Galgorm, Northern Ireland’s Premier luxury Hotel and Spa, is the perfect location to relax and get away from it all. Set within 163 acres of lush parkland with the spectacular River Maine flowing through the estate, Galgorm Resort has a truly unique setting.
Here's what we thought when we stayed in one of their stylish Shepherd's Huts...
Where is Galgorm?
Galgorm is perfectly situated for a Northern Ireland break, being well situated from both Belfast airports (about 30 minutes away) and for visiting the stunning scenery of the North Antrim coast, such as the breath-taking Giant’s Causeway.
Where will I sleep?
There are a variety of options when staying at Galgorm, from rooms and suites in the hotel itself, to cottages, lodges and the Shepherd’s Huts.
We checked in via the adorable Lodges reception, which is an old converted gypsy caravan. Once we’d got our key it was an easy drive over to the lodges and huts car park, then a short walk round the corner to our hut. Everything is very clearly signposted, which I appreciated as the driver!
We were really impressed with the Shepherd’s Huts before we’d even got inside, they all look to be done to an excellent specification. They’re all painted bright colours and fit brilliantly in with the surrounding countryside. Although there were around 10 huts in total it felt like we were the only ones there, you can tell they’ve really thought about the location of each hut and the adjoining decking, so when you’re outside you’re not overlooking anyone else’s space.
The decking area is a good size, with two lounging chairs and bistro set, plus the best feature of these huts – the outdoor copper tub! Inside was as lovely as the exterior – French doors lead to the living, kitchen and bedroom area, all of which were a good size and had been fit into the space really well. I was expecting a much smaller hut as I’ve stayed in Shepherd Huts before, but this was more of a Shepherd’s mansion! There’s an electric log burner in the living room, with small wooden partitions to separate the bed from the living area. There were drawers next to each side of the bed so we could unpack a few bits. The kitchen was well kitted out, and plenty of space to cook a meal for two people. I liked the touch of everything having a little set of instructions printed out for how to use things like the coffee machine – a very thoughtful way to make sure you quickly feel at home. From the kitchen is the door to the bathroom, again a great size for a Shepherd’s Hut. It had a large walk in shower (which was lovely and powerful) loo and stone sink.
There was a lovely welcome treat for us on arrival, with a selection of sweet treats, two miniature bottles of gin and even a loaded fridge and complimentary minibar stocked with water, milk, wine, beer, two hard seltzers, lemonade and fizzy orange, as well as a tray of teas and coffees, plus crisps. We were also provided with robes and flip flops for heading over to the spa – and a huge umbrella too which did come in handy!
I was impressed with the overall finish, the huts had almost everything you needed. A couple of tiny things we did feel were missing were a couple of hangers so you could hang up shirts if you wanted to on the hooks. There also wasn’t a hook on the back of the bathroom door which would have been handy as a place to hang a robe/towel. And we also missed some storage by the sink, such as a small shelf under the mirror – which would have been handy as a place to put makeup or our toothbrushes.
We loved the copper tub and of course had to have an alfresco bath in it on our last evening after an afternoon at the sauna with the fire pit going too!
What is there to do at Galgorm?
Before we checked in we took the opportunity to visit the Giant’s Causeway, which I can highly recommend. There’s an easy loop over from the Causeway Coast Car Park which costs £5, taking you past the visitors centre where there are public toilets and a pub to get refreshments. The causeway itself was amazing, if you head over to this part of Ireland it’s a must see.
We spent our first morning at Galgorm exploring the local area, there’s a lovely woodland walk you can do straight from the site which takes you along the river up to Cullybackey – a small village with a couple of small shops and cafes but nice to have a wander around regardless. We walked up to Arthur Cottage which is the ancestral home of Chester Alan Arthur, the 21st President of the United States of America. It was closed, but nevertheless it was a nice walk up there. There is also a small SPAR where we picked up some snacks, and we then drove over to a larger supermarket in Ballymena to get some more provisions.
If you were staying for longer than the 2 nights there’s a lot more you could do, even a day trip into Belfast. I’d advise having your own car, or a hire car so you can make the most of exploring without having to rely on taxis. Equally you could just as easily spend all your time at the spa, there's plenty to do!
The main attraction of Galgorm has to be the Spa and Thermal Village. We were blown away by the vast array of spa facilities, I’ve never seen anything like it before. Not only are there the usual indoor pools, treatment rooms and sauna, but the Spa and Thermal Village has an extensive selection of hot tubs, steam rooms and saunas right on the riverside!
There’s also a snow cabin, heated loungers, river house, Palm house and experiences such as the Beltane experience and Celtic sauna. You can literally spend all day at the spa, there’s even a bar in the Palm House and their in spa cafe/restaurant Elements which provides a range of food and drink from 10am-7pm.
As part of our package we had a Celtic Sauna Infusion which I must admit we were both a bit unsure about! The sauna master was very friendly and welcoming however, immediately putting us at ease. He explained how he would use three different essential oils, each to envoke a different reaction from the body. The sauna has a large window so you’re overlooking the river and he circulated the air around the sauna using a towel technique, swirling it over his head – which sounds funny but was very skilful. After the sauna you’re invited to go into the plunge pool, which was very refreshing after the heat of the sauna.
What is there to eat?
There are lots of options for food at Galgorm including Gillies Grill, McKendry’s Bar, Fratelli or Castle Kitchen + Bar. You can also have seasonal Afternoon Tea in The Conservatory.
We had dinner on our arrival day at Fratelli, an Italian restaurant with a varied menu suiting a relaxed pizza or a fancier treat night out. We had three courses starting with bruschetta and a refreshing scampi dish, then both had a crab risotto with scallops. I’ve never had scallops cooked as well as this – they were delicious! We then tried two of the mini deserts, a cheesecake and a panacotta – which of course we paired with a limoncello. The staff were attentive and friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal there. They also recommended we go over to McKendry’s bar where they do live music every night.
Despite it being a Tuesday it was very lively in there and we had a great night enjoying the music. If you’re a gin fan I’d also recommend visiting the extensive gin library near the conservatory – they have around 500 gins.
We had B&B for our stay so breakfast each morning was included, at Gillies. There’s a huge variety on offer, from continental options, fruits and cereals, to hot food from sausages and bacon to potato cakes, black pudding and even waffles. Eggs can be cooked any way you like, on request. I particularly recommend the smoked salmon.
How much does it cost to visit?
There are a variety of packages and options available, including:
2 night spa retreat (60 min treatment, B&B and one dinner included) is from £720 for 2 guests.
1 night spa retreat (60 min treatment, B&B and dinner included) is from £420 for 2 guests.
A Shepherd’s Hut 2 night dining retreat is from £610 for 2 guests and includes B&B, one dinner and a Celtic Sauna Infusion.
You can also book day spa experiences, whether you’re a resident or not.
Aside from some miniscule things we felt were missing in the huts – which would be very easily rectified – we loved our stay at Galgorm. In fact I’m already planning to visit again! There’s honestly so much to do at the Spa and Thermal Village I want another opportunity to explore it, and the setting alongside the river is unbeatable. The staff were all exemplary, the food offering is excellent. I’d certainly opt to stay in a Shepherd’s Hut again too!
One thing is we were very lucky with the weather on our stay here, it rained one morning on our way to breakfast (typically the one time we forgot to bring the umbrella) and started spitting towards the end of our morning at the spa on our last day. You wouldn't get as much out of the outdoor facilities if the weather didn't behave itself - there's still lots of indoor options but the riverside location is just amazing. I'd probably stick to warmer months, or do it as a last minute break to try secure better weather.