The Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail starts near the cross located in the main car park in Balla. This monument is dedicated to PJW Nally (1856-1891), after whom the Nally Stand in Croke Park is named, was born at Rockstown House, near Balla. He organised two National Athletic events in Balla, inter alia leading to the establishment of the G.A.A. in 1884.
Nally held strong Fenian views and in the late 1870s became a leading organiser of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Connaught. His Fenian activities forced him on the run in 1880. After two years in England he returned but was arrested in 1883 for his involvement in the ‘’Crossmolina conspiracy’’. Nally was sentenced to 10 years penal servitude. For good conduct, he was due early release from prison. Alas, only 16 days before his release, he died in Mountjoy jail. The death was recorded as typhoid fever, however it was widely believed that he was a victim of foul play.
As you follow our trail around the corner there are 2 sites of archaeological significance. Firstly there is Balla round tower, which is 10 metres high, has some uniquely odd features. There is an opening at the back for which no archaeologist has been able to determine a purpose. The opening is unique because it is located so low and suggests the Round tower was used as a bell tower, rather than for defensive purposes. Most round towers were built between 875CE and 915CE during a lull in the Viking invasions.
A little further on there is Balla holy well and old rest house. The ‘Blessed Well’ dates back to St. Mochua (Cronan) who founded the first monastic settlement at Balla in the year 616 CE. The Well of ‘The Blessed Mother of God’, as it described on the slab of the Rest house, drew crowds up to 15,000 at its peak in the 19th century. The Balla Blessed Well pilgrimage lasted from the 15th August to 18th September. Near the Holy Well in Balla, there are the remains of an old Rest House. It was used to house pilgrims throughout the 19th century. The Rest House would also be a refuge for the blind or ill. In the house, there were once two little pillars, of mason work, on top of which are two small stone crosses with inscriptions on them dated back to 1733. Both inscriptions are written in English and underneath them are the words ‘Sub tuum presidium fugimus, sancta dei genitrix’, meaning ‘under your protection, we fly, Holy Mother of God’. In the Stone walls of the Rest House, during spring and summer, there is a plant in bloom known as St Patrick’s Cabbage, which normally blooms in alpine areas.