Journey back to the 1200s at Athlone Castle, which began as a timber fort and evolved into the defensive castle that dominates the town today. Relive the great Siege of Athlone in a 360 degree experience of the 1691 battle, enjoy multi-sensory displays and interactive games that guide you through the castle’s halls and history as you uncover the eight exhibition spaces that bring the castle’s stories to life. Afterwards, continue your exploration of the past with a pint at Sean’s Bar, just down the road – it’s Ireland’s oldest pub dating back to 900 AD.
Join Viking Mike on the River Shannon for a cruise through 300 years of Irish Viking history on a replica boat with Viking Tours Ireland. Voyage into Lough Ree or downriver to the monastic settlement and round tower of Clonmacnoise. Learn all about Viking escapades, with live commentary on the battles that took place on these very waters. Dress up with helmets, swords and shields to get in on the action, and listen closely for tales of buried treasure.
Hop on your bike, or rent one locally from Buckley’s Cycles, and head out along the Old Rail Trail Greenway from Athlone to Mullingar; a mostly flat and entirely off-road trail that’s suitable for even beginner or young cyclists. Whether you choose to tackle the full 42km route in one go, or choose one of three trail sections, you’ll encounter traditional stone arched bridges, preserved station houses and bog lands on the way.
Make your way to Dún na Sí Heritage Park, a real must-visit in the county. Trace your Westmeath roots in the Genealogy Centre, explore the heritage trail and vintage museum, and journey through ancient Ireland in the reconstructed historical sites. Afterwards, stroll through planted parkland and the wetland reserve, and duck into ‘the hide’ to watch birds on the lake. Your little ones will love getting hands on at the petting farm.
Taste a bit of history at Ireland’s oldest distillery on the Kilbeggan Distillery Experience, where you’ll learn how Irish whiskey has been made over the decades. See the traditional oak mash tuns, Oregon pine vats for fermenting, and the new Kilbeggan malt spirit flowing from their ancient pot stills. The original waterwheel that powered the whole distillery remains, directly across from the modern-day operation that still uses many ancient traditions. Leave time to browse the full range of Kilbeggan whiskeys at the Whiskey Bar before you go.
Formerly the seat of the High Kings and also said to be the burial place of the earth goddess Ériu and the sun god Lugh, the Hill of Uisneach has had a central role in many huge Irish events, from the mythical to the political. Get in touch with Irish legend at the summit of the hill, 596ft above sea level, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views over the central plain – on a clear day, you can spot up to 20 Irish counties on the horizon around you.
Westmeath is called the Lake County for a reason, and Lough Ennell is one of the most beautiful in the area. Discover lakeshore picnic spots while walking the Westmeath Way, a 33km linear walking route from Kilbeggan to Mullingar. Breathe in the country air as you meander along the River Brosna and take in the shores of Lough Ennell. You’ll leave feeling refreshed.
Over 60 acres of parkland and 6km of beautiful woodland and lakeshore walks are waiting to be explored at Belvedere House and Gardens. Discover the curious story of the Rochfort family and the Jealous Wall folly which stands witness to past feelings of hatred and malice of the neighbouring brothers who once lived here. Uncover more tales across the landscape and explore the walled garden featuring one of Ireland’s finest collections of rare and special plants – a treat for the green-fingered.
Wander the great halls and drawing rooms of the Gothic revival Tullynally Castle. Once a fortified house, transformed into a Georgian mansion, and then expanded into the castle it is today, it has a long history to discover and the knowledgable guides on the limited tours bring you up to speed. The star of the show is the restored garden, where the current owners have built pretty summerhouses, each framing a different view, surrounded by unusual trees and shrubs collected on their plant hunting adventures.
Make the most of the restored grassy towpaths once used for canal transport on the Royal Canal Greenway, which has transformed the canal-side roads running from Ashtown in Dublin to Abbeyshrule in Longford. Jump onto the trail at Mullingar and enjoy the unspoiled countryside and late 18th century industrial archaeology along the way. Breathe in deep and imagine all the journeys people have made along these ways over the decades.