Athlone Castle just one highlight to Midlands

AFTER a 90-minute drive from Limerick, my colleagues and I arrived in Athlone with a ready desire to explore. We were prepared to experience its rich history, lake shores and military heritage.

Returning to the town after nearly ten years of absence, it seems my scepticism about this visit was misplaced. Athlone has undergone a transformation in rebuilding and development creating what is now the largest town in the Midlands.

It is a superb location by which to explore the region. The quaint villages, historic castles, heritage sites and gardens in this Lakeland region offer the visitor an abundance of choice.

A revamp to Athlone’s 800-year-old castle in 2012 following a €2million renovation is set to attract more domestic and overseas visitors to the area. This is anticipated to have a positive impact on businesses and stimulate job creation in the local economy. (Admission to the castle is €8 and €4 for children).

Not far from the town is the magnificent Athlone Lakelands – where it is said organic therapy awaits in abundance. Angling, cruising, sailing, water sports and dining by the lake await every visitor. The town also has an unrivalled shopping choice in one of Ireland’s finest shopping centres that offers more 68 top retail units as well as underground car parking for up-to 1300 cars.

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Local tour operator Viking Tours offers cruises on the River Shannon onboard its replica Viking Boat to Lough Ree. Visitors can experience the religious and Viking history attached to the area.

The onboard commentary by Viking Mike tells of tales of battles and hoards, while he chats about the beauty of the lake, its flora, fauna, bird and fish life. (€10 for an adult and €5 for a child). However, it is advisable to check in advance for sailing times.

History buffs may be more interested in a visit to Derryglad Folk Museum outside Athlone or in Clonmacnoise monastic site that lies just 20 minutes drive from the town.

Situated alongside the spectacular River Shannon, the Radisson Blu Hotel delights guests with charming views of a busy Athlone Marina and historic castle. With 128 rooms, the hotel also boasts a relaxing riverside terrace and modern meeting rooms along the marina.

Here we were treated to a splendid meal in Elements Restaurant. We discover a menu with contemporary cooking at its finest. The restaurant also serves the renowned breakfast buffet each morning. The Radisson’s fully equipped Health & Leisure Club is also available to guests; it features an indoor swimming pool, steam room and gym.

Standard room rates start at €70. Go to to find out more.