Back in the motherland for the week and the mother had planned some quality indulgence time for us at Galgorm resort & spa. Having never been before, I had zero expectations and was just looking forward to soaking up as much greenery and rain as possible before heading back to the desert.
We drove up to Ballymena from Belfast to arrive promptly and eventually found the right place to check-in after approaching the giant building from the back. We were booked in on a package which included room, dinner, breakfast, use of the thermal village and a celtic sauna experience which we were told by the receptionist was quite something but she couldn’t quite explain why…more on this later.
Our room was amazing, lots of tartan and arty photographs of sheep and irish things. There were also a couple of complimentary Galgorm’s own craft ales, Steamin’ Stag, on offer in the minibar which went down a treat.
We quickly robed & slippered up to make the most of the spa time and headed out to the thermal village. After months of 40 degree-sweaty-burnt-hands-on-steering-wheel-weather in Bahrain I was thrilled to have grey skies and a bit of drizzle and whilst I appreciate that not everyone else might, the thermal village set up (clue’s in the name) wasn’t at all hampered by a bit of rain or Northern Irish temps.
The village sprawled over a massive area bordered by the river Maine with the forest beyond. Resembling a luxurious high-end mental hospital, white robed “patients” roamed the grounds moving in and out of wooden Scandi-esque saunas and steam rooms, hanging up their gowns for a dip into the jacuzzi pool. We eased ourselves in with a swim in the indoor pool and a follow up in the sanarium then headed out to experience the Beltane hot tub and fire pit which really appealed to my inner Swede! A leisurely afternoon was spent sampling the hydrotherapy pool, laconium, aroma grotto, actual snow cabin which we couldn’t manage to stay in very long due to frostbite, with a coffee and scone stop in the Orangerie.
Our date with the aforementioned Celtic Sauna was at 4pm, the five of us participating were summoned by a gong and a man with a long luscious head of black hair and an equally long, equally black sarong – this was to be our “Celtic Sauna Master” *nervous giggles all round. We entered the sauna, de-robed and sat along the bench in a row – the Sauna had a full floor to ceiling window along the front where we could look out at the river and catch the steam rising from Oak and Hawthorne, the private hot tubs on the riverbank.
Some atmospheric Celtic Uilleann Pipe sounds were played into the room and we were talked through the experience. There were to be three scents released onto the coals, the first of which would be Pine. It was all very dramatic and made even more so once the Master had ladled the liquid onto the hissing fire and proceeded to do a wafting, spinning, twirling towel dance to further push the scent into our faces. The first time this was done was quite disarming so in order to not break into hysterics and ruin the mood, eyes had to be firmly shut for a repeat of the ritual with the following scents: citrus and lavender & lemon. After half an hour in the Sauna, we moved into the River House for a guided meditation which involved lying on bean bags while out Celtic Sauna Master talked to us in a soothing voice and made all our troubles go away – genuinely loved the whole thing, scenty wafty towel dance included and was probably the highlight of my stay.
We had a couple of massages booked in which were very pleasant and enjoyed both the dinner in their Italian restaurant and breakfast in the River Room the next morning was fabulous, eggs benedict, coffee and an amazing view of the river. We managed to fit in another thermal village session before check-out and made the most of the early start being the only mental patients shuffling from one sensory experience to another. All in all a fantastic way to spend a couple of days and i’ll never look at a towel in the same way again.