There are plenty of things to do in Ballina, regardless of when you visit.
And there’s even more to see and do nearby, which make Ballina a great little base for your Mayo road trip.
Ballina is a picturesque little town in County Mayo and the home of the famous River Moy which is one of the best-stocked salmon rivers in all of Ireland.
From visiting the magnificent ruins of Moyne Abbey and watching a show at the Ballina Arts Centre to admiring the beauty of Belleek Woods, there is plenty to look forward to when staying in Mayo’s largest town.
Our favourite things to do in Ballina (and nearby)
The first section of our guide tackles our favourite things to do in Ballina, from food and beaches to some of the most popular places to visit in Mayo.
The second section of the guide tackles things to do near Ballina (within a reasonable driving distance, that is!)
1. Take a tour of Connacht Whiskey Company
Nestled on the banks of the River Moy, this independently owned craft Irish whiskey distillery offers guided tours, tastings, and a lovely gift shop. Bookings for these tours, which are held daily at 12:30 PM and 3:3, is highly advisable.
If you’re wondering what to do in Ballina with a group of friends (especially on a rainy weekend), a visit to the Connacht Whiskey Company is a great shout.
Related read: Check out our guide to 9 of the best restaurants in Ballina (with something to tickle most fancies)
2. Head for a ramble around Belleek Woods
Did you know that Belleek Woods is one of Europe’s largest urban forests? Expect to find several trails that will take you through picturesque Irish woodlands.
Along the many pathways, travellers will have a chance to discover an abundance of native wildlife and flowers such as Iris, Foxglove, and Primroses.
You will also come across many historical features including a monument called the Horse’s Grave and the captivating Belleek Castle.
3. Take a spin out to Moyne Abbey
Located close to Crosspatrick on the west side of Killala Bay, the remains of Moyne Abbey are one of the must-visit destinations when exploring County Mayo.
The extensive ruin was founded back in the 15th century for the Franciscans and includes a cool cruciform church, chapel, cloisters and an impressive bell tower.
A visit to here can be tricky, as there’s no dedicated parking (and the entry point is a bit… well, interesting) – find out why here.
4. Spend a rainy afternoon at the Jackie Clarke Collection
Nestled along the banks of the River Moy and situated inside a charming red brick 19th Century Victorian building on Pearse Street in Ballina, the Jackie Clarke Collection houses more than 100,000 items.
Visitors here can expect everything from rare books and newspapers to autographs, letters, posters, prints, photographs, and much more.
Take a journey through time at this fabulous museum that gives you an insight into the history of Ireland. Some of the items that you will find here are associated with famous people from Irish history such as Michael Collins, O’Donovan Rossa, and Wolfe Tone.
Visitors can also check out the Collection’s impressive heritage garden. If you’re looking for things to do in Ballina when it’s pouring down, this is a great place for a nosey around.
Related read: Check out our guide to 9 of the best hotels in Ballina (with something to suit most budgets)
Other popular things to do in Ballina
Now that we have our things to do in Ballina out of the way, it’s time to look at some other great activities and places to visit in Ballina and close by.
Below, you’ll find everything from walks and hikes to waterfalls, woodland walks and much, much more. Dive on in.
1. Give fishing in the River Moy a crack
Known as the salmon capital of Ireland, Ballina is a perfect spot to enjoy fishing. Whether you have experience with fishing or you want to give it a try for the first time, make your way to the Ballina Angling Centre on Ridge Pool Road where you can rent the necessary equipment.
The staff can also tell you where you can obtain the required angling license. The best time to go fishing for salmon on the River Moy is when it’s raining. There is even an annual salmon festival in Ballina that takes place every July.
2. Catch a show at Ballina Arts Centre
Culture vultures visiting Ballina can catch a a variety of performances at the brilliant Ballina Arts Centre. Whether you wish to see dance exhibitions and workshops, enjoy live music performances, listen to educational events, or attend theatre performances, Ballina Arts Centre offers a wide range of events and has hosted many international and local celebrities.
3. Visit Downpatrick Head in Ballycastle
Located just a short drive from the little Ballycastle village, Downpatrick Head is a fabulous heritage site of a former church founded by St Patrick.
Here, you will find a holy well and a stone cross, and a small building that used to serve as a lookout post in WW2.
The Dun Briste sea stack is worth the visit alone, as the views from the nearby cliffs is just out of this world.
4. Take a tour of Belleek Castle
No visit to Ballina is complete without going on a tour of the famous Belleek Castle. Undoubtedly one of the town’s greatest treasures, this historical castle is open 7 days a week and offers amazing tours that will take you back to the Middle Ages.
Visitors can look forward to seeing a bunch of rooms including the Medieval Banquet Hall, the Spanish Armada Bar, and the Marshall Doran Collection which is home to a superb collection of medieval armour.
5. Step back in time at the Ceide Fields
A Neolithic landscape, Ceide Fields are the world’s oldest known field systems and this award-winning visitor centre and an archaeological monument set against dramatic rock formations is a great place to spend the day.
There is so much to do here. Enjoy the best views ever from the viewing platform that is located on the edge of the 110-metre-high cliff, see the remains of stone field walls and megalithic tombs, and enjoy audio-visual shows on the guided tour.
6. Have a nosey around the North Mayo Heritage Centre
Located within the grounds of Enniscoe House and 2 miles from Crossmolina in Mayo, the North Mayo Heritage Centre is a place that focuses on promoting and preserving the heritage of the region.
This centre is also home to a small museum where you will find a bunch of artifacts from North Mayo. Not to be missed is the Victorian organic garden.
The Enniscoe house itself is one of the most beautiful Georgian mansions in the region and offers spectacular views of Lough Conn.
What to do in Ballina: Where have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant things to do in Ballina from the guide above.
If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
FAQs about the best things to do in Ballina
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from active things to do in Ballina to where to visit nearby.
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.
What are the best things to do in Ballina?
I’d argue that the best things to do in Ballina are to visit the Jackie Clarke Collection. Step back in time at the Ceide Fields. Take a tour of Belleek Castle. Visit Downpatrick Head in Ballycastle.
Is Ballina worth a visit?
Yes – the lively little town of Ballina is well worth a visit. Although there isn’t a huge number of things to do in Ballina itself, it’s a lovely little base to explore Mayo from.
Where is there to visit close to Ballina?
There’s an endless number of places to visit near Ballina, from sea stacks and beaches to parks, mountains and much more (see above).