Athlone’s first castle on a strategic fording point on the River Shannon was built by the King of Connaught Toirdebach O Conchobhair in the 1129. Then a Norman fort was built in the site in 1210. The town fought on the side of the Catholic King James II against William of Orange in 1690 and successfully repelled attack until 1691 when the castle fell to the Williamite commander Ginkel who destroyed much of Athlone Town. The Castle Museum has lots of prehistoric and more recent artefacts on show.
Belvedere House and Gardens
Stately home and gardens near Mullingar built in 1740 for Lord Belfield, the First Earl of Belvedere who imprisoned his 16 year old wife Mary Molesworth there for 31 years until his death after accusing her of adultery with his brother Arthur (a charge she denied). One feature of the gardens is the Jealous Wall, built by Lord Belvedere to obscure the view from the house of his other brother George. The house is still being renovated. Entry to gardens from May to October.
Cathedral of Christ the King and Ecclesiastic Museum
The Cathedral of Christ the King in Mullingar has a ecclesiastic museum, which has exhibits including vestments worn by the martyr Saint Oliver Plunkett on show. Guided tours also run in summer.
Dun na Si Heritage Park
Small folk museum and family history research centre for tracing Westmeath family lines in the village of Moate.
Fishing and Boating in Westmeath
Mullingar is a good base for trout fishing in several nearby lakes. The Shannon Regional Fisheries Board in Mullingar sells permits for angling on Lough Ennell, Lough Derravaragh, Lough Owel, Lough Glore, White Lake and Lough Sheelin. Boat and tackle hire can be arranged from Mullingar.
The town of Athlone is a good base for trout fishing on Lough Ree and River Shannon coarse fishing. Several companies in Athlone also offer cruises on the River Shannon and Lough Ree in the summer.
The scenic Fore Valley near Lough Lene and the small town of Fore has a number of religious ruins connected to the foundation of a large monastery by Saint Fechin in the 630AD century and Seven Wonders which he is supposed to have performed in the valley. The sites include the ruins of the 10th century Saint Fechin’s Church, substantail ruins of Fore Abbey a Benedictine priory founded by the De Lacy family around 1200, which was later turned into a fort, the tiny Anchorite’s cell church and Saint Fechin’s holy well. Saint Fechin is supposed to have made a river running out of Lough Lene flow uphill to a mill in the valley, created water that would not boil (in the well) and a tree with branches that would not burn. The power of his prayers were supposed to have moved the huge stone lintel over the doorway of Saint Fechin’s church into place and allowed the priory to be built on bogland.
Hill of Uisneach
A huge stone on the Hill of Uisneach between Mullingar and Athlone on the R390 is said to mark the centre of Ireland where the old provinces met. The hill has views for miles in every direction.
Tours of Locke’s Distillery, in Kilbeggan, which has a working mill wheel, run from April to October. The distillery also has a caf? and bar.
The well known story of the Children of Lir, Fionnuala, Conn, Fiachra, and Hugh who were turned into swans by their jealous step mother Aoife is based at Lough Derravarragh near Mullingar. The story tells that the swans were doomed to roam the waters of Ireland for 900 years with only their fine singing voices and their speech to comfort them and that by the time they were transformed back into humans the old Danaan kingdom in which they had been brought up disappeared and they were so old that they died shortly afterwards. The story of the Children of Lir has influenced many Irish artworks as well as becoming infused in the Celtic oral tradition surfacing in the work of poets like WB Yeats. Permits for trout fishing on the lake can be bought from the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board in Mullingar. There are also roach and pike in the lake.
Mullingar Military Museum
Mullingar Military Museum has displays of weapons and uniforms from both World Wars and from the old IRA.
Mullingar Pewter Centre
Tours of the Mullingar Pewter Centre let you see craftspeople making decorative pewter tableware and ornaments near Mullingar.
Ruined 15th Franciscan friary near the village of Crookedwood
Saint Munna’s Church
The well preserved fortified Saint Munna’s church was built in the 15th century on the site of a monastery founded by Saint Munna in the 7th century near the village of Crookedwood.
Area of bogland near Lough Owel which is a designated wildlife reserve and home to rare plants including orchids and sundews. The soft ground is very treacherous to walkers however.
Tullynally Castle and Gardens
Stately home of the Earls of Longford in 12 hectares of gardens and parkland. Tours of the house and on the colourful history of the family run from May to September. The gardens include a wall garden, kitchen garden, flower garden and pond.