The name is derived from the Irish phrase “Baile-aighidh-chaoin” (the place of the pleasant aspect). The general belief is that Balleighan was founded by Hugh Dubh O’Donnell at the beginning of the sixteenth century and that like Killydonnell, on the western side of the Lough was an off shoot of the Kilmacrennan Franciscan Friary. Both places were linked by a ferry.
A large church in the Gothic style is the only building left on the site. There is a graceful window in the east facing gable, while the main entrance is in the west facing wall. There is a flight of six steps inside the church, made by building stone slabs into the east wall below the window, rising to the window cill. It is thought these steps may have given access to a raised altar inside the window, though no trace of this altar remains.
Balleighan was annexed and used for a time as a house of worship by Presbyterians after the Ulster Plantation. Inside the church is the tomb of Rev. Robt. Reid, first minister of Ray Secessionists Presbyterian church. As with many old graveyards in Co. Donegal both Catholics (after 1829) and Protestants used the graveyard and it is still used occasionally to this day.