Read on for some inspiration for your short break.
Explore walking trails and so much more
Lough Ennell and the Westmeath Way
Start your visit to Westmeath in Kilbeggan and breathe in the fresh air as you walk the Westmeath Way, a 33km linear walking route from Kilbeggan to Mullingar in the heart of Westmeath.
Meander along with the River Brosna as far as the gleaming shores of Lough Ennell — this is the spot to stop for a picnic before heading through the woodlands and by the fields of the countryside. When you reach the canal tow path, you’ll know Mullingar is just ahead. Of course, you don’t have to walk the entire route, you can dip in and out for shorter treks to suit your walking levels.
While you’re near Kilbeggan visit the oldest distillery of its type in the world, Kilbeggan Distillery, which has a long and interesting history dating back to 1757. Start your tour by learning how Irish whiskey was made in decades past, and about the traditional methods for mashing in oak mash tuns and fermenting in Oregon pine vats.
See the original waterwheel that once powered the whole distillery before strolling across the courtyard to the modern-day operation, that still uses the ancient traditions. Browse the full range of whiskeys at the Whiskey Bar before you leave.
The Royal Canal Greenway
It’s just 20 minutes from Kilbeggan to Mullingar, a bustling town, where you can join The Royal Canal Greenway, a fantastic cycle and walking route that can take you all the way to Dublin and Longford. Enjoy the unspoiled countryside and late-eighteenth century industrial archaeology along the way – if you just want to walk a small section on your short break, jumping onto the trail at Mullingar is your best bet.
Discover central Ireland's rich history..
Not far from Mullingar it’s worth making time to visit the village of Fore in a tranquil, green valley. Discover the seven wonders of Fore at Fore Abbey, the site where St Fechin founded a Christian monastery in the 7th century, which was set on fire 12 times in history. In the remains, you can explore the church and one of the 18 Fore Crosses – the others are spread out over 10km on roadways and in neighbouring fields. The Fore Abbey Coffee Shop is the perfect pitstop - you can browse local crafts and paintings as you enjoy a cuppa.
From Fore, you’re only a 15-minute drive from the hills and lakes of North Westmeath, which Tullynally Castle calls home. Formally the home of the Earls of Longford, get a sense of the Gothic revival castle, as you explore the Great Hall, library, dining room and drawing room on a pre-booked tour, or head for the guided tours of the early Victorian kitchens and laundries to get a sense of life ‘below stairs’.
Leave enough time for the beautifully restored gardens, which include walled gardens and romantic woodland walks. The star of the show is the pretty summerhouses, each of which frames a different view amongst the unusual trees and shrubs collected by the owners. Even if the weather isn’t playing ball, ducking into the tearooms and sitting by the cosy wood-burning stove is the perfect place to watch the world go by.
Hill of Uisneach
The centre of Ireland in many ways, the Hill of Uisneach has played a part in significant Irish events, from the political to the mythological. Get in touch with Irish legend at the Hill, which is believed to be the resting place of the Earth goddess Ériu and the sun god Lugh and was seen as the gate to a mythical fifth province, Mide. Standing at 596ft above sea level, head for the summit for panoramic views over the central plain – on a clear day you’ll be able to see 20 counties on the horizon.
Visit Athlone, the heart of Ireland
Hop back in the car for a 30-minute jaunt to Athlone, the heart of the Irish midlands. Sliced in half by the River Shannon, it’s a town of two heritage trails taking you through its turbulent history as the main river crossing point. Grab some food at Thyme Restaurant, serving a modern Irish menu with the best of local produce, and stop for a pint in Sean’s Bar, believed to be the oldest pub in Ireland, where it won’t be long before a trad session starts. On weekends, Dead Centre Brewing runs tours of its craft brewery and you can enjoy local brews and made-to-order beer on outdoor decking over the river.
The jewel in the crown of Athlone is of course Athlone Castle – originally evolving from a timber fort to a bold, dramatic castle, it underwent extensive renovations in 2012 and is well worth a visit. Experience the great Siege of Athlone in a 360º cinematic movie of the 1691 battle, enjoy the multi-sensory displays and interactive games to guide you through the castle’s halls and history, and explore the eight exhibition spaces that bring the castle’s stories to life in chronological, thematic order.
Cruise on the River Shannon from Athlone
Take to the water and cruise the Shannon for an afternoon. Leave from Athlone town and hop on a River Run Pleasure Cruiser, enjoying panoramic views of the River Shannon and Lough Ree as you travel through time guided by the knowledgeable crew on board. Or take another route and experience 300 years of Viking history on a voyage to Lough Ree aboard Viking Tours Ireland’s replica Viking boat – tales of buried treasure and live commentary of Viking battles bring the craic to your journey.
Celtic Roots Studio
While you’re in Athlone discover young artists sculpting pieces exclusively in bogwood – many of which have been gifted to heads of state around the world – at Celtic Roots Studio. Admire their sample sculptures of birds, human forms, nature, the sea and Celtic designs and even commission your own piece while you’re there.
If you have more time in Westmeath…
Whiskey Walking Tours
Once a bustling hub of distilleries, breweries and malt houses, Athlone still has a strong connection to its home brewed past. Join Athlone Whiskey Tours to uncover the story of the distillers, brewers and even the town bailiffs who owned the most thriving businesses. Hear the secrets of their successes, failures and quarrels, and sample four local whiskeys along the route.
With plenty to explore, from a history of distilling to high gods and ancient castles, you won’t be left wanting after a short break in Westmeath. Check out the Westmeath destination page for all the best tips on things to do on your short trip away.