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 called for some creative thinking.
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, notably successful in Pier Restaurant (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.
But there is some outstanding artwork to please the eye and another high point is the Chill Spa, which has already earned an enviable reputation amongst intrepid spa-goers and includes a riverside hot tub (a mixed blessing when the river is low).
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 Houseis 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.
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.
In the evening, an à la carte menu showcasing the best of local produce is offered, and Pier Restaurant is a delightful place to be.
More casual daytime menus are offered here, and a good breakfast is also served in the restaurant.
[*The highly regarded chef, Matt Fuller, (formerly of the Fitzwilliam Hotel, Dublin) has joined the team and heads up the kitchen for the 2013 season.]