Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Ice House Hotel ~ Ballina

Earlier this year Sue & I were invited down to the Ice House Hotel but we had a bit of an adventure getting there. I hopped on a train in Athy to get to Dublin so I could meet Sue in Heuston and then get the train from there to Ballina. Unfortunately my train was delayed so it was already 30 minutes later than expected before it arrived in Athy. I jumped on as I was advised by the stationmaster that we’d make up time on the way to Dublin but this wasn't to be. 

We had just pulled out of the station when we had another 20 minute wait for a train to clear the track. On my approach to Kildare station I decided to tweet Irish Rail to see if the Galway train was on time as at this stage I had no hope of making it. I received an instant response telling me to jump off the train at Kildare station & they would stop the Galway train there for me. WHAT?!

The Kildare stationmaster approached me & asked if I was the woman going to Galway, “Eh yeah” I said red faced. I had a 35 minute wait just enough time to paint my nails, as with a day of organising 5 little ones I never got the chance. The stationmaster came back out to me & told me that the Galway train was approaching & I needed to be visible on the platform as they would only be stopping for a split second oh and the doors won’t be opening so you’ll have to get in through the cab. Oh Lord, why me?! 

I have to say the staff were terrific, as the door opened a lad took my bag & offered me his hand to help me onto the train and then brought me to my seat where Sue was waiting, laughing at me I might add. Top class service Irish Rail, hats off to you.

To get to Ballina you have to swap trains at Manulla Junction to go the couple more stops to Ballina, from there the Ice House is roughly a 10-15 minute walk or €7 in a taxi. While we were panicking that the delay meant we'd miss our connection, once we arrived at Manulla we realised there is only one train on one platform and they wait specifically for our train. #BLESSED. 

We had a wonderful welcome to the Ice House Hotel & were promptly shown to our fab room overlooking the River Moy. We left our luggage and took a stroll along the river to Crocket's bar 5 minutes away for a couple of drinks & some live music.

Breakfast is served in the restaurant which is housed in the basement of the building in the original ice stores. The view from the floor to ceiling windows over the River Moy is stunning. I opted for the Eggs Benedict as I always do, as did Sue, it’s made with free range eggs and locally sourced ham served on toasted brioche, perfect way to start your day. They also have a selection of fresh artisan breads & fresh fruit available buffet style.

We were ready to take on the Wild Atlantic Way until we got to the door that is & realised it was lashing rain. Not letting it stop us we just changed our plans, jumped in a cab and headed out to Enniscrone for the day. It cost us €20 for our cab ride out as far as Kilcullen’s Seaweed Baths. Dating back to 1912 the seaweed baths are still full of old world charm, Edwardian features such as oversized glazed porcelain baths and brass taps are still in place. 

I really don’t think it’s changed much down through the 5 generations of ownership and that’s a good thing. We spent over an hour in our private room laughing & chatting while using the steam pod and hot seaweed baths. Only I was brave enough to have an ice cold seawater shower after, I might have screeched a little. It was all worth it as our skin felt like silk for hours after. It cost us €45 for a twin room with steam pod.

Kilcullen’s Seaweed Baths ~ 'Tonight, Matthew, I'm Gonna Be...'

On our way out we asked for a recommendation of a place to eat and were directed to The Pilot Bar a gastro pub on Main Street a 5 minute walk away. This is a really lovely pub with friendly staff and a great atmosphere. As our phones charged behind the bar we ordered a steak sandwich each and a beer. She was spot on with this recommendation as it was a huge delicious steak sandwich served with homemade tomato chutney and rocket on a toasted garlic ciabatta with the choice of 4 cheeses and a mountain of chips all for only €13 each. 

The Pilot's Bar in Enniscrone ~ The Locals Don't Recommend it for Nowt!

Enniscrone must be the wedding capital of Ireland as within the short time we were there we were unwittingly embroiled in three weddings! As it was still lashing rain we decided to hop into a cab back to Ballina for a coffee and a ramble around the shops. Ballina is a great spot for shopping it’s even home to Penneys flagship store in the West, 68,000 square foot of bargains spread out over 4 floors. We couldn't get a cab back to the hotel for love nor money as they all seem to have vanished from the town at about 7pm. 

I asked a lady as she was dashing back to her car in the rain were there any other taxi ranks and she insisted on bringing us in her car. Irish hospitality is alive and well in Mayo, I hope she found the tenner we stashed in the pocket of her car door.

As we sat down to our meal in the Riverside Restaurant back at the Ice House Hotel the bar man came over with a glass of prosecco for us, at first we didn't realise what it was for, then he explained he had seen us waiting in the bar the night before & we left without service so he was apologising. We had popped down to the bar for a night cap but the group in front of us made a huge cocktail order so we decided to just retire for the night, on point customer service Ice House. Our meal was fabulous; the restaurant had a lovely romantic feel to it, perfect for couples... or sisters. 

We were up early Sunday to spend the morning in the Chill Spa being treated to a wonderful hot stone massage using my favourite Voya products and a manicure before a dip in the outdoor jacuzzi even the rain didn’t make us get out.

Have you been to the Ice House Hotel? Did you love it too? 

As an aside, Did you hear the rumours that it might be haunted? Sue had an experience the last time she stayed there but didn't tell me until we were on the train home, weird as I woke up twice thinking my daughter was beside my bed calling me...

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