I have a few favorite hotels/manors in Ireland and after our recent stay at the Icehouse (for two nights), it has certainly joined my top ranking. The reviews swing high and low it appears for this property but we had nothing but the most fabulous stay. I had been searching for a special hotel between Belfast and Clifden to stop over for a couple of nights and by surfing the net, the Icehouse website caught my eye right away. I chose one of the riverview suites and requested to be situated as far away from humanity as possible (both for privacy and also so that staff/guests in the hotel would not be a distraction from the river view/bird life that we might be able to view from our balcony). For me privacy is a huge issue and from my reading of the hotel's website, the property best caters for privacy, a quiet spa area and romantic encounters...not like a pub or meant for crowd t.v. sports gatherings (but definitely a fantastic wedding venue; after our stay, I'd readily choose the Icehouse for a special celebration).
Upon arrival, the architecture of the building is very eye-catching/appealing/eclectic. Parking was easy (adjacent to the hotel). The front reception area and adjacent parlour were cozy. The receptionist was very cheerful and welcoming (maybe they made note of past complaints as we had nothing but exceptional service our entire stay). She offered us bubbly and we asked to first go to our room and come back once unpacked and more relaxed; no problem at all (and I'm glad she didn't say champagne as it was obviously prosecco, which was fine but I hate it when one is offered champagne and then is actually served sparking wine--a first sign of deception to me). When we returned to the bar area (we sat upstairs in the glass atrium area...very comfy and bright) my husband asked for a glass of wine instead and it immediately arrived along with my drink.
We had quite a bit of luggage with us and the young man (Michael I believe) whisked it away cheerfully (amazing to even be offered a porter in Ireland these days...); our suite ended up being at the very end of the hotel (which is what I requested), down and around loads of stairs so we empathized with this fantastic porter who was not grumpy about lugging two sets of luggage to the room. (I recall a review where someone complained about so many stairs, but to me if this is a concern, then prior to booking a hotel, one should ask about this sort of thing....lots of stairs? child friendly or not friendly? noisy or quiet? what kind of facilities, etc?)
We had to walk past the spa to get to our room, and the spa area was just lovely (see photos) with little candlelit lanterns leading down the hallway to the treatment rooms (very inviting!). We did not use the spa for any treatments as they are quite expensive compared to where we live in Asia, but the smell coming from the spa area was full of scented aromatherapy...very nice to pass through this each time on the way to/from our room.
We also noted the outdoor jacuzzi (both were working and one was kept covered to stay very hot while the other one might be in use). I was simply too cold to even think of stepping outside to use the jacuzzi, but it looked very appealing (and a really nice touch to have this and the steam bath free for guests). Another review mentioned the lack of a pool...in Ireland? (I would have loved it if they had a fitness center for that matter, but how many hotels have decent ones in Ireland either?) I opted for a hot bath in our lovely bathtub (that had candles provided on the bathtub edge).
Our room was called the Bronze Room (all the river view suites..10 total I counted...were given names) and it was the second from the end (the end one being called "Medal"..as in "Bronze Medal"). Nothing was faded or broken down or tiles missing, etc. as some other reviewers noted (and mentioned standards seem to be slipping--at least in our room they were not). I loved the room immediately. (And finally a hotel within this price bracket (Euro 200/night) with goose down pillows and a thick down duvet.) The room was split into a living area and a bedroom (with the ability to shut off one room from the other if one is napping or you need to make two bedrooms) plus a balcony where we spent most our time; private and right over the river Moy...swans/herons/gulls/ducks galore. We could not hear any neighbors (the balconies have private walls) nor unless by boat no one could pass by. And by being in an end room suite, no staff would be down our way unless to specifically clean or by request.
There was a jar of freshly made, delicious chocolate chip cookies in the cabinet (but no fridge; I guess they don't want you buying your own refreshments, etc?) and the typical tea/instant coffee with a note to dial "0" for fresh milk which was a nice touch.
The bathroom was quite aesthetic but not very practical. Pretty to look at but difficult to use. The stone/tile sink is at a slant with the stopper you have to push by hand to let the water go down...a bit yucky to use and the sink easily collects water at the bottom. The shower has no door (again, pretty but not practical) and water splashed out on the floor with every use (yuck again)...my husband remarked that the design was a good lesson in how not to build a bathroom. The amenities were very nice (all spa quality using lavender and peppermint infusions in the shampoo/conditioner/bath gel/lotion/soap bar). Bathrobes were big and furry and slippers useful to go out on the balcony and not bring in the wet whenever it rained...
We had drinks again in the glass atrium area while waiting to eat in the restaurant the first night. There is also a bar area but we found it a bit dark and claustrophobic for me as one only looked straight at the bar; much nicer to be able to look out at the water. The waitresses were fantastic at dinner and at the breakfasts (same ladies...tough job); always professional, prompt and service with a smile. Our dinner was good but not exceptional. Nice wine at a reasonable price. Breakfasts were acceptable but again nothing special as one would expect at a hotel that is supposed to be renowned for its restaurant. We didn't order it but the table next to us had a few people order the full Irish breakfast and it looked quite feeble.
Wireless internet connection was excellent in the room.
The second night we chose to eat outside of the hotel and went to Crockets on the Quay (just a few minutes walk)...fantastic comfort food (the chicken wings are to die for, good soups and we had a very lightly fried plaice...really good and so reasonable). They also had the most amazing fiddler/guitar player that evening (the Ceide boys) so we were very lucky to happen to be there.
It was a perfect two days in this hotel (other than the damp/soggy bathroom) and we will be recommending it to many and hopefully be back again ourselves before too long.
End suite Bronze room was perfect. Private and no other view than the river and birds. Very very qui...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Our sincere thanks for taking the time to air your views regarding your recent visit to the Ice House; they are very much appreciated by everyone here at the Hotel.
I am very pleased to read that you enjoyed what we strive at all times possible to do, and that is to Enjoy, Relax, Chill and experience the warmth of hospitality we provide in a relaxing and care free environment.
We are of course mindful of other issues raised in your review that are working on to improve.
Hopefully it will not be to long before your return visit to Ballina
Ken and the Team at the Ice House
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.