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Ballymena

(3.6/5 based on 480+ reviews for top 20 attractions)
Things to do: shopping, spas, parks
Ballymena is a large town in County Antrim, and the eighth largest in Northern Ireland, and the seat of Ballymena Borough Council. It had a population of 29,467 people in the 2011 Census.The town is built on land given to the Adair family by King Charles I in 1626, on the basis that the town hold two annual fairs and a free Saturday market in perpetuity. As of 2012, the Saturday market still runs.Ballymena is the hometown of notable actor Liam Neeson, who was awarded "Freedom of the Town" in 2013. It is a popular shopping hub within Northern Ireland and is home to Ballymena United F.C.Ballymena incorporates an area of 632 km² and is home to large villages such as Galgorm, Ahoghill and Broughshane.The town used to host Ireland’s largest one-day agricultural show at the Ballymena Showgrounds. The town center has many historic buildings. The Town Hall was built in 1924 on the site of the old Market House, and was refurbished in 2007 at a cost of roughly £20 million.HistoryEarly historyThe recorded history of the Ballymena area dates to the Early Christian period from the 5th to the 7th centuries. Ringforts are found in the townland of Ballykeel and a site known as Camphill Fort in the townland of Ballee may also have been of this type. There are a number of souterrain sites within a 1+1/4mi radius of the centre of Ballymena.Two miles north in the townland of Kirkinriola, the ancient parish church and graveyard possess several indicators of Early Christian settlement, including a souterrain. Also in 1868, a gravedigger found a large stone slab on which was carved a cross with the inscription ord do degen. This refers to Bishop Degen, who lived in Ireland during the 7th century. This stone is now in the porch of the Parish Church of St Patrick, in the Parish of Kilconriola, which is found in Castle Street, Ballymena.
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