Welcome to Ballina, a charming town nestled in the heart of County Mayo, Ireland. Known as the Salmon Capital of Ireland, Ballina is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty. From its vibrant streets to the tranquil banks of the River Moy, every corner of Ballina is filled with stories waiting to be discovered. Let’s embark on a journey to explore the best things to do in Ballina, Ireland.
Popular Tourist Attractions in Ballina
The Jackie Clarke Collection
Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Irish history at the Jackie Clarke Collection. This remarkable museum houses over 100,000 items, offering a unique glimpse into 400 years of Ireland’s past. The collection, which ranges from rare books to political posters, is a testament to the nation’s resilience and spirit.
Step back in time at Belleek Castle, a 19th-century neo-gothic fortress that exudes old-world charm. The castle’s guided tour takes you through lavishly decorated rooms, a medieval armoury, and even a mysterious underground tunnel. Don’t miss the chance to dine at the castle’s restaurant, where you can savour gourmet cuisine in a grand setting.
The River Moy
The River Moy is the heart and soul of Ballina. Renowned for its salmon fishing, the river offers a serene setting for a leisurely stroll or a picnic. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at fishing and see if you can catch the ‘big one’.
St. Muredach’s Cathedral
St. Muredach’s Cathedral, perched on the banks of the River Moy, is a beacon of faith and architectural beauty. Its stunning stained glass windows and intricate stone carvings make it a must-visit for both spiritual seekers and art enthusiasts.
Top Things to Do in Ballina
Salmon Fishing on the River Moy
Experience the thrill of salmon fishing on the River Moy, one of the most bountiful salmon rivers in Europe. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a novice, casting a line in these waters is one of the top things to do in Ballina.
Cycling the Monasteries of the Moy Greenway
Pedal your way through the scenic landscapes of the Monasteries of the Moy Greenway. This 14-kilometre cycling route takes you past ancient monastic sites, lush farmland, and picturesque villages.
Exploring the Ceide Fields
Venture beyond Ballina to the Ceide Fields, the world’s oldest known field systems. This archaeological site offers a fascinating insight into the lives of our Neolithic ancestors. The visitor centre’s glass-walled café offers panoramic views of the North Atlantic and the rugged Mayo coastline.
Attending the Ballina Salmon Festival
Join in the festivities at the Ballina Salmon Festival, a week-long celebration of Ballina’s cultural heritage and its prized salmon. The festival features music performances, art exhibitions, street parades, and of course, plenty of salmon-themed events.
Must-See Places in Ballina
The Dolmen of the Four Maols
The Dolmen of the Four Maols, a megalithic tomb dating back to the Bronze Age, is a testament to Ballina’s ancient past. This historic site, shrouded in legend and folklore, is a must-see for history buffs.
Tom Ruane Park
Tom Ruane Park, with its beautifully landscaped gardens, playgrounds, and sports facilities, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you fancy a leisurely walk, a game of tennis, or a picnic with the family, this park has something for everyone.
The Humbert Monument, located in the heart of Ballina, commemorates the landing of French General Humbert during the 1798 Rebellion. This striking monument is a poignant reminder of Ballina’s role in Ireland’s struggle for independence.
Ballina Manor Hotel
Experience Irish hospitality at its finest at the Ballina Manor Hotel. Overlooking the River Moy, this boutique hotel combines modern comforts with timeless elegance. Its award-winning restaurant, the Ridgepool, offers a culinary journey through Ireland’s finest produce.
Best Places to Visit in Ballina for First-Time Visitors
Ballina Arts Centre
Discover the vibrant arts scene of Ballina at the Ballina Arts Centre. This dynamic venue hosts a range of events, from theatre performances and art exhibitions to workshops and film screenings. It’s a cultural hub that’s sure to captivate first-time visitors.
The Connacht Whiskey Company
Indulge in the rich flavours of Irish whiskey at The Connacht Whiskey Company. This artisan distillery offers guided tours that take you through the whiskey-making process, from grain to glass. And of course, no visit would be complete without a tasting session.
Just a short drive from Ballina lies Rosserk Friary, a 15th-century Franciscan friary. Despite the ravages of time, the friary’s detailed carvings and elegant structure remain remarkably preserved. It’s a tranquil spot that offers a glimpse into Ireland’s monastic heritage.
The National Museum of Ireland – Country Life
Venture a little further to the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life. This fascinating museum showcases the traditional way of life in rural Ireland, with exhibits ranging from farming tools to folk art. It’s a must-visit for anyone keen to delve deeper into Ireland’s cultural heritage.
Best Places to Visit in Ballina for Families
Tumble Jungle Indoor Play Centre
Let the kids burn off some energy at the Tumble Jungle Indoor Play Centre. With its slides, ball pits, and climbing frames, this indoor playground is a hit with children of all ages.
Take a leisurely stroll along the Quay, a picturesque area along the River Moy. With its charming shops, cafés, and stunning river views, it’s a perfect spot for a family outing.
Escape to the great outdoors at Belleek Woods, one of the largest urban forests in Europe. With its walking trails, picnic spots, and abundant wildlife, it’s a natural playground for families to explore.
Mayo North Heritage Centre
Step back in time at the Mayo North Heritage Centre, where you can learn about the local history and traditions. The centre also offers a genealogy service for those interested in tracing their Irish roots.
Best Places to Visit in Ballina for Couples
Ice House Hotel & Spa
Treat yourselves to a luxurious getaway at the Ice House Hotel & Spa. This chic boutique hotel, with its stylish rooms, gourmet restaurant, and indulgent spa, is the perfect romantic retreat.
The Loft Gallery and Frames
Art-loving couples will appreciate The Loft Gallery and Frames, which showcases works by local and national artists. The gallery also offers custom framing services, so you can take a piece of Ballina art home with you.
Ballina Golf Club
Enjoy a round of golf at the Ballina Golf Club, a challenging 18-hole course with stunning views of the surrounding countryside. After your game, unwind with a drink at the clubhouse.
The Cot and Cobble
End your day with a romantic dinner at The Cot and Cobble, a cosy restaurant known for its delicious seafood and warm hospitality.
Best Places to Visit in Ballina on a Budget
Experience the local flavours at the Ballina Farmers Market. Held every Saturday, the market is a feast for the senses, with stalls selling fresh produce, artisan bread, homemade jams, and more. It’s a great place to pick up a picnic lunch and mingle with the locals.
Killala Round Tower
Visit the Killala Round Tower, one of the best-preserved round towers in Ireland. Standing at 84 feet tall, this ancient monument offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the Atlantic Ocean.
Spend a quiet afternoon at the Ballina Library. Apart from its extensive collection of books, the library also hosts regular events such as book clubs, poetry readings, and children’s activities.
The Sean Duffy Walking Trail
Explore Ballina on foot with the Sean Duffy Walking Trail. This self-guided trail takes you past some of Ballina’s most significant landmarks, including the Dolmen of the Four Maols, the Humbert Monument, and St. Muredach’s Cathedral.
Best Day Trips from Ballina
Just a short drive from Ballina, Downpatrick Head is a stunning coastal site known for its dramatic cliffs and the iconic Dún Briste sea stack. It’s a perfect spot for a day trip, offering breathtaking views and a sense of tranquility.
Head to Enniscrone Beach for a day of sun, sand, and surf. This beautiful sandy beach is ideal for swimming, surfing, or simply relaxing with a good book.
Foxford Woollen Mills
Visit Foxford Woollen Mills, a historic mill known for its high-quality woolen products. Take a guided tour to learn about the mill’s history and the process of wool-making. Don’t forget to stop by the shop to pick up a souvenir.
The Wild Atlantic Way
Embark on a road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s spectacular coastal route. With its rugged landscapes, charming seaside villages, and stunning vistas, it’s a journey you won’t forget.
Hidden Gems in Ballina
The Ballina Costume Company
Discover a world of vintage fashion at The Ballina Costume Company. This hidden gem houses a vast collection of costumes and accessories from different eras, making it a paradise for fashion enthusiasts.
The North Mayo Sculpture Trail
Follow the North Mayo Sculpture Trail to discover a series of intriguing outdoor sculptures. Each piece, created by Irish and international artists, reflects the region’s history, culture, and landscape.
The Moy Fishery
Experience the tranquility of the Moy Fishery, one of Ireland’s premier salmon fishing spots. Even if you’re not into fishing, it’s a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.
The Ballina Manor Famine Exhibition
Visit the Ballina Manor Famine Exhibition for a deeper understanding of the Great Famine, a tragic period in Irish history. The exhibition presents a poignant account of the famine’s impact on the local community.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Places in Ballina
The Fr. Peyton Centre
The Fr. Peyton Centre, dedicated to the “Rosary Priest”, is a place of peace and reflection. It’s a little off the beaten path, but well worth a visit for its beautiful rosary garden and interesting exhibits.
The Ox Mountains
Escape the crowds and head to the Ox Mountains for a day of hiking. These ancient mountains offer a range of trails, each promising stunning views and a sense of solitude.
The Deel River
The Deel River, a tributary of the River Moy, is a hidden gem for fishing enthusiasts. It’s less crowded than the Moy, but just as rich in salmon and trout.
The Killala Bay Folk Park
Experience rural life in the 19th century at the Killala Bay Folk Park. This off-the-beaten-path attraction features a traditional cottage, a blacksmith’s forge, and a variety of farm animals.
Best Places to Eat in Ballina
Dillon’s Bar & Restaurant
For a taste of traditional Irish cuisine with a modern twist, head to Dillon’s Bar & Restaurant. Their menu, which changes with the seasons, features locally sourced ingredients and a fine selection of Irish whiskeys.
Luskin’s Bistro & Wine Bar
Luskin’s Bistro & Wine Bar offers a cosy setting for a romantic dinner or a leisurely lunch. Their menu boasts a range of dishes, from hearty Irish stews to delicate seafood platters.
For a casual dining experience, check out The Kitchen. This popular eatery serves up delicious homemade food, from gourmet sandwiches to mouthwatering pastries.
Rouse’s Bar is a classic Irish pub with a friendly atmosphere and a great selection of beers and spirits. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring Ballina.
Must-See Sporting Teams in Ballina
Ballina Rugby Football Club
Catch a game at the Ballina Rugby Football Club, one of the top rugby clubs in County Mayo. The club’s passionate players and enthusiastic fans make for an exciting sporting experience.
Ballina Town Football Club
If you’re a football fan, don’t miss the chance to see the Ballina Town Football Club in action. The club has a rich history and a strong community spirit, making their games a must-see.
Ballina Golf Club
While not a team, the Ballina Golf Club is a must-visit for golf enthusiasts. The club hosts regular competitions, offering a chance to see local golfers showcase their skills.
Ballina Stephenites GAA Club
Experience the thrill of Gaelic games at the Ballina Stephenites GAA Club. Whether it’s hurling or Gaelic football, a match here is sure to get your adrenaline pumping.
Night-Life in Ballina
Kick off your night at Bar Square, a popular spot known for its live music and vibrant atmosphere. Whether you’re in the mood for a quiet pint or a night of dancing, Bar Square has you covered.
An Sean Sibin
For a more traditional Irish pub experience, head to An Sean Sibin. With its cosy interior, friendly staff, and regular traditional music sessions, it’s a favourite among locals and visitors alike.
The Broken Jug
The Broken Jug is a lively bar and nightclub that offers something for everyone. Enjoy a game of pool, hit the dance floor, or simply relax with a drink on their outdoor terrace.
End your night at The Loft, a stylish venue that hosts a variety of events, from comedy nights and live music to DJ sets and themed parties.
As our journey through Ballina comes to an end, it’s clear that this charming town has much to offer. From its rich history and vibrant culture to its stunning natural beauty and warm hospitality, Ballina is a destination that captivates and enchants. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, a foodie, or a sports enthusiast, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Ballina, Ireland.
So why wait? Pack your bags, book your tickets, and embark on an unforgettable adventure in Ballina. The Emerald Isle is calling!
Frequently Asked Questions about Ballina, Ireland
What is Ballina, Ireland known for?
Ballina, often referred to as the ‘Salmon Capital of Ireland’, is renowned for its excellent salmon fishing, particularly in the River Moy. The town is also known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural beauty.
When is the best time to visit Ballina?
The best time to visit Ballina is during the summer months, from June to August, when the weather is typically warm and dry. This is also when the Ballina Salmon Festival takes place, offering a week-long celebration of the town’s cultural heritage and its prized salmon.
How can I get to Ballina?
Ballina is well-connected by road and rail. The town is about a 3.5-hour drive from Dublin. There are also regular train services from Dublin to Ballina. The nearest airport is Ireland West Airport Knock, which is about a 40-minute drive from Ballina.
What outdoor activities are available in Ballina?
Ballina offers a wide range of outdoor activities. You can go salmon fishing on the River Moy, cycling on the Monasteries of the Moy Greenway, or hiking in the Ox Mountains. Other popular activities include golfing, surfing at nearby Enniscrone Beach, and exploring the town’s many walking trails.
What are some must-try dishes in Ballina?
When in Ballina, be sure to try some traditional Irish dishes. These include Irish stew, soda bread, and boxty (a type of potato pancake). Seafood is also a must-try, particularly the local salmon. For dessert, don’t miss the chance to try some Irish classics like apple tart and Bailey’s cheesecake.
Are there any family-friendly attractions in Ballina?
Yes, Ballina offers plenty of attractions for families. These include the Tumble Jungle Indoor Play Centre, Tom Ruane Park, and the Mayo North Heritage Centre. Families can also enjoy a day out at Belleek Woods or a trip to the nearby National Museum of Ireland – Country Life.
What are some romantic things to do in Ballina?
Ballina offers a range of romantic experiences for couples. These include a luxurious getaway at the Ice House Hotel & Spa, a romantic dinner at The Cot and Cobble, a visit to The Loft Gallery and Frames, or a round of golf at the Ballina Golf Club.
What are some hidden gems in Ballina?
Some of Ballina’s hidden gems include The Ballina Costume Company, the North Mayo Sculpture Trail, the Moy Fishery, and the Ballina Manor Famine Exhibition. These off-the-beaten-path attractions offer unique experiences and insights into the local culture and history.