There is more to Mayo than Croagh Patrick, writes Aisling O’Toole, who discovered a town filled with charm in Ballina.

* This article was originally published in our sister publication, Ireland of the Welcomes magazine. Subscribe to the bi-monthly print magazine here. *

The town of Ballina is often overshadowed by its showier neighbor Westport, after all, it’s expected that visitors would want to visit the town that houses ‘The Reek’. But what they’re missing in Ballina is a town full of character and wit, with plenty to do both in town and nearby. 

Where to stay 

The Ice House. 

The Ice House. 

The Ice House. 

A four-star hotel built directly over the River Moy, Ballina’s Ice House Hotel is the perfect spot from which to explore all that the town has to offer. Rooms are spacious and offer balconies over the river, perfect for sundowners (or breakfast al fresco) but it’s really the spa and restaurant that mark The Ice House out as a place to visit. 

Chill Spa @ The Ice House is a boutique spa that makes up for its size by packing an almighty punch with its outdoor area. Two seaweed baths overlook the river, while the nearby hot tub is impossible to leave. In fact, if it weren’t for the queue of guests also waiting to take advantage you’d easily pass away an entire afternoon watching the birds and comings and goings of the river. 

Moving on to the food… breakfast is in itself an experience - the guacamole on toast is particularly worth noting. But dinner really is the main event here, with a kitchen ethos that sees chefs at The Ice House bring the best of the Wild Atlantic Way menus each and every day. Locally caught seafood foraged wild herbs, freshly grown and locally sourced seasonal produce, and the finest Irish meats all mix harmoniously on the menu. The only problem might be deciding what to order! 

What to do

Located right on the River Moy, The Ice House is perfect for those who like water sports, be they energetic or a little more mellow. Staff are more than happy to arrange activities from fishing to surfing and to give personal recommendations on what works best at what time of the year.

Nearby attractions include the fun-for-all-the-family  Foxford Woollen Mills with its interactive visitor center and the world-famous Ceide Fields. One of Mayo’s most important attractions, the Ceide Fields are the oldest known field system in the world. A unique Neolithic landscape with Megalithic tombs preserved beneath a blanket of peat. Check out the visitor centre to understand what this discovery means for our understanding of our Stone Age ancestors.

Ceide Fields, County Mayo.

Ceide Fields, County Mayo.

And, of course, the town of Ballina provides plenty of entertainment without venturing too far from the hotel. Peruse the independent shops dotted along the high street before popping in to see Derek, in Harrison’s, for a pint of the black stuff. They don’t make pubs like Harrison’s anywhere except the west of Ireland - and after a few hours in the company of locals and staff alike, it’s easy to see why. Everyone is greeted with a smile and a chat be they from just up the road or further afield. After a long day exploring it’s the best respite for tired feet and giddy souls. 

The Ice House, The Quay, Ballina,  Co. Mayo F26 Y9E8. Visit icehousehotel.ie for information.

* This article was originally published in our sister publication, Ireland of the Welcomes magazine. Subscribe to the bi-monthly print magazine here. *

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