Ballina (/ˌbæləˈnɑː/ bal-ə-NA; Irish: Béal an Átha, meaning 'mouth of the ford') is a town in north County Mayo, Ireland. It lies at the mouth of the River Moy near Killala Bay, in the Moy valley and Parish of Kilmoremoy, with the Ox Mountains to the east and the Nephin Beg mountains to the west. The town occupies two baronies; Tirawley on the west bank of the Moy River, and Tireragh, a barony within County Sligo, on its east banks. At the 2022 census, the population of Ballina was 10,556.[1]

Béal an Átha
River Moy, Ballina
River Moy, Ballina
Coat of arms of Ballina
Ballina is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 54°07′00″N 9°10′00″W / 54.1167°N 9.1667°W / 54.1167; -9.1667
CountyCounty Mayo
7 m (23 ft)
Time zoneUTC±0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (IST)
Eircode routing key
Telephone area code+353(0)96
Irish Grid ReferenceG240192



According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the first signs of settlement on the site of the town date from around 1375 when an Augustinian friary was founded. Belleek, now part of the town, pre-dates the town's formation, and can be dated back to the 16th century.[2] Ballina was founded as a garrison town in 1723 by O'Hara, Lord Tyrawley.[2] Belleek Castle was built some time later, between 1825 and 1831.[3]



The Dolmen of the Four Maols is located on 'Primrose Hill' behind Ballina's Railway Station. This Bronze Age cist is sometimes dated to c2,000 B.C. and is locally known as the 'Table of the Giants'.[4] Legend suggests that the dolmen is the burial place of the four Maols (from the Irish word maol meaning "bald") – four brothers who murdered Ceallach, a 7th-century Bishop of Kilmoremoy. Quartered at Ardnaree, the "hill of executions", tradition says that their bodies were buried under the dolmen.[5]



The Belleek demesne once stretched for over three kilometres along the left bank of the Moy estuary, from the gate lodge on Castle Road as far as Knockatinnole Wood in the north. From here the demesne extended westward to the Killala Road where there was a secondary entrance at a place known as "The Black Woods". During the Irish Rebellion of 1798, a small column of French soldiers advanced through the estate, as part of a reconnaissance group. This gave title to the avenue known as "The Old French Road".[6] The manor house on the estate is Belleek Manor (Belleek Castle Hotel) which was constructed from 1831 for Sir Francis Knox-Gore, a former Lord Lieutenant of Sligo, to designs attributed to the Irish architect John Benjamin Keane.[7] Belleek remained within the ownership of the Knox-Gore family until 1942, when it was sold by William Arthur Cecil Saunders-Knox-Gore (1888-1975) due to mounting costs and rates.[citation needed]



The River Moy forms the traditional county border between Mayo and Sligo. However, the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 made the right (east) bank of the Moy, including Ardnaree and Crockets Town (the Quay), part of the administrative county of Mayo.[8] This is a suburb of Ballina. The Battle of Ardnaree was fought there in 1586. Ardnaree Sarsfields GFC is based there.

1798 rebellion

Humbert Monument on Humbert Street in Ballina

A centenary memorial (known as the Humbert Monument) was dedicated on 11 May 1898 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French landing at Killala in support of the 1798 rebellion. The monument was originally sculpted by a Dublin craftsman but subsequently restored locally.[citation needed] The figure on the monument is not Humbert but Mother Ireland. Maud Gonne unveiled the monument, and at the unveiling event famously poured water over another speaker's (an IRB member) head. The monument was moved to its current location on Humbert Street in 1987, where it was re-dedicated by Maud Gonne's son, Seán MacBride.

Great Famine


In the first half of the 19th century, the rural areas around Ballina were heavily dependent on the potato as a primary source of food. When a potato blight struck in 1846, widespread starvation occurred. The Ballina workhouse served the entire northwestern coast of Mayo. As the famine took hold in the rural areas, huge numbers of starving peasants requested admission to the overcrowded facility. In February 1847 people were dying of fever at the rate of almost ninety persons a week.[9] There were attempts at mitigating the crisis by some local citizens. Francis Kinkead, the Church of Ireland curate in Ballina, who came to Ballina in 1837 and died on 27 January 1847, played a role in organising funds to help relieve the suffering of both the Catholic and Protestant populations. A marble memorial tablet on the wall of the Church of Ireland in Ballina is dedicated to Kinkead.[citation needed]

Irish language


From its foundation until the early 1900s, the Irish language was the primary language spoken in Ballina. As Irish began to decline in other parts of Ireland during the colonial period, it remained strong in County Mayo and in Ballina. By the 1920s, however, English had become the dominant language in Ballina. In the 1926 Census it was found that although many adults in Ballina had Irish as a first language, it was no longer known by young people or used in the community. Ballina was one of the only parts of County Mayo not designated status as a Gaeltacht or 'Breac-Ghaeltacht,' a status given in 1929 to regions where more than 80% or 25% respectively of people spoke Irish as a first language.[10]

Ballina and Westport were among the first urban areas in County Mayo to adopt the English language. Records from the surrounding then Irish-speaking rural areas in Mayo and in neighbouring County Sligo suggest that Irish-speakers from those areas felt pressure to use English when in Ballina.[11] Today only Ceathrú Thaidhg, 70 km to the west of Ballina remains a majority Irish-speaking area in County Mayo.[citation needed]

War of Independence


During the Irish War of Independence, a number of violent incidents occurred in Ballina. In April 1920, a group of armed men targeted the houses of income-tax collectors living in the town. They forcibly entered the homes, held the occupants at gunpoint, and seized important books and papers related to tax collection. This event was part of a larger, coordinated series of attacks across Ireland, focusing on disrupting the administrative functions of income tax collection.[12] In July 1920, a Royal Irish Constabulary police patrol was held up by armed men about a hundred yards from Ballina's barracks. The raiders demanded the surrender of the police's arms. The police opened fire, and the raiders returned fire, killing a sergeant and wounding a constable. Two other policemen escaped unharmed.[13]

In January 1921, auxiliary police arrested and humiliated several local merchants, reportedly forcing them to march through the town, holding Union Jacks, dragging an Irish flag, and kneeling to kiss the Union Jack. This incident reportedly caused outrage throughout the town.[14] During the evening of 3 April 1921, the IRA attacked a police patrol travelling between Ballina and Bonnaconlon, wounding one constable. A cache of ammunition was later found in the grove where the attack took place. The police subsequently raided a local dance hall and arrested all the men present.[15]

Michael Tolan, a tailor and IRA member from Ballina, fell victim to a brutal murder marked by torture and mutilation. His ordeal started when he lived in hiding after a raid at his mother's house. Captured by Crown forces on April 14th, 1921 while staying at a friend's house, he was then confined in a barracks. Despite attempts by his mother and friends to locate him, communication ceased. It was only when his mutilated body was discovered in Shraheen bog in June 1921, showing bullet wounds, amputated feet, and a bayonet wound, that his fate was confirmed. Identified by his deformed feet, his death incited outrage and was noted for its horrific nature.[16]

In May 1921, two men, Thomas Jordan and William Leydon, were court-martialed at Renmore Barracks in Galway, and found guilty of carrying firearms. During the trial, it was alleged that, on 23 November 1921, seven masked men attempted a raid on a house in Ballina. Four of the raiders entered the house, and during a scuffle, residents managed to unmask two of them, identifying Jordan and Leydon. Despite Leydon's refusal to recognise the court's authority and witnesses who provided alibis which placed him at a different location at the time of the raid, both he and Jordan were sentenced to one year of hard labour.[17]

Irish Civil War


During the Irish Civil War (1922–1923), a number of incidents occurred in Ballina and its surrounding districts.[18] For example, in September 1922, Castle Gore, the Mayo residence of the Earl of Arran, was attacked and set on fire by Anti-Treaty Irregulars. The castle, constructed in 1808 under the supervision of Lord Tyrawley, housed a collection of antique furniture and oil paintings. Around 350 precious works of art were destroyed in the blaze.[19]

In March 1923, an Anti-Treaty Irregular - Nicholas Corcoran - was captured near Lahardane by the Free State Army from Ballina and imprisoned in the town. Subsequently, he and other prisoners were taken to clear a barricade from the railway at Ballinahaglish. When Corcoran refused to help remove the barricades, he was shot by a Free State soldier - Vol. Daniel Boyle - while kneeling. Boyle was charged with Corcoran's murder at Ballina District Court the following week.[20]

21st century


Ballina Urban District Council was based in offices in Market Square until 2003, when new offices were completed in Arran Place.[21]

US presidential visit


On 14 April 2023, the US president Joe Biden visited the town and gave a keynote speech to tens of thousands of people on the final part of his four-day visit to the island of Ireland. His speech commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. His speech also highlighted his family links to both Ballina and County Mayo.[22][23]

Architecture, planning, and housing

St Muredach's Cathedral on the banks of the River Moy in Ballina

The town's architectural heritage includes the 15th-century Moyne Abbey, and St Muredach's Cathedral, which is the Cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Killala. Work on the cathedral began in 1827. The stone was quarried locally and the roof and ceiling were completed before the Great Famine (1845). The spire was completed in 1855 and by 1875 the organ had been commissioned.

Ballina has a number of listed buildings including Georgian housing on the banks of the Moy, the Ice House building (since converted into a hotel),[24] and the former provincial bank (now housing the Jackie Clarke Museum).[citation needed] The streets of Ballina consist mainly of three and four-storey Georgian and Victorian buildings, though the structures of several buildings are far older.[citation needed]

Ballina, County Mayo
Jackie Clarke Building Ballina





The primary schools that serve the town include Scoil Iosa of the Convent of Mercy (mixed), Scoil Padraig (all-boys), the Quay NS (mixed), Culleens NS on the Killala Road (mixed), Breaffy NS (mixed), Behy NS (mixed) and Scoil na gCeithre Maol (mixed), a gaelscoil situated on the Killala road. There are also at least three Montessori schools and many pre-schools.

There are three secondary schools; St Muredach's College (all-male),[25] Moyne College (mixed),[26] and St Mary's of the Convent of Mercy (all-female).[27]

A large, modern facility opened on McDermott Street (convent road) for the 2009–2010 school year to serve the needs of children with mild learning disabilities. It is an amalgamation of the 2 old special needs schools, St. Dympna's and St. Nicholas'.

The Newman Institute is located in a building near St Muredach's Cathedral.[28] It is a charitable organisation working in conjunction with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Killala in the field of Catholic education.[29]

Communications and media


Ballina is one of the towns due to have a MAN (Metropolitan Area Network): the ductings and fiber optic cables are in place,[when?] but with no ISP connections. The MANs are being built for the Department of Communications; they are due to be run by a private operator, but remain the property of the government.[citation needed]

Local media


BCRfm (Ballina Community Radio) is the community radio station in the town. The Western People is a local newspaper, based in Ballina, which was previously also printed at its premises in the town.[citation needed] Two weekly freesheets, the Mayo Advertiser and The Northwest Express are distributed throughout Ballina. There is also a monthly magazine called "Mayo Now" that was launched in March 2015.[citation needed] The Connaught Telegraph, published in Castlebar, and the Mayo News, published in Westport, also carry local news related to Ballina, though are less popular locally.[citation needed] Mid West Radio is the local station, with an office in the town.[citation needed]

Historically, a number of newspapers have been directly linked with the town, including:[30]

  • Ballina Advertiser, Mayo And Sligo Commercial Gazette (10 Jan 1840 – 10 November 1843)
  • Ballina Chronicle (2 May 1849 – 14 August 1851; M/W Connaught Watchman)
  • Ballina Herald (1844 – Oct 1961; C/A 'Ballina Herald and Mayo and Sligo Advertiser')
  • Ballina Herald and Mayo and Sligo Advertiser (Oct 1891 – 28 April 1962; M/W 'Western People')
  • Ballina Impartial, or Tyrawly Advertiser (13 Jan 1823 – 16 November 1835)
  • Ballina Journal and Connaught Advertiser (C/A 1880 – 11 March 1895)
  • Connaught Watchman (2 Aug 1851 – 3 October 1863)
  • Tyrawly Herald; or Mayo and Sligo Intelligencer (1844–1870)
  • Western Gem (1843)
  • Western Journal (1977 – 15 February 1980; C/A Sligo Journal 22 February 1980 – 11 March 1983)
  • Western People (1883 – present)
  • Western Star (1835–1837)

[ M/W = merged with; C/A = continued as ]

Throughout the 1980s, Ballina had a number of local radio stations before the advent of legalised local radio in 1989.[citation needed] These stations included: ARW – Alternative Radio West, which operated from Lord Edward Street, Castle Radio – which was based in Belleek Castle,[31] Westward Radio – broadcast from Howley Street (Later Teeling St), Holiday FM and TCR both of which were based on Tone Street.[citation needed]




The N26 is the main road to Dublin: it leaves the town south to Foxford, and after Swinford joins the N5 to Dublin. N59 comes from Belmullet and Crossmolina in the west, and goes through the town to Sligo to the northeast. The R314 is a regional road to Killala, and then Ballycastle. The R294 goes to south County Sligo via 'the Windy Gap' in the Ox Mountains. It is used as an alternative route to Dublin, via Tubbercurry and Boyle.



There are two main bridges straddling the Moy in the town centre. The first, the Armstrong and West, or Lower bridge, was built in 1835. The second, the Hamm bridge or Upper bridge, was built in the following year of 1836 by Thomas Hamm at a cost of £3,000.00. Both bridges are limestone, and have 4 and 5 arches respectively. Traffic flows in a one-way direction around these 2 bridges and is often heavily backed up on both sides, the reason for calls for a third bridge further down the river.

The Salmon Weir Bridge over the River Moy

The Salmon Weir Bridge is a pedestrian bridge over the River Moy from Barrett St. to Ridge Pool Rd. The bridge, which was designed to resemble a fishing rod, was opened in July 2009.

Salmon Weir Bridge

Ballina Bus Station is host to a Bus Éireann bus depot. As of 2008, Bus Éireann reportedly stated an intention to develop services similar to the 24-hour Dublin-Belfast route on the Ballina-Dublin route.[32][needs update] The route currently runs seven services a day between Ballina and the capital. In 2007, Bus Éireann launched a direct bus from Dublin Airport to Ballina.[citation needed] A Ballina to Enniscrone bus is run by several companies during the summer months.[citation needed]



Ballina railway station is located on the N26 beside the bus station. Departing trains stop at Foxford before terminating at Manulla junction where passengers can connect to trains going to Castlebar, Westport or Dublin (Heuston Station). Trains to Dublin operate three times daily and on Friday evenings a train operates direct from Dublin to Ballina. Ballina is a major rail freight hub, with a direct freight line from the town to Waterford Port transporting pulpwood for Coillte, and as of late 2009, a direct Dublin Port line.[citation needed]

Ireland West Airport Knock (Knock Airport, NOC) is about 50.7 km, or 31.5 miles from Ballina. Bus Éireann now runs a shuttle service about five times a day from the airport to Charlestown, from where commuters can get a connecting bus to Ballina.

Social life and culture


Ballina's entertainment scene is supported by a number of traditional pubs, late bars and a variety of restaurants.[citation needed]

Ballina town centre

The old Newman Institute building on Barrett Street is home to the Ballina Arts Centre, which was redeveloped to incorporate a new auditorium, dance studio, rehearsal space, exhibition gallery and coffee shop between 2009 and 2011.[33]

In 2009, the Jackie Clarke Collection went on display when the Clarke Museum opened in the old provincial bank.[34] During his lifetime, Clarke sourced and purchased a number of rare documents, including sole surviving copies of publications, rare handbills and proclamations, unpublished manuscripts and political writings. He donated his collections to the state, under the condition that they would stay in Ballina.[35]

Tourism, sports and events




Ballina's location on the River Moy favours salmon fishing, and one of the best spots, the Ridge Pool, is situated in the heart of the town.[36] The Ballina Salmon Festival is held annually in July in the town. The festival includes Heritage Day, where most of the centre of the town is closed to traffic and the streets fill with arts and craft stalls and demonstrations of transport from days gone by. The festival finale is a Mardi Gras followed by a monster fireworks display

Tourist attractions include two museums in the town, the Jackie Clarke Collection and Belleek Castle Museum.

Houses on Station Road in Ballina



Ballina Stephenites is one of the local Gaelic Athletic Association club teams. The name also refers to the town's Gaelic Athletic Association grounds, James Stephens Park.

Ballina Town and Ballina United are two of the town's soccer clubs, the former playing their home matches at Belleek Park. Ballina R.F.C. is located in the Quay and compete in division 2B of the All Ireland League.[citation needed]

Ballina's athletics club has a floodlight outdoor 400m track and a cross country pitch which sometimes holds the AAI Connacht and Mayo finals. The local triathlon club, Liquid Motion, holds a triathlon in the town every summer.[citation needed]

In basketball, Team Loftus Recycling represent the town in Men's Division 1.[citation needed] Ballina also has Mayo's only Gymnastics Training Centre, Nadia Gym. The town also has a martial arts school, Moy Valley Freestyle, and a Jikishin Kage-ryu kenjutsu club.[citation needed]

Ballina Golf Club is an 18-hole parkland golf course on the outskirts of the town on the Bonniconlon Road.[citation needed]

A short lived greyhound racing track was opened by the Ballina Greyhound Racing Company Ltd in the town on 6 May 1948.[37] The site near Coolcran farm was replaced by the Dunleavy cattle farm market in 1956.[38]

Notable people


Twin towns


Ballina is twinned with:


See also



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  2. ^ a b "Ballina Co Mayo, Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way, Mayo".
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  4. ^ "Ballina Dolmen (Dolmen of the Four Maols)". 3 May 2010.
  5. ^ "Dolmen of the Four Maols, Ballina, Mayo". Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  6. ^ "In Humberts Footsteps − 1798 & the Year of the French" (PDF). Humbert despatched [sic] a small group of French to reconnoitre the strength of the British garrison at Ballina; the group [..] came through the Belleek demesne
  7. ^ "Ballina author explores Irish Country Houses". 2 October 2012.
  8. ^ " Home Page". Retrieved 10 April 2018.
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  13. ^ "Police shot in Ballina". Sligo Champion. 24 July 1920. p. 3.
  14. ^ "Popular Indignation at Humiliating Spectacle". Freemans Journal. 15 January 1921. p. 10.
  15. ^ "Attacked from a grove". Freemans Journal. 5 April 1921. p. 6.
  16. ^ "SHOCKING MAYO TRAGEDY: Michael Tolan". Ballina Herald. 17 November 1921.
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