You might need wellies, not flip flops, but country cottages a relaxed fit at the Galgorm

The prize-winning Galgorm Resort and Spa near Ballymena has launched new range of 'country cottages' for those who like a home-from-home feel rather than stifled hotel room. Gail Bell tries out some luxury country living with spa robe and flip flops at hand

Country living – the new cottage collective at Galgorm Resort and Spa
Gail Bell

A PRETTY little whitewashed cottage with splash of brightly coloured door is not quite what comes to mind when you think modern spa break, but the Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort near Ballymena has taken the Irish countryside as inspiration in its latest bid to woo the senses.

Guests can now opt to get away from it all even more when bunking down in one of the new ‘country cottages' – an addition to existing log cabins – which have opened on site this spring.

They may not have a turf fire roaring in the grate, but there is still an understated homeliness lodged deep within the seams of rich, contemporary fabrics and fittings of the new ‘relaxed' offering, each with their own garden setting and parking space right outside the door.

When we pitched up at the main hotel reception in April it was raining – and that is probably the only negative to staying in one of these self-contained homes-from home which are just a stone's throw away from the main lobby and sprawling thermal village.

But throwing on a coat for the short stride to the pool, hot tub or one of the hotel's four restaurants – Castle Kitchen and Bar, Gillies, The River Room or Fratelli's – is a small price to pay for the peace, privacy and versatility to be had behind your own four walls.

Compact and snug, there are 11 cottages in total and coming in one, two and three-bedroom options, they are perfect for both romantic getaway couples and families needing privacy, independence and communal space all under one roof.

When we walked through our own lovely yellow door in April, an authentic-looking log fire bathed the open plan kitchen and living area in a warm glow and led our eyes to a small feast of artistic-looking cupcakes and macaroons waiting invitingly on a nearby table.

It was an appreciated 'Welcome' gesture and nice touch from management who had also pre-stocked the fridge with a selection of soft drinks, wine and beer to help with the all-important task of relaxing and unwinding – the chief aspiration always at the heart of any stay at the Galgorm.

A never-ending range of kitchen equipment (including sophisticated coffee maker) is provided if you want to whip up a feast in your own little castle, but we opted to eat in Gillies and leave the clearing up to someone else ( a dishwasher is provided if you do need to wash your dirty dishes).

And, with cottage guests offered the same amenities as those staying in the main hotel, room service is also on the menu, along with full housekeeping services.

Rural charm with modern twist dominates, from picture rails with local paintings and various ornaments (you may even find a potted plant), to large TV screen and comfy settee in the living area.

Of course, the real pull during any stay at this prize-winning resort is the all-weather thermal village, so we forced ourselves to abandon the macaroons and cosy fire and make the short stroll to spa reception.

Unlike for guests staying in the main hotel, you might need to wear your wellies instead of complimentary flip flops to pad across the grass and concrete but, on the plus side, the invigorating, circulation-boosting fluctuations in body temperature are what this place is all about.

No matter what the weather is doing here, you will still see guests disrobing and plunging into outdoor hot tubs as if it were a sunny day in Spain – something you can easily pretend when relaxing on a heated sun lounger in the glass-fronted solarium – indulging in some self-inflicted shivering in the snow cabin or else sweating it out in the Celtic sauna.

Tennis and golf are also part of the offering here, but perhaps one of the best ways to 'chill' is enjoying a completely natural asset within the Galgorm estate – a scented riverside walk looping the lush River Maine.

After dinner, we took took a swing on the creaky old swing seat down by the river, listened to the soothing sounds of the waterfall and looked up at the stars before retiring to a picture-perfect cottage. And there wasn't a fluffy spa robe in sight.


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