‘Ballina 2023’ is a year-long celebration that will mark the 300th anniversary of the official founding of the town in 1723. It is proposed to celebrate the passing of three centuries with an ambitious and exciting year-long programme of collaborative events and activities. It is hoped that Ballina 2023 will honour the past, celebrate the present and inspire hope for the future, writes Ray Cleere
This year, 2023, is set to be a special year for one Connacht town, with a year-long programme of events commencing in January to celebrate the town’s tercentenary.
Ballina lies at the heart of North County Mayo, a coastline boasting some of the most beautiful scenery in Western Europe. This vibrant, historic town straddles the River Moy estuary and is set in a stunning location between the Ox and Nephin Mountain ranges, within easy reach of the golden beaches of Enniscrone, Lacken and Killala, and the majestic sea cliffs along the Céide Coast.
In 2021, Ballina was officially designated as the Salmon Capital of Ireland due to the richness and quality of angling on the Moy, and this status is echoed throughout the town with dedicated walkways along the river where tourists can observe anglers at the world renowned pools, beats and weirs. Among the town’s impressive vantage points are the town’s striking angling-themed Salmon Weir pedestrian bridge and nearby Cathedral walk.
The Moy, much beloved by the late football manager and angling enthusiast Jack Charlton – who once owned a home in the town – is not the only natural wonder in Ballina. Beleek Woods is located a short distance away from the town centre with striking views of the Moy, and is one of Europe’s largest urban woodlands, boasting six miles of peaceful natural forest pathways with many hidden secrets and quirks to explore.
Formally established 300 years ago in 1723 by Lord Tyrawley, an Irish officer in the British Army, the garrison town of Ballina, or ‘Béal Átha an Fheadha’, (the mouth of the ford) began as a thriving seaport and market town, an industrial hub for the linen and flax industries. Rich in history, the town has evolved considerably since General Jean Humbert landed at nearby Kilcummin and marched through Ballina during the French Rebellion of 1798, but the town’s market heritage remains visible in the vibrant shopping streets.
Of course, there is evidence of earlier habitation and settlement going back thousands of years, from the many megalithic monuments around the town, including the 4,000 year-old ‘Dolmen of the Four Maols’ and the 15th century Augustinian Abbey beside the imposing St. Muredach’s Cathedral, located alongside the water’s edge.
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