If you’re debating staying in Ballina in Mayo, you’ve landed in the right place.
Once a seaport and garrison town, Ballina is a great base for exploring the county, with many of the best things to do in Mayo a short drive away.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from things to do in Ballina in Mayo to where to eat, sleep and drink.
Some quick need-to-knows about Ballina in Mayo
Although a visit to Ballina in Mayo is nice and straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
You will find the town of Ballina in north Mayo, right at the mouth of the River Moy. The town is just a 40 minutes from Knock Airport, 40 minutes from Newport, 50 minutes from Westport and 80 minutes from Achill Island.
The name of the town means “mouth of the ford”. As for the origin of the name Ballina, it is quite uncertain. According to one of the more popular theories, the name comes from the word “Bullenah” which means “a place where oysters are plentiful”.
A very brief history of Ballina
The first signs of settlement in Ballina date back to the 14th century. During this time, an Augustinian friary was founded on the site where you will find this charming town today.
Ballina itself was founded by Lord Tyrawley, an Irish officer in the British Army, in 1723 as a garrison town. During the French Rebellion, General Jean Humbert marched through the city.
This was at a time when Ballina started to evolve. The most important landmark, Belleek Castle was built in the 19th century.
It is also worth mentioning that the entire region around Ballina was dependent on potatoes. Unfortunately, once the famine struck, widespread starvation started in the rural areas. The Ballina workhouse provided food for a large part of the coast of Mayo.
Things to do in Ballina
There’s a handful of things to do in Ballina and there are endless things to do nearby, which make the town a great base for a weekend away.
Below, you’ll find everything from walks and cycles to some of the best places to visit in Mayo, many of which are a stone’s throw from Ballina Town.
1. Take a tour of Connacht Whiskey Company
Interested in sampling some of the finest whiskeys from the region and learning a thing or two about this hard liquor itself? Head out to the Connacht Whiskey Company on the banks of the River Moy and you won’t be disappointed.
One of a few independently-owned craft Irish whiskey distilleries, this place offers whiskey tastings, guided tours, and a nice gift shop where you can purchase a drop to take home with you. Tours are held daily, but make sure to reserve a spot well in advance.
2. Head for a ramble around Belleek Woods
Nature lovers visiting Ballina will be delighted to hear that Belleek Woods is home to many mighty hiking trails. Enjoy picturesque Irish woodlands in one the largest urban forests in all of Europe and discover a wide range of native wildlife and flowers. Along the way, you will also come across a few historical features including the famous Belleek Castle.
3. Spend a rainy afternoon at the Jackie Clarke Collection
You will find the Jackie Clarke Collection along the banks of the beautiful River Moy, where it’s situated inside a 19th-century Victorian building.
This fabulous museum is home to over 100,000 items that offer insight into the history of Ireland. Expect to find everything from rare books, posters, prints, and letters to maps, newspapers, and proclamations.
Jackie Clark was a local collector of Irish historical material. Is is arguably one of the best places to visit in the town when it’s raining!
4. Give fishing in the River Moy a crack
Ballina is known as the salmon capital of Ireland for a reason. The River Moy, which is considered to be a premier salmon river, runs through this charming town.
To obtain the necessary angling license and rent equipment needed for fishing, pay a visit to the Ballina Angling Centre on Ridge Pool Road. The helpful staff working there will assist you in every way possible.
5. Take a mini road trip
One of the beauties of Ballina is that it’s a stones throw from some incredible places to visit on a day trip. Here are some of our favourites:
- The Mullet Peninsula (50 minutes away)
- Downpatrick Head (35 minutes away)
- The Ceide Fields (35 minutes away)
- Tourmakeady Waterfall (1 hour away)
There’s some brilliant accommodation in Ballina, from hotels and B&Bs to guesthouses and unique places to stay (see our guide to the best hotels in Ballina for more).
Note: if you book a hotel through one of the links below we may make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.
1. Great National Hotel Ballina
Located a short drive from the centre of Ballina, this 4-star property offers about 100 modern and tastefully decorated rooms fitted with all the necessary amenities. The hotel also boasts a wide range of leisure facilities such as a sauna, heated swimming pool, well-equipped fitness centre, and a steam room.
2. Mount Falcon Estate
Welcome to the Mount Falcon Estate, a lovely boutique property with 30 spacious accommodation options ranging from deluxe rooms and suites to bedroom lodges for families and large groups of friends visiting Ballina. This is one of the best hotels in Mayo for a reason.
3. Ballina Manor Hotel
Situated on the banks of the River Moy with spectacular river and mountain views, this hotel offers comfortable accommodation and excellent service. It’s located nice and centrally in the town, a short walk from pubs, restaurants, shops and more.
There’s a surprising number of pubs in Ballina Town, many of which could go toe-to-toe with some of the better-known pubs in Mayo. Here are our favourites.
1. T. Breathnach’s Pub
T.Breathnachs Pub is a brilliant, no-fuss pubs where you’ll find one of the best pints in town. Expect a friendly welcome, a cosy bar and a relatively chilled atmosphere.
2. Hogan’s Ballina
If you fancy a tasty cocktail, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Hogan’s. They host a heap of live music sessions here during the week and the reviews (4.6/5 on Google at the time of typing) are excellent.
3. Rouse’s Bar
If you, like me, are partial to old-school pubs that look like they’re from a time long past (and I mean that in the best way possible), then you’ll love Rouse’s Bar. There are few pubs in the West of Ireland that I return to as much as this fine spot.
So, we’ve created a dedicated guide to the best restaurants in Ballina, but I’ll give you a quick overview of our favourite spots here, too.
1. Crockets Quay Bistro
What I like about Crockets Quay Bistro is that they offer something for everyone. From fine dining cuisine to pub grub, their varied menu has it all. The salmon served with roasted veggies and baby potatoes is delicious and the steak sandwich just melts in your mouth. The restaurant also hosts live music performances on the weekends.
2. Junction Restaurant
Located in the heart of Ballina, this family-run establishment serves up a variety of tasty and reasonably priced dishes. Order the homemade Boxty or enjoy some cod and chips. For dessert, have a slice of their homemade Toblerone cheesecake.
3. The Cot and Cobble
The Cot and Cobble is more of a pub, but they also have an ample bar menu with many tasty traditional Irish foods. It’s a place where people come to watch matches, enjoy a good pint of cold Guinness, and sample some delicious food!
FAQs about visiting Ballina in Mayo
Since mentioning the town in a guide to Mayo that we published several years ago, we’ve had hundreds of emails asking various things about Ballina in Mayo.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Ballina worth visiting?
Yes! Ballina is a great little town to stop off in for food if you’re exploring this part of the county. It also makes a great base to explore Mayo from.
What are the best things to do in Ballina?
Arguably the best of the many things to do in Ballina is to take a tour of Connacht Whiskey Company and then head for a ramble around Belleek Woods.
Are there many places to eat in Ballina?
Yes – there’s plenty of cafes, pubs and restaurants in Ballina in Mayo where you can grab either a casual or a more formal bite-to-eat.