To visit Ballinasloe you will have to navigate down the River Suck. Ballinasloe is an old market town steeped in history and culture. Due to its location it has often been called the ‘Gateway to the West’ as it has been an important stopping point for merchants and visitors travelling from the east of Ireland to the west or vice versa for hundreds of years. A new state-of-the-art marina was installed in recent times and has allowed for thousands of Shannon cruisers to visit the town, all of whom are given a warm welcome. The Shearwater Hotel and marina restaurant is the first thing you will see upon venturing beyond the harbour. The popular restaurant offers a fine dining experience in a stylish setting and is just a short walk from the marina. The Spa facilities here are fantastic also and included a stunning swimming pool.
Ballinasloe is home to the oldest horse fair in Europe, an event which attracts more than ten thousand visitors from all over the world each year. The fair begins in the first week of October and has been in existence for over two hundred years. Clues suggest, however, that the fair has a much longer history than that for the town name means ‘the hosting of crowds at the crossing of the river’, which suggests a much longer history of staging mass events.
The town is full of pubs, restaurants and shopping. There is a market square where the three main street’s meet and the town is usually buzzing with activity. Live music can be found every night of the week in Egan’s Bar and Maud Millars opposite it on the main street, both are great fun. There is some fine Georgian architecture on show throughout the main street also and you should be able to obtain a Georgian map of the town from the tourist office. For children there is a large play house (ball pools and slides) and a public swimming pool out towards the railway station. Other activities include water sports, walking, golf, horse-riding and amusements.
Aughrim, to the south west of the town, is the site of one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on Irish soil. Over seven thousand people died in a single day as the Williamite (William of Orange) forces defeated the Jacobites (King James) in one of the most important battles of the time in Europe. The Aughrim Interpretative Centre recounts the history of this battle in 1691, known as The Battle of Aughrim.