Ballymena, the City of Seven Towers
Ballymena has long been associated with ‘seven towers’. It is a reference to the spires that once defined the skyline of this historical market town for those who came to trade, worship and socialise in its shops, markets, churches and meeting places.
These days, the association is continued in place names such as the Tower Centre and the Seven Towers Leisure Centre – as well as in the hearts and minds of our residents.
Although some of the original towers themselves have disappeared, we are continuing the tradition and presenting each of our campaign key messages as one of seven towering strengths.
Our towering strengths are:
- A Royal charter
- A thriving heartland
- An industrial heavyweight
- Our creative culture
- Lords and legends
- A welcoming community
- Words on the street
A Royal Charter
Ballymena has been a place to gather for more than 400 years, bringing together rural communities for trade and exchange as a market town granted by Royal charter.
- In 1626, the land of the Ballymena Estate was confirmed to William Adair by King Charles I. Adair had the right to hold a market at Ballymena, and Ballymena’s first market hall was built in 1684.
- Today, Ballymena’s centre is a renowned shopping destination. You can find high street names alongside independent boutiques and places to grab a takeaway coffee or sit down for a tasty meal.
- Ballymena’s weekly Saturday market remains a popular place to shop for local produce and goods.
- Nearby towns and villages include Cullybackey, Galgorm, Ahoghill, Broughshane, Portglenone and Randalstown.
A thriving heartland
Over the centuries, Ballymena has grown into a thriving place to shop, work, live, relax and socialise in. It is an ideal place to call home, having all the amenities associated with a city, yet surrounded by countryside and the iconic slopes of Slemish mountain, where St Patrick once lived.
Key attractions include:
- a town centre renowned for its shopping and eateries
- a state of the art Health and Care Centre, providing a one-stop centre for assessment, treatment and provision of care.
- a Northern Regional College campus, three grammar schools, an integrated college and three high schools, and primary and nursery schools. We also have an exceptional school for those with special education needs.
- two golf courses, including a championship golf course at Galgorm Castle
- a range of hotels, including a world-class luxury hotel and spa complex at Galgorm
- an Irish League football stadium at Ballymena Showgrounds
- an activity-led public space at People’s Park including tennis, children’s playground, fitness trails and art installations
- an arts centre and museum at The Braid
- a cinema complex
- a leisure centre with pools, spa areas, slides, gym, multi-sports halls and spin classes
- a thriving community with active participation in our many sporting leagues, churches, community groups and charitable organisations.
Ballymena is a workhorse location that has helped shape the fabric of the UK’s industrial heritage and powered global names for decades.
- From traditional linen mills to innovations in modern technology, Ballymena has supplied the world with luxury goods and key components for industry.
- With a new focus on eco-friendly hydrogen transport and engineering, Ballymena is at the forefront of global strategies to tackle climate change and lower carbon emissions across the planet.
- In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, numerous woolen and linen mills grew up along the Kellswater river. One of the most famous of our linen houses was the Baird Company. Founded in 1912, it housed over 400 Atherton looms and offered unique dyeing and finishing techniques. The company formed a relationship with the McNutt family of West Donegal, and this relationship developed into the Baird McNutt Irish Linen Brand that remains to this day a leading name in authentic Irish fabric design.
- For 75 years, Wrightbus have been transporting people in cities across the world, from London to Hong Kong and Singapore, on buses made at its Galgorm facility. In 2020, they created the world’s first hydrogen-powered double deck bus, the StreetDeck Hydroliner. It’s an economical, safe, and environmentally friendly vehicle that produces water as its only by-product. With zero-emissions and quick refueling, Wrightbus are leading the way in providing environmentally friendly transport across the world.
- A new hydrogen training programme is being established in Ballymena to develop a skilled workforce in this emerging green energy sector. The i4C Innovation & Cleantech Centre and Hydrogen Training Academy will train and prepare students to be the best in the industry.
- Cranswick’s Ballymena manufacturing site was the first in its sector in Northern Ireland to achieve carbon neutral certification.
- Other companies with an international trading relationship based in and around Ballymena include Dale Farm, QuadX, Ashgrove Engineering, SRJ Davison, Wrightbus, Moy Park, Cranswick, Ballymena Meats, Grants Electricals Services Ltd, Moore Concrete Products, Ballygarvey Eggs, Stephens Catering Equipment, Apeer Doors, Carey Cleaning Equipment, Alexander Dennis Ltd, Nu-Track, AGR Automation, Shaw Automation, Quinn Hearse and Limousine, Plotbox, Dontaur Engineering, Stemfab Ltd, Prestige Diagnostics U.K. Ltd, Norbev and AMS UK Limited.
Ballymena is the source of a deep creative river that nurtures talent.
- Fiddlers, poets, actors, writers, singers, painters, novelists and crafters bring to Ballymena a vibrant identity that is both uniquely local and world class.
- David Herbison (the Bard of Ballymena/ the Bard of Dunclug), Liam Neeson, Norman Maen, David McWilliams, James Nesbitt, Ethna Carbery, Graham Forsythe, George and Will Millar, Sandra Beech (née Millar), Carol Graham.
Did you know:
- The Ballymena Festival of Music, Speech, and Dance is over 100 years old, and one of the largest festivals in Northern Ireland. It attracts about 25,000 performers and audience members a year in The Braid Arts Centre, Ballymena. In 2016, the festival was awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
- Counties Antrim and Derry Country Fiddlers Association (CADCFA) is a cross-community charity and association of musicians that has served the local community since 1943. It is the largest fiddle school in the whole of Ireland and is based in Broughshane.
Lords and legends
From politics to sport, Ballymena has made an impact on the world stage.
- Rugby, boxing, hockey, athletics, GAA – the sporting stars of Ballymena have won acclaim at home and abroad.
- Our passion for sport fills our clubs and practice pitches every week, helping to encourage healthy lifestyles and community pride.
- In the field of politics, Ballymena has made its mark in the corridors of power too.
- Sports clubs - Ballymena United Football Club, Ballymena Rugby Football Club, Ballymena and Antrim Atheltic Club (BAAC), Ballymena Tennis Club, All Saints Gaelic Athletic Club
- Sports legends - Michael O’Neill, Dr Syd Millar, Eamonn Loughran, Dame Mary Peters, Jackie McWilliams, Billy Kerr, Arthur Stewart, David Humphreys, Jessica Kürten (née Chesney), Maeve Kyle, Sean Kyle, Nigel Worthington, Willie John McBride, Sharon Hutchings (née McPeake).
- Politicians - John Alderdice, Baron Alderdice, Ian Paisley, Robin Swann.
- Did you know: Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, is named after Ballymena-born James McHenry. In 1772, he relocated to America with his family. In time, he became a military surgeon and statesman. He signed the United States Constitution from Maryland, initiated the recommendation for Congress to form the Navy. He served as United States Secretary of War from 1796 to 1800, bridging the administrations of George Washington and John Adams.
Even with a growing population, a friendly hello and a warm cup ‘o’ tae are easy to come by in Ballymena.
- It is a spirit that has welcomed strangers for generations, and that continues to support the more vulnerable in our society through charity work, church groups and community associations.
- Our ability to reach out and help others who have been uprooted is strong, and a deep connection to Gibraltar was forged in the Second World War, when many refugees were welcomed in.
- Ballymena really is a city for all, and works towards being an open, diverse, safe, and inclusive place.
- There are approximately 140 community groups in the Ballymena area, serving local rural and urban communities.
- There are four cluster groups: Bann Maine West; Rural East; Ballymena North and Ballymena South.
- During World War II, people of Gibraltar were evacuated when their naval base became a target of the Germans. Eight camps were located in the area (Aghnacully, Breckagh Bridge, Castlegore, Corby Bridge, Drummuck, Dunaird, Moorfields, and Tawnybrack), each housing around 400 people. A strong relationship remains - in September 2006, the Borough of Ballymena and Gibraltar were officially twinned.
- Ballymena supports Good Relations Week every year, which is dedicated to building good relations between all cultures and backgrounds in Northern Ireland.
Words on the street
Ballymena is strongly linked to the Ulster-Scots, having become a safe haven for settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries. Their influence is still felt in our community, and heard in the language that fills our spaces.
- The Scots tongue came to Ulster with waves of migration in the 17th Century, when up to 100,000 lowland Scots came in search of prosperity and religious freedom. Within a century, the language was firmly established.
- Despite the influence of the English language in education and media, Ulster-Scots has remained a predominant language in many areas of Northern Ireland, and especially in Ballymena.
Examples of phrases you might hear:
- Whit dae they cae ye? (What is your name?)
- Whaur are ye frae? (Where are you from?)
- Dae ye leeve nearhaun? (Do you live nearby?)
- Whit aboot ye? (How are you?)
- Am up tae ma oxters. (I am very busy.)
- Nae bother. (No problem.)
- Thon day wid founder ye. (It’s a very cold day.)