Ballinasloe Tourist Attractions
Ballinasloe (Béal Atha an Sluagh, "Ford-Mouth of the Hosts") lies in the center of Ireland, southwest of Lough Ree on the N6.In earlier times a place of military importance, it is now a busy market town, famous for its horse, cattle and sheep fairs. The great October Fair is the largest in Ireland. Before the days of motor traction, when cavalry played an important part in warfare, this fair could claim to be Europe's largest horse market.Ballinasloe is the terminal harbor at the western end of the Grand Canal, though the last section of the canal is no longer navigable.The town has a number of handsome 18th C. houses.
Above the River Suck in Ballinasloe stands Ivy Castle (19th C.), built on the foundations of an earlier stronghold.
On the southwest side of Ballinasloe, in a park, is the Late Georgian mansion of Garbally, a handsome building in the local limestone; it is now a school.
Great October Fair and Festival
This annual festival first became an official October event in 1722. At first the fair provided a venue to buy and sell live-stock. The modern festival is more wide-reaching, and includes show-jumping competitions, horse fairs, stalls, games, musical concerts and dances.
5mi/8km south of Ballinasloe on the R355 are the ruins of an Augustinian house, Clontuskert Abbey (National Monument). The west doorway of the church (1471) is notable for its carvings - Michael weighing souls, saints, a pelican, a mermaid with mirror, etc.
From Clontuskert, the R355 goes to Laurencetown, beyond which a side road on the left leads to Clonfert, 13mi/21km southeast of Ballinasloe, the site of an ancient monastic settlement. The doorway of the "Cathedral" (National Monument) under its massive west tower, is a supreme masterpiece of Irish Romanesque sculpture. Above six orders of round-headed arches borne on inward-inclined columns richly decorated with stylized patterns rises a high triangular pediment containing a row of five tall blind arches and, above these, a pattern of small triangles alternating with human heads and ornaments. Within the arches and in other vacant spaces are more human heads, alternately bearded and clean-shaven. The east windows in the choir are among the finest examples of Late Romanesque art. The decoration of the later work in the interior - the arches supporting the tower, with figures of angels and a mermaid, the chancel arch and the 15th C. windows - is also of notable quality.
7mi/11km west of Ballinasloe, on the R348, stands Kilconnell Abbey (National Monument), a Franciscan friary founded in 1353. The church, with its slender and graceful tower over the crossing, is a fine example of Gothic architecture, with a beautifully carved west doorway. It contains two notable canopy tombs in the north wall. The one to the left of the entrance doorway has figures of saints (probably showing French influence); the other is in the choir. Around the church are conventual buildings with numerous masons' marks.
2.5mi/4km southeast of Kilconnell is Aughrim, with a local museum which contains material from the Stone Age onwards.
Aughrim Interpretative Center
The Aughrim Interpretative Center commemorates a battle in 1691, which in Irish history is called "Aughrim's great disaster. "The center invites visitors to relive the Battle of Aughrim, on July 12, 1691 through audiovisual presentations. The confrontation involved 45,000 soldiers from eight European countries and cost 9,000 lives.