Spa-ing in Northern Ireland, just 50 minutes from most UK airports (including your local), is much kinder to the planet than jetting off to exotic shores, but far enough to feel like a proper break. It is also a joy to explore, with a treasure trove of remote castles, deserted beaches, vibrant cities and more beautiful countryside than you can shake a sheep at – it’s not called the Emerald Isles for nothing. Spa seekers can count themselves lucky too, with some glorious spots to spend the day swimming, wallowing, being pampered or nourishing the soul with gorgeous grub. Here’s our round-up of the day spas in Northern Ireland that get Good Spa Guide’s green light.
Imagine yourself bubbling away in a large rooftop hydro-pool with the city of Belfast spread out below. One swift lift ride to the top of The Merchant and you’ll be transported to a metropolis spa like no other. Watch the world go by - and the sky change colour – in the lovely warm water before warming yourself up indoors. If the weather isn’t playing ball (those fields don’t go green by themselves), enjoy the view from the rooftop gym instead, with its full length windows and art deco design. On a clear day you’ll be able to spot the River Lagan, the iconic Albert Clock and the Wolfe shipyard. There’s also a rock sauna and a steam room; treatments are from Irish brand Voya – try seaweed bathing for super smooth skin. There’s a Champagne nail bar, too.
A property that hosts weddings is bound to offer a wide range of beauty treatments, from anti-blemish facials and French polishes to express manicures and Hollywood waxes (don’t ask). Set in the idyllic Roe Valley Country Park – with its meandering River Roe – the Spa at Roe Park has everything you could wish for on a spa day. Start by dipping in and out of the selection of pools – adult, kids, whirlpool, hot tub – before working out in the gym or testing your swing on the on-site golf course. The spa treatment menu is both vast and good value: treat yourself to two treatments (facial and back massage or manicure and scrub, perhaps?) for top-to-toe pampering. Afternoon tea with a glass of Prosecco is a spa day must.
If you want your spa day to have an abundance of modern indoor and outdoor facilities in a beautiful setting, then Galgorm Resort and Spa won’t let you down. Wherever you go in this vast, serene space, stop and listen to the sound of the River Maine gushing past. River lovers should book ahead for the waterside hot tub experience – a wood-fired tub on the edge of the river where you can wallow in warm water while sipping Champagne and nibbling on chocolate-dipped strawberries (watch out for the visiting herons). We mentioned the luxury spa facilities: you’ll find spa Narnia outside with several hydro pools, glass-walled saunas with river views, riverside steam rooms and alfresco lunching. There’s just as much inside, too, with a large swimming pool, snow room and more heat rooms than you can possibly dip in and out of. Add the ubiquitous treatments (which are fab) and you’ll need more than a day - spa breaks should be mandatory.
Despite the rather curious name, Lusty Beg Island is a quaint, idyllic spot at the heart of the Fermanagh Lakelands. The resort itself rents out a series self catering lodges and cottages set in dense lakeside woodland. Happily, visitors to the island can use the retreat’s activity centre (kayaking; hiking) and spa without staying the night. The Island Spa – shrouded in natural beauty – uses mainly organic and wholesome products in its treatments; the seaweed for its baths, facials and wraps is harvested off the coast of the mainland. The spa’s skincare brand of choice is Italian spa guru Comfort Zone. After a treatment – book the Lake Side Tub spa experience if you can – wander into the spa gardens to warm up in the sauna or take a snooze in the relaxation room. The Lodge is the place to go for lunch – everything here is made to order; even the burgers are made from scratch.
Spa-goers visiting the county of Co Tyrone are in for a treat: the Spa at Corick House successfully marries the curative powers of nature and water with Comfort Zone products. The design – all bronze, gold and calming creams – is Italian, with sleek lines and just the right amount of windows to bring the surrounding countryside in. In the thermal suite, the hydrotherapy massage pool takes centre stage, with its therapeutic full body water jets designed to soothe aching muscles and wash away tension. Try the intensive cellulite treatment for smooth skin; there’s also an experience shower, sauna, steam room and thermal lounger, as well as a deep relaxation room for those post treatments zzzs. That’s not all: leisure facilities include a gym, tanning booth and beauty bar, too
Northern Ireland has a Newcastle, too, this one positioned 30 minutes south of Belfast with the majestic Mourne Mountains as its backdrop. From The Spa at Slieve Donard, visitors can see a windswept slither of Irish beach on one side and an immaculate golf course on the other. From the spa, full height glass affords yet more views: this time of craggy green mountains soaring up out of an inky sea. Drink them in as you swim leisurely lengths in the gold-flecked 20-metre mosaic pool before relaxing on a purple lounger with a magazine or a good book. Thermal facilities include an Amethyst steam room, a rock sauna and several drench showers, while the light and airy gym is the perfect space to work out or do a yoga class. Eight treatment rooms cater for every spa whim and include a range of ESPA holistic therapies. Try the Bamboo Joint Release Experience for looser joints or the Celtic journey, a luxury treatment using local sea salt.