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Managing food editor Tamsin Burnett-Hall leaves our busy test kitchen and jets off to this gem near Belfast...
My girlfriend Pam and I are used to island-hopping – she lives on Jersey while I’m UK mainland-based – so, in our quest to get away from it all, we’ve convened in Northern Ireland, as flights here are frequent and reasonably priced.
The Galgorm Resort & Spa lies about 30 minutes’ drive from either of Belfast’s airports, unfolding along the banks of the beautiful River Maine. Arriving at the impressive- looking original manor house, we’re led to our beautiful deluxe suite, catching sight of the resort’s gin library – perfect for a pre-dinner aperitif, if we can choose between the 300+ varieties on offer. Deprivation is clearly not what a stay here is all about!
Unpacked and wrapped in my cosy dressing gown and slippers, I head for the treatment area for a quartz bed treatment. I don’t deny drifting off during my relaxing massage and pressure-point facial, with quartz crystals (said to reduce stress levels) heaped around my body to support it.
The Thermal Village offers a huge variety of heat and water experiences. We start with a dip in the pool, followed by the sanarium, then brave the icy snow cabin! Out in the landscaped gardens there are hot tubs, a hydrotherapy pool and heated relaxation areas. Even in the coldest months, you can wander around the Serenity Garden, then snuggle up under blankets by a roaring log fire with a book- bliss.
Later on, dressed in smarter clothes, we head for dinner in the River Room, the most high-end of the resort’s restaurants. The surroundings are elegant, our recommended white Rioja delicious, and service is subtly attentive. From the delicate amuse-bouche and chewy sourdough with Irish butter, our dinner is a delight.
Flavours are cleverly matched in my main course of monkfish with mussels, cauliflower and broad beans in a light curry sauce, while Pam’s Mourne lamb with tomatoes and fennel is melt-in-the-mouth marvellous. Dessert-wise, Pam indulges her sweet tooth with a caramel tart with macadamias and chocolate, while I can’t resist a platter of Irish cheeses.
Flying off to Northern Ireland has made our break feel all the more special, and I return to my normal life and day job the next day vowing to spend more time in my dressing gown...
Double rooms at Galgorm Resort & Spa from £175 per night, bed and breakfast. EasyJet flights from Gatwick to Belfast International from £54. Galgorm.com.