There are many delights awaiting the visitor on a trip to the Borough of Ballymena, known as the 'city of the seven towers'. Particulary attractive for shopaholics, this is a town with a reputation as a first rate retail centre. The Tower Centre located in Ballymena town centre has over 50 fantastic shops with leading High Street names as well as local independents, giving you a fantastic shopping experience. The Fairhill Shopping Centre has over 50 stores under one roof catering for all your needs, including a great selection of restaurants to take time out from shopping.
The picturesque villages of the Borough are popular with visitors for their magnificent floral displays, Moravian and mining settlements and significant historical interest such as the Motte at Harryville. A marina at Portglenone encourages visitors to use the River Bann for leisure activities.
Of particular historical interest is the village of Cullybackey where the forebears of Chester Alan Arthur, 21st President of the United States of America, once lived in this ancestral home.
Slemish Mountain has a significant place in the history of Ireland’s Patron Saint, Saint Patrick, when he was captured and first brought to Ireland in the 5th Century.
The Tourist Information Centre and The Braid Museum and Arts Centre are now at the following address:
1-29 Bridge Street
Due west of Ballymena on the road to Portglenone is the large village of Ahoghill. Surrounded by pleasant rolling hills the village and beautiful countryside. There are numerous features of interest in the Parish Church of St Colmanell the parish also includes the small villages of Hillhead and Carnear.
Popular watersports are available at Newferry located 3 miles away, accommodation also available in the area.
West of the Bann on the Maghera Road, the village of Portglenone stands on both banks of the River Bann and is thus partly in counties Antrim and Londonderry with the larger proportion of its residents in the Antrim bank of the River. Always a place of importance because of its bridge over the River Bann, Portglenone was formerly known for its grass-seed market, linen factories and important salmon fishery and now home to an 18-berth marina.
The famous Timothy Eaton who emigrated to Canada in the last century and established the world famous Eaton Stores across Canada, worked in Portglenone.
Kells and Connor
Standing on the stream known as Kells Water, this pleasant village stands south of Ballymena on the Antrim Road. It is an ancient place and here are the ruins of an early abbey – but not to be confused with the more famous Kells (of historic book fame), which is located in Southern Ireland. Just beyond Kells, lies its twin village of Connor, linked with it in history and the site of a fierce battle between Edward Bruce with an army of six thousand men, who had just come ashore at Larne from Scotland and met the Earl’s troops. After receiving reinforcements, Bruce marched south after destroying another large army led by Roger Mortimer on a site near Kells. Bruce, after more victories, was crowned King of Ireland in 1316 at Dundalk.
Cullybackey is a large village to the North West of Ballymena. There is much discussion as to the derivation of the name including ‘The Woodland of the Birch Trees’, ‘The Corner of the Spades’ or ‘The Lame Dog’s Leap’. Take your pick, there is evidence to support them all.
The village nestles in the valley of the River Maine and has a proud history of farming, corn milling, linen bleaching, fishing and iron working. It is served by a rail connection to Belfast and Londonderry and has a network of roads to service the local area. The ancestral home of Chester Alan Arthur the 21st President.
Located 13 miles North of Ballymena town, and acting as a gateway to the famed Nine Glens of Antrim via the A43, Glenravel, known locally as the ’Tenth Glen’, incorporates the three picturesque villages of Cargan, Martinstown and Newtowncrommelin. Much of the area lies within the Antrim Coast and the Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
9 miles north of Ballymena town in the northern part of the Borough is the crossroads village (six roads meet here) of Clough, a surprisingly busy little place set on high land between the winding Clough River and Glenravel. From its height of 600 feet above sea level, Clough has superb views out over the valleys and it is obvious why its strategic site led to the building of an early castle, ruins of which still stand today. At nearby Glarryford there is a quaint little thatched cottage in fact a shooting lodge belonging to a nearby estate.
2 miles north of Ballymena town and on the road to Ahoghill lies the village of Gracehill where you can step back over 200 years and instantly feel affected by the atmosphere of the place. This small village was founded by the Moravians between the years of 1759 - 1765 and is the only Moravian settlement in Ireland. The layout of the village and unique Georgian style architecture remains unchanged.
In 1975, Gracehill was designated a Conservation Area. A first for Northern Ireland, it is considered important by virtue of both its architectural and historic interest.
Broughshane, the garden village of Ulster, is located some 3 miles east of the town of Ballymena. Set in the beautiful Braid Valley, it is another gateway to the scenic Glens of Antrim. The village is known by communities all over the world for its success in the competitive Floral Arena having won Ulster in Bloom, Britain in Bloom, the European Entente Floral and Nations in Bloom several times. There is plenty to do and see within this beautiful area. Visit the famous Glens of Antrim, play golf at the wonderful 18 hole Ballymena Golf Course, fish in the Braid River or walk the historic Slemish mountain.
This hamlet is situated on the Larne road in the southeast corner of the Borough, 10 miles from Ballymena Town in close proximity to the narrowing and beautiful valley of the Glenwhirry River, a valley that forms the Borough boundary for many miles. The hamlet is small and attractive in its setting with the hills rising on either side of the valley to well over 1000 feet.
Images courtesy of Ballymena Borough Council.