Ballinasloe

Ballinasloe

It was inevitable that an important town like Ballinasloe should be founded by an ancient ford on the River Suck. As early as the fourth century, Maine Mor held the crossing here and later St. Grellan came to convert those who lived by the river.

Turlough O' Connor, the High King, raised a castle here in 1124, but the curtain wall and towers we see today are all that remain of the O' Kelly's stronghold, subsequent chieftains of this Hy Many district. These same ivy-covered ruins bore the brunt of the 17th century onslaughts by both Cromwellian and Williamite forces. They also witnessed the transfer of power to the Trenches, later the Lords Clancarty, whose fine residence, Garbally Park House (now St Joseph's College, catholic seminary for the diocese of Clonfert) was erected in 1824.

Ballinasloe, under the Trenches, became a typical English type market town, with wide streets and fine stone houses. The Trenches also saw to the development of the local annual October fair into one of the three most important in Europe of the 19th century, when an average of 30,000 people attended the week-long event and 20,000 cattle, 100,000 sheep, and 4,000 horses were sold. "Marengo", Napolean's famous mount at the battle of Waterloo, was bought here, and today the fair continues to be the most important horse event of its type in the European calendar. The fair is held over the last eight days of October.

Today, Ballinasloe is a prosperous and expanding town on the main Galway - Dublin road and is the main commercial and industrial centre for east Galway. It is also the main angling centre on the River Suck, which is renowned for its pike, bream, and perch fishing in its more sluggish sections and trout in its tributaries. Cruising on the Grand Canal, (which terminates in Ballinasloe) and on the River Suck is also available.

Ballinasloe makes a good base for exploring East Galway. Four miles from the centre of Ballinasloe is the Battle of Aughrim Interpretive centre and about 10 miles to the south is Clonfert Cathedral.

Clonfert is one of the jewels of Irish-Romanesque architecture. The cathedral occupies the site of a monastery which was founded by St. Brendan (who discovered America 900 years before Columbus) in 563 AD. The highlight of Clonfert is the intricately sculptured sandstone doorway. The carvings include animal and human heads, geometrical shapes, foliage and symbolic motifs.

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