Bring your binoculars when heading for this quirky hotel, as the wildlife in the River Moy and wooded banks beyond the huge sliding windows of your room is perhaps its most fascinating feature - and could well keep you ensconced there in a comfy chair for longer than expected.
Once the heart of Ballina’s salmon industry, the 150-year-old ice house is a lovely building but – right on the river and backed by the road – the challenging site of this former ice store called for some creative thinking when re-designing it as a boutique hotel.
The result is a funky mix of traditional - some ‘heritage’ rooms in the original house have little balconies – and bold contemporary design in public areas that is notably successful in The Restaurant At The Ice House (see below), perhaps less so in the main body of the hotel which features a lot of (rather utilitarian) fully tiled surfaces in stairways, and reception and seating areas which are stylish but somewhat impersonal.
There is some outstanding artwork to please the eye and another high point is the Chill Spa, which has earned an enviable reputation amongst intrepid spa-goers and includes a riverside hot tub (a mixed blessing when the river is low), seaweed baths and a cedar barrel sauna.
Staying here is certainly a very different experience from the old-fashioned comforts that tend to be associated with this part of the country, but hands-on manager Ken Bergin knows all about genuine Irish hospitality. An intriguing base for those who like to break with tradition, The Ice House Hotel is introducing many new visitors to the town. No car park but off-street guest parking spaces are available beside the hotel.
Conferences/Banqueting (70/100); secretarial services, free broadband wi/fi. Rooms 32 (7 suites, 3 executive, 4 shower only, 1 disabled); children welcome (under 7s free in parents room, cot available free of charge, baby sitting arranged); 24 hr room service, Lift. Fly fishing, steam room and spa on site. Equestrian and golf nearby.
The Restaurant At The Ice House:
An ingeniously designed and atmospheric light-filled space, with an extensive decked area leading off it, the restaurant incorporates the original vaulted ice store which is set up with smartly laid tables and has a raised area at the back, allowing a river view even from the furthest tables.
Head Chef, Anthony Holland, is originally from Achill Island, Co Mayo, and previousluy worked in some of Ireland’s top hotels including Ashford Castle and Mulranny Park Hotel
In the evening, he and his team offer an à la carte menu showcasing the best of local produce; the style is modern seasonal cooking, and The Restaurant At The Ice House is a delightful place to be. More casual daytime menus are offered here too, and a good breakfast - including the full Irish, along with many other treats - is also served in the restaurant.