FOR SPA & PAMPERING BREAKS - TEN OF THE BEST

A fine spell can make a spring getaway tempting, but it’s wise to hedge your bets with the weather - making this the perfect time to head for a hotel offering plenty of pampering (of all kinds), as well as outdoor activities to enjoy when it’s pleasant to be out of doors

Galgorm Resort & Spa
Ballymena, Co Antrim

Galgorm Resort & SpaThis former gentleman’s residence is now one of Northern Ireland’s most luxurious country house hotels, and the region’s premier wedding venue. Yet, while larger and more contemporary following major redevelopment, it has retained its pleasant tranquil atmosphere. Spacious rooms and excellent amenities (including equestrian) are matched by outstanding food and drink, notably in the Conservatory (Afternoon Tea; Cocktail & Gin Bar) and the River Room where accomplished cooking of seasonal food and local specialities is a memorable experience - as is the renowned ‘Galgorm breakfast’. But many travel here especially for the hotel’s Spa and Thermal Village - a first for Ireland, with its riverside hot tubs, indoor and outdoor heated pools, steam rooms and saunas and an extensive selection of spa treatments. Equally, if you have never visited this area before, you have a lovely surprise in store and the resort makes a great base for exploring the stunning North Antrim coast, buzzing Derry city (with its brilliant restaurants and the Walled City Brewery to enjoy) - and perhaps the beautiful Inishowen Penisnsula in neighbouring Donegal, as well.

 

Ashford Castle
Cong, Co Mayo

Ashford CastleSet in 350 acres of beautiful parkland and with unrivalled views down magnificent Lough Corrib, Ashford Castle is the perfect place for a complete break from humdrum everyday life. Grandeur, formality and tranquillity are the essential characteristics - and the recent multi-million makeover by owners, Beatrice and Stanley Tollman of the South African hotel group Red Carnation Hotels, has brought it all back to its glorious best and then some - but, less predictably, it’s a welcoming and relaxing place where multi-generational guests mix happily and, with an extraordinary range of activities offered on the estate and in the castle, there really is something for everyone. You could stay here for weeks without repeating your chosen activities, which now include many new ones in an impressive lough view Spa and Fitness Centre housed in an extraordinary 3-tiered bronze conservatory. Its state-of-the-art facilities include a couple's suite among the five treatment rooms, also a beautiful terrace area and a gym boasting the latest wellness innovation, both with lake views. Surprisingly, perhaps, the Castle is very family-friendly (and yes, that includes small family dogs) and staff make a big fuss over children, even in the formal George V Dining Room where Executive Head Chef Philippe Farineau proudly presents his Taste of Ireland menus. And, although unarguably expensive, the exceptional experience at Ashford Castle gives value for money - and special breaks are often offered.

 

Kelly's Resort Hotel & Spa
Rosslare Co Wexford

Kellys Resort Hotel & SpaPerhaps it’s because its history in the same family spans three centuries, so there’s not a lot they don’t know about keeping guests happy, but whatever the secret of their relaxed professionalism, the Kelly family’s renowned beachside hotel sums up all that is best about the sunny south-east for its many regular visitors. And Kelly’s is right up there at the top when it comes to offering the best onsite leisure facilities, with its two indoor swimming pools, and a destination ‘SeaSpa’ well-being centre with 11 treatment rooms, seawater vitality pool, steam room, rock sauna and much else besides. They’re famous for so many things it’s a case of take your pick - special events like their off season hobby weekends; great food from Executive Chef Eugene Callaghan and an excellent team, which somehow manages to please both the adventurous eater and conservative diners; their legendary wine list (always changing and excellent value, with many wines directly imported, some from Bill's brother-in-law Vincent Avril in Chateauneuf-du-Pape); the extraordinary art collection; the family activities and the many activities nearby...it’s a world apart.

 

The G Hotel
Galway Co Galway

The g hotel“One of the finest hotels in the West of Ireland - and certainly the most original” is a fair summary of the hotel that’s most famous for its quirky interior by internationally renowned milliner Phillip Treacy. And it hasn’t dated - the original “mad hattiness” and stunning interior design still tend to quicken the pulse in the knowledge that one is somewhere unique. Pampering is something they do naturally here, whether it be through food - reflecting the local landscape and showcasing Irish produce with a touch of flair - the luxurious surroundings and attentive service provided by the able staff throughout the hotel, or the rooftop spa, ESPA at the g. Situated over two floors, it offers a fitness studio as well as a wide range of pampering spa treatments and “rituals designed to enhance well-being and relaxation” and a Relaxation Room overlooking the rooftop Zen garden. Spa packages are offered and, with Eyre Square just a brisk 15 minute walk away and outdoor activities including golf and horseriding nearby, there is no shortage of other things to do.

 

Park Hotel Kenmare
Kenmare Co Kerry

Park Hotel KenmareTravellers from all over the world have found a home from home at this renowned hotel in the Heritage Town of Kenmare since it first opened as a railway hotel in 1897 - and it is almost a second home to many thousands of RTE viewers, thanks to the success of owner Francis Brennan’s “At Your Service” ‘hotel rescue’ programmes. Aside from the stunning location (in the town, yet with river and mountain views), the exceptional standards of service, comfort and cuisine are its main USPs: the ever-burning fire in the hall sets the tone for a stay in which guests are discreetly pampered by outstandingly friendly and professional staff - and that pampering reaches dizzy heights in the hotel’s deluxe destination spa, Sámas (‘indulgence of the senses’), which adjoins the hotel on a wooded knoll and is designed to rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit. There are separate male and female areas (also two day suites for couples) and guests can choose from over forty individually tailored holistic treatments. There is also a beautiful stainless steel pool, and lifestyle programmes combining spa treatments with other activities in the area - walking on the Kerry Way, golf, fishing, horse trekking - offer a unique way to enjoy the deeply peaceful atmosphere of this luxurious hotel. Cycling holidays based in the hotel are also becoming very popular - an ideal way to balance energetic sight-seeing during the day with luxurious comfort and good food at night. Off-season holistic retreats offer very good value.

 

Mount Falcon Estate
Ballina, Co Mayo

Mount Falcon EstateOnce a romantic family home - previous owner, Major Robert Aldridge, was a keen archaeologist and helped to discover the nearby Céidhe Fields -Mount Falcon is now a luxury hotel with beautiful period features, extensive grounds, private salmon fishing on the River Moy and fine dining in an atmospheric room that was once the old kitchen and pantry of this historic house. “A gentle and relaxing hub of rejuvenation and positive energy”, the hotel’s Elemis Spa aims to provide an experience of physical and emotional restoration - an appropriate goal in this place of quiet relaxation and pampering, where 100 acres of grounds have been redeveloped and landscaped to incorporate extensive kitchen gardens (guests welcome by appointment), lakeside and woodland walks. Other activities on site include fishing, falconry and archery, while local attractions include championship golf, at nearby Enniscrone Golf Club, and horse riding - and there are many good walking beaches nearby.

 

No. 1 Pery Square Hotel & Spa
Limerick, Co Limerick

No 1 Pery Square Hotel & SpaPatricia Roberts’s luxurious boutique hotel is a stunning property occupying a large corner site on Limerick’s most gracious Georgian square - overlooking a leafy park and only a minute’s stroll away from the City Art Gallery and, more surprisingly perhaps, the Frank McCourt/Angela’s Ashes museum, which is just around the corner. It is an unusual and rewarding hotel to visit, with a strong emphasis on good food - especially in its destination restaurant, Sash - and also wine, with private dining and wine tastings offered in The Wine Room (a shop where courses are offered and tastings can be held for up to 25, dining for 8). But if pampering is on your mind, the place to be is the vaulted basement, where the holistic Spa @ No. 1 offerings include a thermal spa (try the coal bunker sauna), sound wave therapy, tailor made programmes and a Zen garden; totally natural Sodashi products are used, along with the Voya organic range produced by the Celtic Seaweed Baths in Sligo - it all adds up to what is accurately described as a unique “Irish Spa” experience.

 

Dingle Skellig Hotel
Dingle, Co Kerry

Dingle Skellig HotelIt may be modest-looking from the road, but this comfortable 1960s hotel enjoys a superb shoreside location on the edge of Dingle town and has won plenty of friends over the years - many regular visitors to the peninsula would stay nowhere else, and not because it’s especially luxurious (which it isn’t) but because it has great heart, and is the centre of the community. A well-run, family-friendly hotel with organised entertainment for children in school holidays (and a welcome policy of dedicating floors for family use to avoid disturbing guests without children), it makes a great base for the many outdoor activities in the area and has a health and beauty centre, The Peninsula Spa as well as a good leisure centre. Like so many things in Dingle, the spa is a bit different, offering not just the usual menu (hydrotherapy, hot stone therapy, holistic & sports massage, beauty treatments…) but treatments with a sense of place - their Signature Treatments use locally-sourced ingredients such as seaweed from Brandon Bay and honey from a local bee keeper, for example. And then there’s that fabulous outdoor hot tub, with one of the best views in world. Carry on dreaming.

 

Castlemartyr Resort
Castlemartyr, Co Cork

Castlemartyr ResortThis impressive property has changed hands several times in recent years - but that is consistent with its history. Entering through gates near the centre of Castlemartyr village and then skirting the edge of the 18-hole Ron Kirby-designed golf course, the driveway leads past a 13th century castle to the beautiful entrance of the 17th century manor house, which was once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh - who later sold it to the Earl of Cork, Richard Boyle…plus ca change. Today, the resort is a luxurious destination with vast rooms boasting all kinds of bells and whistles, a reputation for smartly presented food with local flavour - and a seriously impressive leisure centre and spa, The Spa featuring ESPA, with treatment rooms (including two couples suites) enjoying a restful outlook over formal gardens and parkland. It’s a world class amenity and widely regarded as the best spa in Cork - where, of course, there is plenty else to do. For a start, the hotel has close links with the nearby Old Midleton Distillery, and other highlights in the area include Cobh ('the Queenstown story'), Fota Island (Fota House, Arboretum & Gardens; Fota Wildlife Park) and the East Cork Food Trail, which includes the Ballymaloe Cookery School & Gardens.

 

Sand House Hotel
Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal

Sand House HotelUnrivalled sea views and easy access to the two-mile long sandy beach have always been the great attractions of The Sand House, which started life as a fishing lodge in the 1830s and completed its latest metamorphosis with a new floor of bedrooms, a panoramic lift (with the best view in the house), a new boardroom and The Marine Spa. Appropriately, given the location - and proximity to Strandhill, Co Sligo, famous for its seaweed baths and Voya organic treatments - The Marine Spa specialises in Voya and offers an organic seaweed skincare experience, Voya Organic Seaweed Baths and Spa Seaweed treatments. Outdoor activities abound too, of course, including surfing. The Sand House is also famous as the hotel which, to the delight of its many fans, was saved by longtime General Manager, Paul Diver, who purchased it during the recession, thus securing its long term future and keeping its wonderful staff together as a team - a David and Goliath story that is well chronicled on the walls beside the bar.

 

There are currently no comments

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment
Not a member? Register for your free membership now!
Or leave a comment by logging in with: