A peaceful walk or a fun cycle? Mesolithic history or Anglo-Norman adventure? A trip into Viking territory or a Stone Age escapade? When it comes to family adventures in Athlone and the mid-Shannon, there’s a remarkable choice of fabulous things to do from outdoor experiences to rainy-day standbys.
The Old Rail Trail
Birdsong, undulating green fields, and curious cattle who gaze up occasionally from the grass – the Old Rail Trail is a delightful Greenway route that weaves through the rural heartland of Ireland connecting the towns of Athlone and Mullingar. The low-key, off-road track is quiet and very safe for families as it traces the railway track past old station houses and under bridges. For an easy family cycle, try the stretch from Athlone to Moate (around 22km return) – the Tuar Ard Coffee Shop makes a perfect refuelling place before making the trip back to Athlone.
Dún na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park
An incredible 27 acres of parkland by the village of Moate is home to this wonderful park comprising, among other things, a heritage museum, pet farm, walking trails, tea rooms and playground. In the amenity park you’ll find lovely walks through wetland and parkland, where wild birds shelter in the reeds and artistic creations emerge from the grasses. The heritage park, meanwhile, brings visitors on a journey though Ireland’s past from ancient ring forts to traditional crafts and trades. The park is also accessible along the Old Rail Trail by bike from Athlone.
Standing proudly on the banks of the River Shannon overlooking the flow of the mighty river, Athlone Castle is an imposing Anglo-Norman structure that was initially built to defend this strategic crossing point. Inside, there’s now a spanking interactive visitor centre that tells captivating tales of monks, kings, soldiers and generals, as well as an excellent 360-degree cinematic retelling of the Siege of Athlone.
Glendeer Pet Farm
Prepare for a cuteness overload at this gorgeous petting farm that is a haven for an array of animals including goats, sheep, emu, llama, monkeys and donkeys. Smaller children get to hold baby animals, such as puppies and guinea pigs and will also get to feed some of the farm animals. There are outdoor and indoor playgrounds, a zipline and obstacle course, maze and fairy trails.
Come summer, Baysports amps up the fun with a massive inflatable water park filled with slide, climbs and bouncy areas. It’s a hive of excited activity with both kids and adults enjoying the space, but for those not attracted by the idea of tumbling down a massive slide into the lake, there’s pedal boating, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding on site, too! A great destination.
Under an hour’s drive from Athlone and some of Ireland’s top sights and family activity parks making it an excellent base for exploring… There’s Belvedere House, boasting great summertime events, a fairy garden and woodland walks (about 40 minutes drive); there’s Lough Key Forest Park, with Ireland’s only canopy walk, a high-wire aerial forest adventure and segways (1 hour 10 minutes); and there’s Birr Castle, with its amazing science centre and beautiful gardens (45 minutes).