Ballinasloe // (Irish: Béal Átha na Slua, meaning "mouth of the ford of the crowds") is a town in the easternmost part of County Galway Ireland. It is one of the largest towns in County Galway with a population of approximately 7,200 people, which includes Ballinasloe Urban and Ballinasloe Rural.
The town developed as a crossing point on the River Suck, a tributary of the Shannon. The Irish placename – meaning the mouth of the ford of the crowds – reflects this purpose. The latter part of the name suggests the town has been a meeting place since ancient times. The patron saint of Ballinasloe is Saint Grellan, whom tradition believes built the first church in the area at Kilcloony. A local housing estate, a GAA club, the branch of Conradh na Gaeilge, and formerly a school are named after him.
Richard Mór de Burgh is credited with founding the town.
Fast-food restaurant Supermacs first opened in Ballinasloe in 1978. The restaurant chain is now present in over 106 locations, including three stores in the town.
Ballinasloe was traditionally an agricultural economy, though the 1980s and 1990s saw a number of factories locate in the town. Between 2000 and 2004, however, Ballinasloe took a hit with the closure of Square D, AT Cross and Dubarry. The Recession in 2008 negatively impacted the town as young workers left to find work in Dublin or abroad.
The 2010s has seen a resurgence in the local economy, this time with skilled labour. Currently, the biggest local employers are Aptar, a manufacturing company, and Surmodics, a medical company who committed to creating 100 new jobs in Ballinasloe between 2016-2021. Both factories are located in the Business & Technology Park, which is a 32 acre site. This space also contains what is soon to be an advance-factory site.
Another notable driving force of the local economy is the Enterprise Centre, located on the outskirts of Ballinasloe along the Creagh Road. There are currently 22 enterprises based in the Centre, with 9 more regularly using the training, meeting and hot-desk facilities.
Local business in the town centre focuses on stores and restaurants. Gullane's Hotel, a three-star hotel, has served the area since 1943. The Shearwater Hotel, a four-star hotel, is located at Marina Point, 5 minutes from the town centre.
Ballinasloe Active Community Development (BACD), a group focused on developing the area to attract investment, have been marketing Ballinasloe as an enterprise town.
In May 2017, a Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town weekend was hosted in Ballinasloe in the Emerald Ballroom. The event was opened by Minister Denis Naughten, and Gavin Duffy of Dragon's Den was a special guest. The event featured many different community groups, showcasing what they brought to Ballinasloe and how they make the town a better place to live.
The success of this weekend saw BACD apply to enter the Bank of Ireland Enterprising Town Competition. As part of the entry, the Town Team at BACD produced a series of videos promoting Ballinasloe to potential investors.
Ballinasloe plays hosts to four annual events or festivals. The town sees major footfall during the run of these events, as such, they are key to the town's tourism.
Every October, Ballinasloe is host to the ancient annual October Fair. Chiefly agricultural in the past, it is now focused on the horse. Ballinasloe Fair is one of the oldest horse fairs in Europe; bathed in history, it dates back to the 18th century. Today the ever-popular fair is held alongside a festival that attracts up to 100,000 visitors from all over the world. A large market takes place, along with a number of events, such as a soapbox derby and dog-show.
The Larry Reynolds' Weekend is a celebration of traditional Irish music. The has run annually for the last four years in commemoration of Larry Reynolds, a late Balliansloe expat who brought the east Galway style of music to Boston. In Boston, Larry had an open-door policy to all Irish immigrants. The festival sees a number of Irish and American musical acts perform in the different bars around town, including many local talents.
The Strings Festival was first held in July 2017 in the Library's Church Gallery. Different musicians from Ballinasloe and the surrounding area showcased their musical talents over the two day event. Local musicians John Feeley and Rachel Goode performed over the weekend, where admission was free.
For Halloween, the Town Team organises a Zombie Walk on the grounds of the Garbally estate. First held in 2015, the Zombie Walk is a unique experience where zombie tour-guides bring groups of 10-15 people through the Garbally woods. The expertly costumed cast of zombies, witches and ghouls in the woods ensure a blood-pumping experience.
Clonmacnoise Monastic Site is a 30 minute drive away from Ballinasloe. An interpretive centre and facilities for visitors have been built around the site, which consists of 12 separate buildings.
Kilconnell Franciscan Friary is a 15 minute drive from Ballinasloe. It was founded in 1353 by William Buí O'Kelly. The medieval friary survives in good condition, with the tombs of its many of its patrons surviving inside its ruins.
Clontuskert Abbey is a National Monument, located just 10 minutes from the town. The cloister and church of the medieval priory are open-access to the public.
Battle of Aughrim Interpretive Centre is located in Aughrim, a village just 10 minutes from Ballinasloe. Here, you can relive the historic Williamite War, which changed the course of Irish history. The centre offers insight on how three rival European Kings - William of Orange, James II, and Louis XIV - took hold of Ireland in their struggle for power, gathering at Aughrim in 1691.
Hymany Way is a historic hiking trail between Portumna and Aughrim, following the banks of the River Shannon. The trail passes right through Ballinasloe, marking the town as an ideal destination for a hiking weekend.
Once a notorious traffic jam on the old Galway to Dublin road, Ballinasloe is now by-passed by the M6 motorway. The motorway was opened on 18 December 2009 as the N6 was upgraded. Firms now in Ballinasloe know that they can access Galway and Dublin very easily by the motorway.
From 1828 to the 1960s, Ballinasloe was the terminus of the Grand Canal. Guinness Company used the town's canal stores to store and distribute the Guinness to the midlands. Grand Canal provided an easy route for Guinness barges to travel from Dublin to Shannon Harbour. A new public marina has been developed on the river in recent years that allows traffic from the Shannon navigation to access the town.
A number of newspapers circulate in the Ballinasloe area, such as Ballinasloe Life magazine, the Connacht Tribune, Galway Advertiser, Athlone Topic and the Roscommon Herald. As Ballinasloe sits on the border between two counties it is served by 2 local radio stations, Galway Bay FM and Shannonside FM. Local radio from other neighbouring counties such as Midlands 103 and Tipp FM are well received in the area. National stations in the area include RTÉ Radio 1, 2FM, RTÉ Lyric FM, Today FM and 4FM. The town's website is a community-run project that provides information about upcoming events and local news. Content is also uploaded to Ballinasloe's Youtube channel.
Ballinasloe itself harbours historically rich soccer, golf, and rugby clubs, alongside Duggan Park Gaelic Athletic Association grounds. The local GAA clubs are Ballinasloe GAA (incorporating St Grellan's Gaelic football club and the Ballinasloe Hurling Club), Derrymullen Handball Club and Ballinasloe Camogie Club. The Soccer Club Ballinasloe Town AFC is one of the most successful association football clubs in the area, playing its games at The Curragh Grounds in the town. Ballinasloe has a boxing tradition as well, and two resident boxing clubs. There is also a Tennis Club and Athletics Club. The sporting facilities in the town have improved significantly over the last number of years with an estimated €20 million having been invested locally.
The facilities in the town include: a golf club, GAA grounds, tennis club, two swimming pools, 40x20 Handball Alley, rugby grounds, soccer grounds, driving range and a running track.
In Ballinasloe there are four national schools (Scoil Uí Cheithearnaigh, Creagh National School, St Teresa's Special School and Scoil an Chroí Naofa) and two secondary schools (St Joseph's College, Garbally and Ard Scoil Mhuire).
From the Annals of Lough Cé:
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