Located in the geographical heart of Ireland, Athlone lies on the banks of the River Shannon between Galway and Dublin. Home to a 12th-century castle, the town serves as a gateway to the monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise and the mythical waters of Lough Ree.
Things to do in Athlone
One of Athlone’s most popular attractions is its 12th-century castle, which houses state-of-the-art exhibits that bring the town’s history to life. Learn about the 1691 Great Siege of Athlone and get up close to centuries-old coins and carved slabs before seeing drawings by the Hungarian-born illustrator Victor Ambrus. From Athlone Castle’s battlements, you can enjoy magnificent views across the town.
A short drive south of Athlone are the monastery ruins of Clonmacnoise, which was originally founded in 544 by Saint Ciaran. Abandoned in the 13th century, the site encompasses the remains of churches, round towers and a cathedral, as well as carved stone crosses that include the four-metre-high Cross of the Scriptures. Be sure to stop in at the Interpretative Centre where the history of Clonmacnoise is exhibited.
Sprawling north of Athlone is Lough Ree, which is one of the largest lakes on the River Shannon. In addition to being renowned for its eel fishery, it is dotted with island monastic ruins that include the 6th-century settlement of Inishcleraun. The lake is believed by some to be inhabited by the Lough Ree Monster, a two-metre-long sea serpent.
Getting around Athlone
Athlone is around one hour’s drive from Galway and 1.5 hours from Dublin Airport, which has flights to destinations across the globe. Trains connect from both Dublin and Galway to the Athlone railway station while local buses travel throughout the town. The centre of Athlone is compact enough to explore on foot.