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See and Do at Mullingar

See and Do

Peel back layers of history, explore the rich, fertile landscape and enjoy the endlessly fascinating things to see and do around Mullingar and the Royal Canal.

​There are stories everywhere you look in the bustling market town of Mullingar and the rolling, green countryside that surrounds it. Stately mansions tell tales of dissolute aristocrats and unimaginable excess. Ancient monuments are brought to life through legends of gods and old traditions are revived, shared and celebrated. Connecting all these disparate histories are the waterways – glistening lakes, gently flowing rivers and the Royal Canal, a monument to the industrial age that opened up Ireland’s mysterious heartland to trade, transport and a curious outside world. Follow these watery routes by foot, by bike or by water to uncover some truly memorable experiences.

Belvedere House and Gardens

An idyllic lakeside mansion, a wicked earl and a monument to family dysfunction – Belvedere House, on the shores of Lough Ennell, has quite a past. Built in the 18thcentury by Robert Rochfort, this glorious Palladian mansion served as a hunting lodge and bachelor pad for Rochfort, who is famed for cruelly imprisoning his wife Mary, after accusing her of an affair with his brother. Designed by Richard Castle, Belvedere is an architectural delight and boasts magnificent rococo plasterwork and dramatic Venetian windows. Outside, the experience is equally magical, with woodland walks, children’s play areas and highly ornamental follies including the Jealous Wall – a massive, fanciful structure built by Rochfort to hide his brother’s larger, grander mansion. Give yourself a good few hours to explore this gem to the full... (belvedere-house.ie)

Hill of Uisneach

The remarkable Hill of Uisneach was once the ceremonial and spiritual centre of the island; a sacred space where ancient kings and queens came to honour the earth goddess Ériu and the sun god Lugh. To unlock the incredible history of this place, take a tour and delve into a story that starts with creation, veers off into the curse of St Patrick and finally brings you right up to the annual Fire Festival, which takes place every May and continues a tradition that dates back over 5,000 years. Stand at the highest point on the hill, the megalithic tomb known as St Patrick’s Bed, and you can see no less than 20 counties on a clear day. The tour finishes at the famous Aill na Míreann (the Stone of Divisions) – a weathered limestone boulder that is said to mark the final resting place of Ériu, for whom Ireland is named. (uisneach.ie)

Mullingar Cathedral

The distinctive twin towers of the Cathedral of Christ the King dominate the Mullingar skyline and draw you to the imposing granite façade of this impressive building. Inside, in two side chapels dedicated to St Anne and St Patrick, gorgeous mosaics in the Eastern Orthodox style shimmer in the dim light. The vibrant colours and exquisite craftsmanship are the signature of Russian-born mosaic artist, Boris Anrep, whose work graces Westminster Abbey in London. If you’re visiting during the summer, pop into the cathedral’s museum, which contains some fascinating items, including a ring once worn by Marie Antoinette.

Tullynally Castle and Gardens

In the lush County Westmeath countryside, the great gothic Tullynally Castle sits overlooking Lough Derravaragh, immortalised by The Children of Lir. There are not many houses like Tullynally still left in private hands, but the Pakenham family – Earls of Longford – have kept a firm grip on this magnificent castle since the 17th century. As intriguing as the castle is, it’s the gardens at Tullynally that will take your breath away, with a flower garden, a woodland garden, a Chinese garden, and a kitchen garden. Add in a grand avenue of yew trees, two ornamental lakes and a llama paddock and you’re in for an experience that’s a cut above your average stately home. The castle itself is still a family home and is not open to casual visitors but group tours of the main rooms can be arranged. (tullynallycastle.ie)

Kilbeggan Distillery

One of the oldest licenced distilleries in the world, Kilbeggan was a powerhouse of whiskey production right up until it closed in the late 1950s. But the local community was determined to keep tradition alive and, pooling their skills, they slowly brought the old distillery back to life. Now you can step back in time and see how whiskey was made over 200 years ago, a slow, labour-intensive process that utilised water from the River Brosna, corn and barley from local farmers and the skill of the distillers who controlled the whole magical process. To make the most of your visit, join the excellent distillery tour, which takes you through the process, from fermentation to distillation to tasting. (kilbeggandistillery.com)

Maynooth Castle

Standing sternly at the entrance to Maynooth University is the remains of the once-great Maynooth Castle, founded in the early 13thcentury. In the cellar of the keep here, there is a small visitor centre with an exhibition on the history of the castle and you can still see the remains of the Great Hall upstairs. After your visit, wander the grounds of the university and keep your eye out for the 800-year-old Silken Thomas yew, one of Ireland’s oldest trees. It was said that Silken Thomas (who retreated to Maynooth Castle after his failed rebellion of 1534) sat beneath its boughs playing his lute the night before he surrendered to King Henry. (heritageireland.ie)

Castletown House

When Ireland’s richest man decided to build himself a county house, the results were predictably spectacular. Castletown House in Celbridge, County Kildare, was Ireland’s first and largest Palladian manor and a worthy testament to William Conolly, the son of a Donegal innkeeper who rose to become Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. A tour of the house reveals fascinating contrasts: the stark elegance of the soaring Entry Hall, whimsical rococo plasterwork along the Stairway Hall, the sombre wood panelling of the Brown Study and the captivating beauty of the Print Room – essentially a scrapbook of 18thcentury culture and taste. After your tour, head out into the Castletown parkland along the network of paths and you’ll find a classical temple, a fanciful gate lodge and superb views of the River Liffey. (castletown.ie)

Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, County Longford

It feels like ancient history is all around you in this part of Ireland and nowhere is this more evident than at the Corlea Trackway in County Longford. Here, an incredible Iron Age bog road, made from oak planks and dating from 148BC sits carefully preserved within a fascinating visitor centre. The bog road is the largest of its kind ever found in Europe and is thought to have been used by royalty to travel from Rathcroghan in County Roscommon to the sacred Hill of Uisneach. Compelling stuff.  (heritageireland.ie)

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Alans Yippee Kayaking

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N39 F438

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