Ballyvaughan (Irish: Baile Uí Bheacháin, meaning "Ó Beachán's townland") is a small harbor village located on the south shores of Galway Bay in the northwest corner of The Burren. This position on the coast road and the close proximity to many of the area's sights have turned the village into a local center of tourism activity.

Ballyvaughan has a population of less than 300. The site was originally occupied by Ballyvaughan Castle, which stood right at the edge of the harbor. It was owned and occupied by the O'Loghlen family, except for a period in the 16th century when the O'Briens held it. In 1540 a stolen cow was found at the castle, and heavy fines were levied on the O'Loghlens. They suffered the loss of cattle, goats, sheep, and the town of Ballyvaughan. In 1569 the castle was attacked by Sir Henry Sidney but the O'Loghlens held on to the property. By 1840 the castle was in ruins and only the foundations remain today.

On the promontory on which the castle was situated (and on which the Irish Cottage scheme is today located), there were also other late medieval dwellings. According to Westropp's survey of Clare antiquities, the area contained "three small forts and a much-leveled ring of a great Caher".

The present village grew around the harbor in the 19th century, when it temporarily was a thriving port. Three older piers had been built by the villagers, who used them for herring fishing. However, these piers were almost unusable at high tide and in 1829 the Fishery Board had a new quay constructed. This was designed by Alexander Nimmo, a renowned Scottish engineer. By 1831, turf from Connemara was landed here in great quantities despite the shallowness of the tidal bay. At that point, the town had 23 houses and 151 inhabitants. In 1837, to facilitate the turf trade, another quay was constructed, apparently also based on a design of Nimmo's. By 1841 the village had grown to 235 inhabitants and 35 houses.

The new quay was of great importance, as it allowed Ballyvaughan to export grain, bacon, and vegetables and to import supplies from Galway. For a while, Ballyvaughan was the official capital of this region of Clare, sporting its own workhouse, coastguard station, and a large police barracks. Over time, as the roads improved and the piers fell into disrepair, the town lost its importance as a fishing harbor.

More construction took place in the 1850s: in 1854 the old National School opened and the present Catholic church was built around 1860. There was also a Church of Ireland, but when this later closed it was dismantled and re-erected at Noughaval. In 1943 it was rededicated and it is now in use as a Catholic place of worship there.

In 1872 a reservoir was constructed by Lord Annaly, southeast of the town, to supply water to the farms in the valley. This water supply was extended to the center of town under the Public Health Act of 1874 by the Board of Guardians, using cast-iron pipes. 

Today this community welcomes visitors to the Burren region. Each year botanists and naturalists roam this lunar landscape searching for the Arctic, Alpine and Mediterranean plants which grow in profusion over the limestone pavements. The Burren is renowned for its archeology. Ballyvaughan is surrounded by megalithic tombs such as Poulnabrone Dolmen, Celtic ring forts, medieval churches, and castles.

From Ballyvaughan, visitors can explore this unique landscape by car, bike, or by hiking over its many hills. The karst terrain hides caves and caverns. Aillwee Cave is open to the general public all year round. The beaches and coastline of Ballyvaughan are ideal for swimming, kayaking, boating, and fishing. The village and its surroundings offer exclusive and comfortable accommodation to relax in. Both the local residents and visitors can enjoy the restaurants and traditional pubs.

Many visit Ballyvaughan to escape and to stroll its shoreline and green roads or experience the solitude of the Burren wilderness 

One popular landmark was the Ballyvaughan signpost, located at the T-junction in the center of the town which has featured in pictures long been used by Tourism Ireland to market the country internationally. This had featured a large number of colorful signs, many of which had been installed by private enterprises. Those were removed by the National Roads Authority in June 2011, causing a public outcry by local residents.

During the boom years (known as the Celtic Tiger), Ballyvaughan had been tagged Ireland's 'Gold Coast'. Due to the huge rise in property prices in the area demand for holiday homes saw the average house price in the town increase from €45,000 in 1995 to a staggering €480,000 in 2015.

 

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