The Shambles is located at the corner of Main Street and Dominick Street. Definition of the word 'Shambles' is 'a place for the slaughter of animals or the sale of meat'.
It was originally owned by Col. Francis Arthur Knox Gore of Rappa Castle, Co. Mayo. After the Rebellion of 1798, there was fear of invasion along the West coast of Ireland so this site was used as a British Garrison. The Ordinance Survey Map of 1839 shows that part of this building extended to the centre of the Main Street. This acted as a checkpoint so that soldiers could check people and carts which passed through the town and all goods and persons could be recorded. When it was no longer used for military purposes, it was used as a Co-Op. In the 1920's, the Land Commission took it over.
In later years, it was used as a place for holding cattle before Fair Days and before the Mart in Ballina. It was not used for any purpose for a number of years but, in recent years, it has been used as a Fairground on a few occasions and for a Bar-B-Q night during the Summer Festival.
The walls to the Shambles are constructed of sedimentary stone and the arch over the main entrance is the original arch. There are a number of openings both arched and square and the main entrance has wrought iron gates. There were three buildings at the rear and one at the Dominick Street side, but these have all been demolished.
In 1999, the Ballycastle/Belderrig Development Company bought the site and enlisted the help of workers on a Fas Scheme to point the walls to make them safe and they also raised the height of the wall along the front by 1ft. The outside walls were sandblasted and the openings which were blocked up for years were re-opened.
A Feasibility Study on the Shambles site was completed in 2008 in which it was proposed to develop this 43,000sq feet site into a modern and up-to-date information centre for tourists to the area. The plans also included the construction of a multifunctional centre with showers, drying room for walkers and cyclists, restaurant and meeting area. It is invisaged that such a development would provide for the needs of tourists, climbers, archaeologists and nature lovers who visit this beautiful part of Mayo.
The success of this plan depends on the commitment and vision of the local community to implement it and also from state and local agencies to recognise and assist with the development of this unique area into a worthwhile tourist and local amenity.