Ballinasloe is situated on the Roscommon Galway border, on the main N6 from Dublin to Galway and is built on the river Suck, a short distance from the Shannon river. This town is the second largest town in County Galway next to Galway city, and has a population of about 6,000 in the town, with approximately 8,000 more in the surrounding areas.
Every October, Ballinasloe hosts one of Europes oldest horse fairs, which can be traced back to the early eighteenth century. This fair is the apex of the tourist calendar in Ballinasloe, and attracts up to 100,000 people every year. Napoleons mount at the battle of Waterloo was bought here, and by all accounts, the selection of the Queen of the fair is a night to remember. Ballinasloe is also famous for the limestone of the area, from which many important buildings were constructed.
As can be expected with a town of this size, there are several supermarkets and banks, as well as a good selection of pubs and restaurants. A market takes place every Saturday in Market Square, which is very popular with shoppers, and a traditional calf market also takes place on Saturday. The town also boasts a newly built marina, a short cruise from the river Shannon on the river Suck.
Ballinasloe was built on a major ford over the river Suck, and the origins of the town can be traced back to the fourth century, when St. Grellan came to convert those who lived by the river. It is believed that there were settlements here as early as the first century, as traces of three ring forts and two possible Crannog sites have been discovered in the area. The first castle was built here in the twelfth century by Turlough O’Connor, then High King of Ireland. The curtain walls and towers visible today were built subsequently, and have been sieged by both Cromwellian and Willamite forces.
The Trench Family took the earldom of Clancarty in the nineteenth century, and their influence changed the town to a typical English Market town. The layout and architecture from this period is still very much in evidence around the town today.
The power station at Shannonbridge is an anglers Mecca. The hot water outlet gives rise to big shoals of Bream, Hybrids, Roach, Rudd and Tench.
Lough O'Flyn, Ballinlough is a 600 acre trout fishery controlled by CFB.
Bunowen and Shiven hold an excellent stock of trout, which is especially good early in the season.
The River Suck runs deep and slow, providing excellent coarse fishing with large shoals of bream up to 8lbs 100lb bags are quite common. Rudd of up to 2lbs are also common here.
The ancient abbey at Clonmacnoise is one of the most famous sites of its kind in Europe. Built by St. Kieran in about 545AD, the abbey grew in stature to become one of the great monastic cities of early Europe. There are many crosses and towers still standing at the site, and the interpretive centre draws about 100,000 visitors every year. There are exhibitions and an audio-visual show, and a tea room.
Clonfert Cathedral is about ten miles from Ballinasloe, and is regarded as a classic example of Irish-Romanesque architecture. Built on the site of a monastery founded by St. Brendan, the intricate sandstone carvings of the building make this well worth a visit.
The Battle of Aughrim Interpretive Centre is about four miles from Ballinasloe, and provides information on a famous battle fought here in the eighteenth century. It was as a result of this battle that the Trenches were awarded the earldom of Clancarty.