Surrounded by a hinterland studded with some of the island’s most exceptional sights from Birr Castle to Belvedere House, Athlone offers a perfect base from which to dip into local history, culture and nature. But with so much happening both in and close to the town, don’t be surprised if you don’t go far…
Boasting what has to be one of the most glorious views of the Shannon, the Luan Gallery is a vibrant hub for national and international visual art. It’s a small but light, airy and pleasant place to browse through changing exhibitions, with floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the river to perfection.
Athlone Castle cuts a formidable presence, with a dramatic location overlooking the River Shannon. Step inside and you’ll unearth the fort’s extraordinary history that reaches back to the 12th century and is detailed in interactive exhibits and a 360-degree film. It’s a place that holds your attention from start to finish, with a few fun elements thrown in along the way.
Ss Peter and Paul Church
Standing close to Athlone Castle and opposite the Luan Gallery, this imposing-looking church cradles objects of sublime beauty – six stained glass windows by Harry Clarke Studios in Dublin. Try and catch them on a sunny day when the sunlight highlights their dazzling colours and swirling details to perfection.
The extraordinary beauty of the setting is the first thing that strikes you about Clonmacnoise. Blanketed in emerald green and overlooking the grey-blue waters of the Shannon, this incredible monastic site was founded by St Ciaran in the 6th century and has endured Viking attacks, plague and raids in the centuries since. The excellent interpretative centre lays bare the site’s history, but walking among the ruins really brings the site to life backed by panoramic vistas that offer moments of pure tranquillity.
Ballinahown Craft Village
Sitting on the Offaly/Westmeath border, the Ballinahown Craft Village is a creative haven with the Ballinahown Design Shop and Celtic Roots Art Studio and bogoak Économusée, which tells the 5,000-year-old story of ancient bog wood. Drop into the Tea Rooms just above the Design Gallery for a lovely cake and coffee.