Balmoral Show moves to new site at Maze

Event expected to attract more than 70,000 visitors

Northern Ireland's Balmoral Show - the equivalent of the Spring Show in Dublin - today finally made the transformation to the Maze/Long Kesh site just outside Lisburn after 159 years in Belfast.

Thousands of people flocked to the new multi-marquee venue which previously housed the H-Blocks, prison to thousands of republican and loyalist paramilitary prisoners over the decades of the Troubles.

Described as Ireland’s largest agri-food show the Balmoral Show which runs until Friday is expected to attract more than 70,000-80,000 visitors from all over the island and beyond.

There was concern that moving the show, which for the previous 117 years was held at the Balmoral Showgrounds in and around the King’s Hall in south Belfast, might prove problematic. This was compounded by the fact that the decision to move was taken less than a year ago which gave the organisers scant time to organise such a major event.


And while the single-lane country roads leading to the site resulted in traffic congestion this in itself indicated that the show has lost none of its popularity. In fact word from the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS), which stages the show, was that attendance figures for the first day at the site renamed Balmoral Park appeared to be up on previous years.

This year more than 500 traders have stands at the show compared to 450 stands at the old site in Belfast. At 65 acres the site is more than double that of Belfast which means a more organised layout for visitors and bigger stands for exhibitors.

The VIP visitor is Prince Edward who today is officially opening the Balmoral Show. He was greeted today by First Minister Peter Robinson, local DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson and junior Minister Jonathan Bell.

Colin McDonald, chief executive of the RUAS, was delighted with how the first day was progressing. “The move has allowed us not only to safeguard the future of this event and the society but also to build upon our century long track record of showcasing food and farming excellence,” he said.

John Bamber, president of the RUAS, said the scope and potential of Balmoral Park was "staggering". He hoped the show would continue to expand and grow.


Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times