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Pamper yourself with a trip to thermal spa village

What's hot and what's not? Cosy won out for Gail Bell at the Galgorm Resort and Spa

Try chilling out in one of the heated sun loungers by the new indoor pool

OF ALL the things which make the Galgorm Resort and Spa unique, it falls to a stark and freezing snow cabin to really set the place apart. But unlike the rest of Ballymena's award-winning resort hotel, there is no warm welcome here – the atmosphere is positively chilly.

Yet shivering in temperatures of –15C in swimwear and flip-flops is entirely voluntary – and one of the curious highlights of a visit to the new thermal spa village, the first of its kind in Britain and Ireland.

Visitors are encouraged to enter this icy retreat and generously sprinkle real snowflakes on bare skin – preferably after first warming up in the nearby sanarium. The sudden change in temperature will boost circulation, enhance the immune system and perk up tired skin, but it may not take long for skin-tingling to give way to teeth-chattering.

Such ascetism in the name of health and beauty is infinitely admirable but only for the hardy few, of which, I discovered, I am not one. Give me the heat any day, particularly one of the heated sun loungers by the new indoor pool or the bubbling warmth of an outdoor hot-tub overlooking the gushing River Maine.

Luckily, there are several to avail of in this re-envisaged complex, extended in an £11 million revamp to include 48 new deluxe guestrooms and 75,000 square foot spa 'village'.

Nothing is overlooked – even the indoor polished-pebble floor gently massages pressure points in feet while outside an expansive watery wonderland awaits with thermal spa pools, Celtic sauna, steam cabin and log-fired hot tubs by the river.

In fact, there is so much going on, it is difficult to decide where to go and what to do first.

But in between the whirlwind of treatments and spa activities, there is always the option just to sit still in the relaxing new Orangery and do nothing more than dangle your legs from a swing seat, glass of bubbly in hand.

And that, after being blasted with heat and doused in snow for the previous few hours is maybe the most healing therapy of all.

:: Various offers are running before Christmas, including thermal spa with afternoon tea, day spa experience with treatment and special guest bed and breakfast rates. For more information, contact the hotel directly. (galgorm.com)

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