Ballymena means "Middle Town" in Irish, and rightly so, with a location right in between the Glens of Antrim and the fertile Bann valley, the North Coast and the Capital. It makes a good base to explore these places whilst sampling local life.
Trains run hourly, daily from Belfast Great Victoria Street via Lanyon Place and other Belfast stations, and Antrim (for International Airport), taking 40 min to Ballymena. They continue to Coleraine (change for Portrush) and Derry.
Ballymena 1 railway and bus station is quarter of a mile west of town centre.
Goldline Bus 218 / 219 runs every two hours from Belfast Europa station via Antrim, taking an hour to Ballymena, and continuing to Cloughmills, Ballymoney and Coleraine.
Ulsterbus 130 runs three times M-Sa from Larne (for ferries from Stranraer), taking 45 min to Ballymena.
Bus 131 / 217 runs from Ballycastle (for summer ferries from Campbeltown and Islay) via Cloughmills, taking 70 min to Ballymena. There are five M-F and two on Saturday.
See Antrim for the connecting bus from Lisburn and International / Aldergrove Airport.
By road from Belfast follow M2 / A26 and reckon 30 min.
Driving in Ballymena can be confusing as there are many one-way streets and frequent lane changes. However, the town is well signposted. Congestion is moderate but parking is abundant and quite cheap. Like most places, taxis are expensive. There are frequent buses throughout the area and the town itself is quite big, but it is not hard to navigate on foot.
- 1 Slemish (Sliabh Mis). Mountain the remains of the plug of an extinct volcano.
- 1 Ecos centre (Millennium Environmental Centre), ☏ . a park and factual centre
- 2 the Braid arts centre, 1-29 Bridge St, ☏ . Mid Antrim Museum & Arts Centre
- 3 Peoples Park, Doury Rd, ☏ . very popular, a play park and garden.
- Watch soccer at Ballymena United, who play in the NIFL (Danske Bank) Premiership, the game's top tier in Northern Ireland. Their stadium is The Showgrounds, capacity 4390, in town centre.
Ballymena is seen by many as the best place to shop in Northern Ireland after Belfast (and with cheaper parking!) and so makes it a good place to spend a sunny or rainy day. There are two large shopping centres, the Tower Centre and the Fairhill, and many other great shops. As well as a cinema, leisure centre and bowling alley.
The Tourist Information is in the Town Hall, Linenhall Street.
There are many restaurants, take-aways, as any Western city, there are plenty of major food chains such as McDonalds, Subway etc. as well as quaint cafés and coffee shops.
Nightlife in terms of clubs is poor, but Belfast and the North Coast aren't far away.
Hotel bars are the best bet or The Thatch in nearby Broughshane
Main hotels in the town are
- 1 Galgorm Manor (Resort & Spa), Fenaghy Rd (outside of the town), ☏ .
- 2 Tullyglass, Galgorm Rd, ☏ .
- 3 Leighinmohr House Hotel, Leighinmohr Ave, ☏ .
- 4 The Adair Arms, 1 Ballymoney Rd, ☏ .
There are no hostels but plenty of medium priced guest houses.
- 5 Loughconnolly B+B, 103 Carnlough Rd, Broughshane (6 miles east of Ballymena, road heading in direction of Carnlough), ☏ . High quality B+B at low rates in a beautiful area.
- The M2 runs by the town so the North Coast and Belfast are easily accessible
- Only a few miles away is the village of Broughshane, well known in the summer months for its flowers.
- Portglenone Forest is famous for the bluebells that carpet it in the spring.
- For panoramic views of the whole county and if clear enough, Scotland, Donegal and the Mournes, head out to Slemish Mountain, and from there, on into the Glens of Antrim.
- Antrim (town)