indeed given Northern Ireland’s rugged brooding landscape, don’t be surprised if you start aping the mannerisms of Queen Daenerys Targaryen, walking in a proud, regal manner with a pensive, worldly-wise gaze.)

PEYE 290915KB1 0272The award-winning River Room restaurant

Back at Galgorm, you can round off the day tucking into some haute cuisine at the River Room restaurant (which recently won three AA rosettes), taste some delicious Italian fare at Fratellis or pop to Gillie Bar & Grill’s for a good honest pint, steak and chips and some jovial Gaelic atmosphere.

Hence why the newly-refurbished Galgorm caters for all: from the spa junkie looking for something a little different, to the slightly intimidated spa novice, to the “spa widow” who is here at their partner’s behest and has zero interest in “all that relaxation nonsense” – there’s plenty else to do. Or if like myself, you’re just perpetually stressed and in desperate need of some downtime, here you can leave your emotional baggage at the door and allow a swarthy Sauna Master to restore your equilibrium …

by Viola Levy

From more details please go here. Prices start from £145.00 for a B&B midweek; for a standard room up to £205.00 B&B midweek for their Galgorm Resort & Spa Deluxe rooms.
This rate also includes access to the new Thermal Spa Village (75,000sq ft of indoor and outdoor experiences).
Spa treatments start from £55 per person and dining in the 3AA Rosette River Room Restaurant starts from £50 per person.