There are two words that spark joy in my heart like no others can: spa day.
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Who doesn’t relish the thought of spending a day soaking away our troubles in a hot tub, having our every ache and pain eased at the expert hands of a massage therapist in a luxurious setting, or recapturing our joie de vivre with with a gang of girlfriends in a restorative, relaxing environment?
See, you feel better just thinking about it.
Still, it can sometimes feel as though getting away from it all for a day of delicious pampering is out of the question. But did you know that the Global Spa of the Year 2017 is literally on our doorstep?
Galgorm Resort & Spa – which nestles on the banks of the River Maine amid 163 acres of beautiful parkland in County Antrim – deservedly scooped that coveted title at the World Luxury Hotel Awards recently. And I’m not one bit surprised. I’ve been a Galgorm devotee (if ‘gal fan’ isn’t already a thing, it totally should be) since my first stay in 2015, after Irish Tatler readers voted it Best Resort Spa of the Year.
It knocked my socks off at the time, inspiring me to say this of the place: ‘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.’
Since then, the Galgorm has completed a £10m expansion – the indoor and outdoor Thermal Spa Village was the first of its kind in Ireland, and has to be seen to be believed.
I arrived for my recent stay utterly drained after an inspiring but exhausting day at a conference, held at the hotel, to mark International Women’s Day. I could think of no better way to recover than by peeling away from the crowds of women returning to their cars to head, instead, towards reception to book in for 24 hours of me-time.
One of the things I love most about the Galgorm – and it’s no exaggeration to say it’s my favourite place in the world – is the vibe you get from the moment you set foot through the door. From the charmingly affable doorman to the warm and friendly staff (but never that awkward too-friendly thing that you find so often in other hotels), you get the impression that nothing is too much trouble. I think if you asked for the moon on a stick, they’d ask what type of stick you’d prefer.
A friend joined me for the evening and we put the world to rights from the unrivalled comfort of the Beltane Hot Tub. Derived from the ancient Celtic word for ‘bright fire’, this entails indulging the senses with three elements of fire, air and water – you sit around a sunken fire before unwinding in the outdoor hot tub. At other spa hotels I feel awkward about joining strangers in the facilities but at the Galgorm you feel like you’re among friends, such is the easy-going warmth that the place just seems to imbue in everyone who walks through its delightful doors.
After this we had dinner at Fratelli Ristorante; a family-friendly bar and pizzeria in the grounds of the hotel. I’d only ever eaten at Gillies Bar & Grill – where the food is outstanding – so I was a tiny bit sad to be led away from its sumptuous menu. But I needn’t have worried. The pizzas were to die for, the wine was first-class and the craic was mighty.
We retired to our room via a cheeky visit to the Conservatory to check out the cocktail bar and Gin Library – an absolute must. I’ve heard it houses 300+ gins which must be a mixologist’s nightmare, but the barman didn’t bat an eyelid when I set him the challenge to wow me with something easy on the juniper and with more than a sniff of earthy herbs. Brandishing freshly-picked rosemary to garnish my drink with a flourish, he more than exceeded my expectations. I was tempted to sample the £75 martini next but fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) my companion persuaded me to put down the menu and head to bed.
We slept like babies and woke to sunshine. Breakfast – an array of mouthwatering treats followed by freshly-cooked French Toast with bacon and maple syrup – was exquisite.
After a stroll in the new Serenity Garden – yes, it lives up to its name – I was treated to the absolute luxury that is a Riverside Bathing Experience. I’m not going to spoil this by telling you exactly what it entails – just book it and say The Style Edit sent you. You won’t regret it. Having sampled this private riverside hot tub experience twice now, I can say with some authority that there is not a more relaxing experience on earth.
As ever, I left the Galgorm with a heart tinged with sadness that my sojourn had come to an end, but with a spring in my step and a lightness in my soul that only this magical place can invoke.
Heidi Scimgeour; journalist and editor