A special thermal spa retreat in Antrim and a fine feast in Cork

Travel Bag: Johannesburg’s Saxon Hotel unveils new Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite

Special spa getaway

Tucked away in the rolling Antrim countryside, a few miles outside Ballymena, Galgorm Resort and Spa is a perfect hideaway for a tranquil weekend away.

Sitting on the banks of the river Maine, the resort features the first thermal village in Ireland, and after 2½ hours in Friday traffic en route from Dublin, it was a perfect spot to ease away the week's tensions.

The “village” features indoor and outdoor hot and cold spa experiences, including a snow cabin (yes, there’s actually snow), plus saunas and steam rooms, loungers, and various meditation and yoga experiences. There’s a cafe serving healthy foods, plus an orangery where you can chill out on huge swings. We returned to the village a few times over our weekend, and a highlight was a private riverside tub – a blissful hour beside the river in a wooden tub, heated with firewood.

Treatments include a unique Quartz Gold massage (£125/€140) which involves lying on a bed of heated quartz sand, which envelopes your body as you get a full body massage, facial cleanse and invariably fall fast asleep mid-treatment.


An autumn spa getaway includes two nights’ accommodation in a spacious room (beds are enormous), breakfast each morning, access to the thermal village all weekend, a three-course dinner in either the Bar + Grill at Gillies or Fratelli Italian restaurant, a seasonal afternoon tea, a 60-minute spa treatment of your choice and a celtic sauna ritual. From £540 (€596) for two people.

See galgorm.com

A fine feast

Feast Cork returns to the rebel county this week. From September 2nd-5th, Midleton hosts a blend of blend of conversations, dinners, markets, foraging and mixology masterclasses.

Last-minute attendees would be wise to book their accommodation with Castlemartyr Hotel, which is offering a two-night stay with breakfast and five-course dinner in the Bell Tower restaurant on the evening of your choice, from €235 per room per night. Visit castlemartyrresort.ie and feastcork.ie for more.

Regional records 

There has been a major increase in passengers flying from Dublin to Kerry and Donegal, according to a new report by Aer Lingus. Operated by Stobart Air, Aer Lingus Regional has flown

more than 48,000 passengers on the routes since February 1st this year.

There has been a 10 per cent increase in passengers flying the Kerry route and a seven per cent increase in passengers flying the Donegal route in the past six months versus the same period last year.

The airline reports that 23 per cent of passengers on the Donegal-Dublin route take a day trip, while a quarter of passengers are travelling for business. On the Dublin-Kerry route, 27 per cent of passengers travel for business, 13 per cent use the service for leisure, while one in 10 passengers take a day trip.

Suite homage

Johannesburg’s Saxon Hotel has unveiled a new Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite, marking this centenary year of the late president.

The statesman was closely connected with the hotel as he was a regular guest and completed his bestselling autobiography Long Walk to Freedom at the Saxon following his release from prison. With original artworks, vintage photographs and authentic African furniture, the suite is a true homage to Mandela. See saxon.co.za for more.