Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Clash Of The Titans: Belfast Health Clubs Review

I've been visiting health and leisure centres in my area recently with a view to membership; and there are lots of various leisure clubs in Greater Belfast. This review focuses on two of the largest in east Belfast. The gym I currently belong to has fairly elementary equipment which, for me, simply isn't effective enough. So I'm looking elsewhere.

I spent twelve days at David Lloyd's Belfast club, which is the best of the ones I've visited.

Yesterday, I had a trial pass for Esporta Belfast. It took six minutes to drive there in light traffic (takes eight for Lloyd's). First impressions were positive, as you'd expect: warm, clean, comfortable, friendly, efficient.

The changing/locker room is not dissimilar to Lloyd's, although it is smaller; it's clean and tidy. Lockers are generous in size, wooden and a plastic card is inserted inside, instead of £1 coins which Lloyd's uses. The floor is tiled: I think Lloyd's is lino. There is free shower gel in the showers and it generated more foam than Lloyd's! Both clubs have mini-spin-dryers for swimming trunks. If I were to choose between Lloyd's and Esporta's locker rooms, I prefer the size and layout of Lloyd's.

I walked upstairs to the gym. I noticed there was a bowl on a table with sliced oranges and jugs of water. The gym equipment in Esporta Belfast just wasn't as good as Lloyd's: Esporta's seemed less up-to-date, there were fewer machines and, yet again, less space overall. Esporta's gym seemed to be half the size of Lloyd's, making the layout inferior to my mind. The gym itself is well-tended, clean and tidy.

I changed and went for a fifty-length swim. The pool seemed small, perhaps twenty metres; about the same size as Lloyd's outdoor heated pool and certainly a lot smaller than Lloyd's indoor twenty-five metre pool. There were about three others swimming and two lanes were partitioned.

The sauna is larger than Lloyd's, but there's no steam room. There were two smallish, round spa pools overlooking the pool; one was closed. Both were smaller than Lloyd's Jacuzzi.

There's a bar/cafe/restaurant which is fine; a fraction of the size of Lloyd's.

The prices I was quoted for off-peak were:- Esporta Belfast £52 per month, £90 joining fee waived if I join now, first month free. David Lloyd £49.50 per month, £50 joining fee. I'd need to compare and check opening times, class entitlements for off-peak, minimum contract times etc.

Of the two, I preferred David Lloyd's. Their club seems twice as spacious, has a better layout in every department, bigger pools, better sauna/Jacuzzi layout too. In fact the whole building seems much larger. For my money, I'd opt for Lloyd's which I think is the better of the two.

I still think they're both pricey and and may just continue to swim at the Old School combined with membership of the Robinson Centre at Castlereagh (from £23 per month).

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