Life Ireland

Saturday 20 September 2014

Review: The Ice House, Co. Mayo

Published 30/07/2014 | 15:27

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Deluxe bedroom at the Ice House Hotel in Ballina.
Deluxe bedroom at the Ice House Hotel in Ballina.
The restaurant at the Ice House Hotel in Ballina.
The restaurant at the Ice House Hotel in Ballina.
Bathroom in one of the Heritage bedroom suites at the Ice House Hotel in Ballina.
Bathroom in one of the Heritage bedroom suites at the Ice House Hotel in Ballina.

The salmon are running, the Wild Atlantic Way is booming and the Ice House is the ideal spot from which to enjoy both… with an extra dash of design for your dollar. 

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HIGHLIGHTS: Why aren’t there more Irish hotels overlooking rivers? Through floor-to-ceiling windows in my room, the view stretches over the Moy to the woodlands beyond. At breakfast, I watch a heron preening itself on a rock outside.

When the Ice House opened in Ballina back in the noughties, I felt this 32-bed Blue Book bolthole had a touch of the Celtic Tiger about it — but it has aged well, the food stands up, and if anything, the location feels even more inspired several years later.

LOWLIGHTS: The Ice House is a mash-up of sleek, modern wings and an original 19th-Century building where salmon were once preserved before shipping. The marriage of old and new mostly works — the moody lobby, river-view rooms and bright restaurant are highlights — but narrow corridors, tightly-arranged tables and confusing staircases can be disorienting at times.

BEST FOR: The Chill Spa is a major selling point, offering an outdoor hot tub, barrel sauna and VOYA organic seaweed treatments (the signature massage costs €120). It was voted Best Boutique Spa at the 2014 Tatler Spa Awards… couples or girlfriends take note!

ROOM TO BOOK: Whether you stay in one of the heritage rooms (set in the old house) or a more contemporary room or suite, make sure to book a view of the river. Deluxe rooms come with neat extra design details like polished stone sinks and cosy woollen throws on the bed.

CONCIERGE’S CHOICE: The Ice House doesn’t have a concierge, but I asked the receptionist on duty for a tip along Mayo’s Wild Atlantic Way. She recommended Downpatrick Head, home to a stunning sea stack and new sculptural installation — ‘The Crossing’ — crafted around a blowhole near Ballycastle. Who needs concierges when you’re getting advice like that?

GUESTS OF HONOUR: The Ice House has hosted “former Taoisigh, Bill Cullen and Jackie Lavin, artist Guggi and some TV personalities from RTE and TV3 stables, as well as some well-known actors”, we’re told. “But they’re usually here to enjoy an anonymous weekend!” RATE: Going to press, the best available B&B rate for a deluxe double was €199 per room for a midweek stay. Two nights’ B&B plus one dinner starts from €164pp, based on two sharing a deluxe double room.

CONTACT: 096 23500;  www.icehousehotel.ie

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