Leave your passport at home and immerse yourself in the award-winning Galgorm and new sister hotel The Rabbit
The satisfied and shocked look on her face – along with an exaggerated look – indicated that the scene with which she was greeted now was not at all what she had expected.
In her defence, when I left the outdoor pool area at The Rabbit Hotel about two hours earlier, I promised her I’d relax on the sun lounger and “follow up on emails” in her absence.
None of us expected the atmosphere to rise to such a degree, with cocktails flowing, music pumping, and aging a bit with so many other hotel guests.
Attractive bartenders Gary and Karl were busy keeping us all happy with a delicious beer and cocktail called The Jessica Rabbit, as the adorable resident dog Florence watched the proceedings. Each of us was getting dressed up in a hot pool, drinking and recovering as we’ve known each other for years.
The inhibitions and initial awkwardness were replaced by new friendships and a real sense that we were on a Mediterranean island in the mid-30s temperatures – unlike a brand new hotel 18km from Belfast city centre, where the temperature outside was cool in our teens.
It was a total bliss, and it didn’t take Sarah long to join the party atmosphere. So much so that we lost track of time and nearly missed our dinner reservation, which wasn’t helped by the fact that we were changing quickly into our gorgeous room, we received a knock on the door offering us a free cocktail before our appointment. a meal.
Believe me, we didn’t need another cocktail. But considering we were on vacation, away from our kids (by the way, who we love so much), we happily accepted the chic guy’s offer. It was just another small touch that made this hotel so special.
As we sat down to dinner (we were only 10 minutes late at the end) all we could see were familiar faces from the pool party, all with complimentary Jessica Rabbit cocktails in front of them.
The winks, fists, and knowing glances between us all were a far cry from the very special romantic getaway we had planned. But no one was complaining.
Everyone, including all the couples we befriended by the pool, a bunch of Old Ones (pleasant words not mine) and a multi-generational 50th birthday party meant the restaurant came alive too.
The temperatures continued to soar thanks to the delicious salt-and-pepper chicken and appetizer of Sriracha chicken wings, before we feasted on succulent steaks and house wine.
Our colleagues Amy and Ryan from the pool, who were sitting in a completely different part of the restaurant, sent us two more from Jessica Rabbits, which we took as a secret code to join them at the bar, where there was live music.
The day’s craziness couldn’t be further from the night before the cruise, when we went further north and stayed at the already award-winning Galgorm Spa and Resort.
The vast location is no secret for anyone who likes to treat themselves to sheer luxury in luxurious five-star surroundings.
But what many people may not know is that there is now another accommodation option on the vast grounds, called Shepherd’s Huts.
Dozens of gorgeous and totally private bungalows scattered around an adjacent plot of land are the hotel’s newest ‘wow’ factor. Each one at an angle makes you feel completely isolated from the hustle and bustle of the main hotel in complete privacy, yet still only a five minute walk away.
We were pleasantly surprised at how good the cottages were, with plenty of amenities like Dyson hair dryers, digital sound systems, welcome desserts, an outdoor bathtub in the large balcony area, and a fully functional kitchenette that literally allows you to lock the door behind you and not be out for days.
Our short assignment required us to leave, but when you walk to the main hotel to sit at Gillies Restaurant, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
There is no exaggeration in this place. You get the immediate impression that you are somewhere special, but you never get impostor syndrome. The roaring fire kept us all warm while we ate a wonderful three course meal.
The luxurious wine cellar that greets you as you walk the stairs to the bathrooms is not exploited by the less gritty ‘usual’ red arrangement but knowing that this scene is there only adds to the exclusive feel of this sanctuary.
The food was as you’d expect: we devoured the braised beef blade and Irish peri peri mussels. But a special mention should be made of Bang Bang Chicken – I was going to drive there now from my home in Dublin just to taste it again.
Feeling full after our meal, and considering we had a long flight that afternoon, we decided to drop out of the bar that night and took a free ride at one of the hotel’s brand Defenders to take us back to Shepherd’s Huts.
The next morning we checked ourselves out again for breakfast, before entering the spa in the afternoon.
Knowing very well that Sarah had booked a massage at The Rabbit, we decided we would just indulge in one of the less demanding treatments. At least, we thought it would be less demanding. But once the gorgeous mustache sauna expert Pavel guided us to the Celtic Sauna Infusion Experience and explained how the next 25 minutes would turn out, we knew we were going to have fun.
Imagine a really hot sauna with three different scents running around as you look down at the River Main as edgy music streams into the room and Pavel spins the towel in the air to distribute the heat. Even the usual amounts of crushed ice weren’t enough to bring the temperatures down for long, and once the third scent was complete, we lined up at the resort’s pool, where he politely suggested we take a dip. It was sheer blessing.
Of course, there was still plenty of time to soak in the many hot tubs and pools dotted around the resort before heading to The Rabbit.
They may have the same owner, neither focus on kids (I say that as a positive) and there are some similar touches throughout to make sure you know you’re staying at one of their hotels, but there’s no denying there are two very different reactions from The Galgorm and The Rabbit .
The sheer indulgence of the on-site spa is very different from the atmosphere of an outdoor pool party for beginners.
Both are amazing, and we left planning return trips. We might ask Santi for some help with that…or childcare vouchers at least.
Rabbit Hotel and Galgorm Resort
We see rabbithotel.com And the galgorm.com
■ Bunny currently has a lot of cute Christmas packages. The selection of the group is a “festive holiday” midweek show. For €160 you get a night’s stay, a seasonal 3-course dinner, use of the spa from check-in to check-out, a duo ritual spa treatment and a full Irish breakfast. For more information, see rabbithotel.com/christmas-2022.html.