Infobox Irish Place
name = Ballyshannon
gaeilge = Béal Átha Seanaidh


pin coords = left: 51px; top: 112px
north coord = 54.5015
west coord = 8.2018
irish grid = G874616
county = County Donegal
dailconstituency = Donegal South
EU constituency = North West
stdcode = +353 71 98 5
town pop = 2,004 | rural pop = 2,686
census yr = 2006 | web =
province = Ulster
web =

Ballyshannon ("Béal Átha Seanaidh" in Irish) is a town in County Donegal, Ireland. It is located where the N3 and N15 roads cross the River Erne.


widens and its waters meander over a long sandy estuary. The northern bank of the river rises steeply away from the riverbank, while the southern bank is flat with a small cliff that runs parallel to the river. From its idyllic setting the town looks out over the estuary and has panoramic views of mountains, lakes and forests.

The town, with its steep streets, Georgian homesFact|date=October 2007, and backdrop of mountains and river, gives the town a sense of character. It is also an area of archaeological and historical significance.Fact|date=October 2007


Archaeological sites dating as far back as the Neolithic Period (4000 BC – 2500 BC) have been excavated in Ballyshannon and surrounding areas, representing settlement and ritual activity from early periods of human settlement. Finds have ranged from "fulachta fiadh" (burnt mounds) dating from the Bronze Age, to a possible brushwood trackway thought to date to an earlier Neolithic period, to the recent discovery of a previously unknown medieval church and cemetery containing hundreds of skeletons thought to date from between 1100 and 1400. This site yielded numerous artifacts including silver long cross pennies and halfpennies dating from the reign of Henry III (1251–1276) and Edward I (c.1280–1302). Other finds included bone beads, shroud pins, and pieces of quartz which were found placed in the hands of many of the skeletons.

Numerous other sites from various periods are thought to exist, including a neolithic tomb, and the grave of King Red Hugh ("Aedh Rua") upon which St. Anne's church (Church of Ireland) was supposedly constructed, occupying the highest of the town's vantage points—Mullaghnashee. Nothing remains to mark either tomb, the last vestige of the mound on Mullaghnashee having been obliterated in 1798 when a fort was constructed on the hill-top. The 18th century churchyard and the paupers' burial ground were both referred to as "Sidh Aedh Ruaidh", the Fairy Mound of Red Hugh. The 'shee' (Anglicisation of the Irish "sidh") in Mullaghnashee means 'fairies'. Popular belief assigned the interior of hills to fairies' dwelling places and local tradition has handed down accounts of the exploits of the fairy folk, especially among the Finner sand-hills and in the Wardtown district of Ballyshannon.

The Vikings, according to the Annals of Ulster, attacked nearby Inishmurray Island in 795. Later they used the River Erne to attack inland, burning Devenish Island Monastery in 822. The Annals also record that in 836, all the churches of Loch Erne, together with Cluain Eois (Clones) and Daimhinis (Devenish Island) were destroyed by the "gentiles". In 923 and 916 respectively, "a fleet of foreigners on Loch Erne plundered the islands of the lake", as well as the surrounding territories.

The Normans marched to Ballyshannon from their base at Sligo and Bishop de Grey of Norwich ordered Gilbert de Angulo to built a castle at Belleek (near Ballyshannon) in 1211. During the 12th century an order of the Cistercians was established on Abbey Island, by the estuary where the ruins of their Abbey, founded by Flaithertach O'Muldorg in 1178, still remain. The ivy covered portions of the West Gable and of the South Wall is a mute reminder of its suppression in the late 16th century. Old stones from the original Abbey can be found in the churchyard wall and adjacent farm buildings. Remains of the Abbey mill nearby are intact thanks to restoration work carried out by the Abbey Mills Restoration Trust in the 1990s.

Down through the centuries the town has been at the forefront of Irish history. The earliest invaders of Ireland, the Parthalonians, led by Parthalon a chieftain from Scythia (near modern Macedonia), are believed to have landed here around 2700 BC and settled on Inis Saimer Island at the mouth of the Erne River. Vikings were also said to have settled here and they, in turn, were succeeded by the great Celtic Warrior Clan the O'Donnells. The O'Donnells built their castle here and in 1597 they defeated the English forces in the 'Battle of Ballyshannon'. The town is claimed to be the oldest in Ireland, receiving Royal Charter in 1613 and was a British garrison town . The building hosting the garrison can still be found at the Erne bridge and was long believed to be haunted by a ghostly figure named 'The Green Lady'. 'The Barracks', as it was referred to, dates from 1700 and was designed by Colonel Thomas Burgh. He was, in Maurice Craig's words, "the first architect".

A hydroelectric power station was built in the town in the 1950s. The project, or 'Scheme' as it was then referred to, brought engineers, electricians, and specialists in hydroelectricity from many parts of the country and abroad to the town, which experienced a boom during the decade-long construction period. This involved building a dam upriver from the town at Cathleen's Falls (also known as Assaroe Falls) and digging out a deep channel to lower the riverbed through the town to increase the head of water at the dam in order to drive the turbines. Before the station was built, the river was wide, and the water level much higher than it is today. A long bridge spanned from the northern shore to the 'port' on the southern bank. The waters spilled over a number of waterfalls, among them Cathleen's Falls, before meandering out to sea. Today, however, the river runs through a narrow channel, far below the level of either bank and a narrower single arch bridge has replaced the old one. The newly built Ballyshannon–Bundoran bypass has added a new, more modern bridge over the river. A pedestrian bridge was also constructed to mark the millennium.

During the Second World War the British and Irish governments quietly reached an agreement to create an air corridor, the "Donegal Corridor", which was used by British Royal Air Force flights from Northern Ireland into the Atlantic Oceancite web
last = Guidera
first = Anita
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Plaques mark secret wartime air corridor in Donegal
work =
publisher = Irish Independent
date = April 19 2007
url =
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-09-04
] . This was used by the aircraft which located the German battleship Bismarck [cite book
last = Kennedy
first = Ludovic
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Pursuit: The Sinking of the "Bismarck"
publisher = Book Club Associates
date = 1975
location = London
pages = p.137
url =
doi =
id =
] .

Local attractions

* [ The Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival] took place in Ballyshannon in 2008 over a four-day period commencing on Thursday 29 May and concluding on Sunday 1 June. Over 6,000 people attended the event, the biggest music festival in the north west of Ireland.
* Rossnowlagh Beach, local surfing venue
* [ Franciscan Friary] is situated convert|7|km|mi northeast of Ballyshannon.
* [ Ballyshannon Folk Festival] takes place every year on the August bank holiday weekend.

Transport and communications

[ Bus Eireann] offers routes to major cities in the Republic of Ireland including Cavan and Dublin.

[ Ulsterbus] offers services to major cities in Northern Ireland including Belfast and Derry.

[ Feda ODonnell] offers routes to from north Donegal (Gweedore) to major cities in the west of Ireland including Sligo and Galway, via Ballyshannon

Commercial broadband is available in Ballyshannon, installed by Donegal County Council and provided by all major broadband providers, i.e. Eircom and Perlico


* Birthplace of poet William Allingham
* Birthplace of politician William Conolly in 1662
* Birthplace of Mary Shelley's Grandmother, Elizabeth Dixon. Mary Shelley was author of "Frankenstein" published in 1818
* Bram Stoker's grandfather lived in Ballyshannon. Lieutenant Thomas Thornley, 43rd Regiment, married Matilda Blake in St. Anne’s Church on 3 October 1817. After living for some years in Sligo, the couple returned to Ballyshannon in 1832 in an attempt to escape from a cholera plague in Sligo. Along the journey, angry crowds tried to keep travellers from Sligo out of each town, however the Thornleys managed to get into their cousins' house located on the Mall. It is claimed that Charlotte Thornley's account of the plague in Sligo and the dramatic coach journey to Ballyshannon, influenced her son Bram Stoker to write the classic Gothic horror novel "Dracula" in 1897.
* Birthplace of legendary blues rocker Rory Gallagher []
* Birthplace of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's mother, Hazel Corscadden
* Hometown of well known actor Sean McGinley GAA Star Brian Roper and RTÉ Sports Correspondents Martin Carney & Barry O'Neill.
* Birthplace of Thomas Barton's Mother Elizabeth Dixon and Thomas's wife Mary Delap, it was from Ballyshannon port in 1725 that Thomas, his Wife, and son left Ireland for France where he founded one of the worlds largest wine negotiant firms Barton & Guestier and also established Leoville Barton & Langoa Barton Vineyards in Bordeaux
* Birthplace of Seamus O'Jimson
* Birthplace of James Rogan, who, in 1830, founded Rogan of Donegal, the world's oldest fly-dressing firm.
* The Gallagher clan have their origins in the barony of Tirhugh to the north of Ballyshannon.


* Grenay, France
* Séné, France


* Local Gaelic Athletic Association club is Aodh Ruadh


*The Holy Family National School (Formerly Known as St Joseph's Primary School).
*St Catherines Primary School (Also known as scoil cathrina in Irish).
*Colaiste Cholmcille Secondary School.


ee also

* List of abbeys and priories in the Republic of Ireland (County Donegal)
* List of towns in the Republic of Ireland

External links

* [ Ballyshannon Website]
* [ The Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival]
* [ Ballyshannon Council Website]
* [ Ballyshannon Online]
* [ Aodh Ruadh GAA Club Website]
* [ Ballyshannon Folk & Traditional Festival]
* [ Ballyshannon's Award Winning Bar & Off Licence]

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