Athlone, a bustling town nestled in Ireland’s heartland, is a treasure trove of culture, history, and breathtaking landscapes. It’s a charming sanctuary where the ancient meets the modern, framed by the River Shannon’s tranquil beauty and the ethereal allure of Lough Ree. With so many things to do in Athlone, it’s easy to understand why it is one of Ireland’s hidden gems, just waiting to be discovered by intrepid travelers.
Popular Tourist Attractions in Athlone
Athlone Castle is a fortress of history and heritage. Its imposing stone walls house eight interactive exhibitions that take you on a journey through Athlone’s past. Not just an eye-catching monument, it’s a time machine transporting you back to the siege of 1691. The 360° cinematic experience brings history to life right before your eyes.
Just a stone’s throw away from the castle, Luan Gallery, Athlone’s contemporary art hub, displays works from both local and international artists. Its rotating exhibits mean every visit offers something new. The riverside views from the gallery are an artwork in themselves.
Derryglad Folk & Heritage Museum
The Derryglad Folk & Heritage Museum is a time capsule filled with over 6000 artifacts. It portrays Irish life from the 18th century to the recent past. Each exhibit is a page from the storybook of Athlone’s rich heritage.
After a day of sightseeing, what could be better than relaxing at Sean’s Bar, the oldest pub in Ireland, possibly even the world? Its warm ambiance, traditional Irish music, and excellent local brews make it a must-visit spot in Athlone.
Top Things to Do in Athlone
River Shannon Cruise
Take a River Shannon cruise and let the serene waters reveal the picturesque landscapes surrounding Athlone. The tranquil voyage offers a unique perspective of Ireland’s heartland, unveiling wildlife, historical landmarks, and verdant fields along the way.
Athlone Whiskey Tours
Join the Athlone Whiskey Tours to understand why Irish whiskey is revered worldwide. Guided by whiskey experts, this walking tour blends local history with the art of whiskey production, culminating in a tasting session you wouldn’t want to miss.
Lough Ree Distillery
A visit to the family-run Lough Ree Distillery is a must for spirit enthusiasts. Take a tour, sample their gin and whiskey, and learn about the distillation process. The best part? It’s located on a picturesque peninsula on the banks of Lough Ree.
Athlone Farmers Market
Mix with the locals at the Athlone Farmers Market. It’s a symphony of colors, smells, and flavors, with stalls selling everything from fresh produce to artisanal cheese and homemade pastries. There’s no better way to taste Athlone.
Must-See Places in Athlone
Glendeer Pet Farm
A paradise for animal lovers, Glendeer Pet Farm is home to over 50 species of animals. You can feed the lambs, admire the graceful deer, or giggle at the antics of the monkeys. It’s an experience that brings you closer to nature.
Athlone Institute of Technology
Don’t miss the Athlone Institute of Technology’s state-of-the-art campus. Known for its innovative research, it’s a testament to Athlone’s role as a modern, forward-thinking town.
Church of Saints Peter & Paul
Visit the Church of Saints Peter & Paul, a gothic revival masterpiece that towers over Athlone’s skyline. Its intricate stained glass windows, sculpted stone pillars, and ornate altars make it an architectural marvel.
Athlone Equestrian Centre
At the Athlone Equestrian Centre, you can saddle up and enjoy a scenic horseback ride through the beautiful Irish countryside. With a range of horses for all levels, it’s an exhilarating way to explore Athlone’s natural beauty.
Best Places to Visit in Athlone for First-Time Visitors
The Old Rail Trail
First-timers should not miss a cycle or walk along the Old Rail Trail, a tranquil greenway that follows the former Midlands Great Western Railway line. The path offers peaceful views of the local farmland and historic sites.
Ireland’s ‘Lake of the Kings’, Lough Ree is a haven for water enthusiasts. With opportunities for boating, fishing, and bird-watching, it’s a natural paradise that offers a tranquil escape from the bustle of modern life.
Athlone Towncentre Shopping Centre
Looking to indulge in some retail therapy? Head over to the Athlone Towncentre Shopping Centre, an impressive collection of high-street and designer brands. The modern complex also boasts plenty of cafes and restaurants when you need a shopping break.
Dead Centre Brewing
End your day with a visit to Dead Centre Brewing, Athlone’s craft beer hotspot. You can tour the brewery, learn about the brewing process, and of course, sample their unique range of beers. The view of the Shannon from their riverside terrace is an added bonus.
Best Places to Visit in Athlone for Families
Krazy Kids Fun Factory
Keep the little ones entertained at the Krazy Kids Fun Factory, a sprawling indoor play area filled with slides, ball pits, and adventure zones. Parents can relax with a cup of coffee while the kids have the time of their lives.
Bay Sports Boat Training and Water Sports Centre
For family fun, head to Bay Sports Boat Training and Water Sports Centre. They offer a variety of water activities, including paddleboarding, kayaking, and even inflatable water park adventures.
Athlone Leisure World
Another family favorite is Athlone Leisure World, a hub of fun activities including bowling, arcade games, and an impressive soft play area. With something for all ages, it’s a great spot for a family day out.
Athlone Regional Sports Centre
The Athlone Regional Sports Centre offers a wide range of facilities, including a swimming pool, gym, and athletic track. It’s perfect for families looking to stay active while on vacation.
Best Places to Visit in Athlone for Couples
Couples in search of a romantic getaway should visit the luxurious Wineport Lodge. Nestled on the shores of Lough Ree, it offers fine dining, spa facilities, and stunning views. Its secluded location makes it the perfect retreat.
Athlone Castle Gardens
The Athlone Castle Gardens, with their manicured lawns and historic significance, are an idyllic spot for a leisurely stroll. The garden’s romantic setting is accentuated by the panoramic views of the River Shannon.
Athlone Little Theatre
Experience the local arts scene at Athlone Little Theatre, a vibrant venue hosting a variety of plays and performances. The intimate setting makes for a memorable cultural date night.
Unwind with a rejuvenating treatment at Sirana Spa. Inspired by the sand, sea and sky, their unique spa treatments are designed to relax and refresh the body and mind. It’s the perfect way to end a day of exploring.
Best Places to Visit in Athlone on a Budget
Athlone’s Riverside Walk
Athlone’s Riverside Walk is a scenic trail that winds along the banks of the Shannon. It’s a free activity that offers fantastic views and plenty of photo opportunities. Keep an eye out for local wildlife and enjoy the peaceful ambiance.
Dun na Si Amenity & Heritage Park
The Dun na Si Amenity & Heritage Park combines the best of Athlone’s natural beauty with its cultural heritage. With low entry fees, it’s perfect for those wanting to keep costs down without sacrificing the full Athlone experience.
Athlone Library is a quiet sanctuary where you can peruse local literature, surf the internet, or simply relax. The adjoining art space, which often hosts free exhibitions, adds a cultural flavor.
Free Walking Tours
Keep an eye out for the free walking tours that operate in Athlone. They offer a local’s perspective on the town’s history and are a cost-effective way to see the main sights.
Best Day Trips from Athlone
Take a short trip to the ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise. Its well-preserved ruins, including round towers, churches and high crosses, offer a unique insight into Ireland’s early Christian history.
Birr Castle Gardens & Science Centre
A visit to the impressive Birr Castle Gardens & Science Centre offers a wonderful blend of science, nature, and history. The beautifully landscaped gardens, historic castle, and interactive science exhibits make it a great day out.
Lough Boora Discovery Park
Lough Boora Discovery Park is a sanctuary of nature, art, and archaeology. Explore the park’s numerous walking and cycling trails, marvel at the striking outdoor sculptures, or simply enjoy the peaceful scenery.
The Irish National Stud & Gardens
A bit further afield, but worth the journey, is The Irish National Stud & Gardens. See world-class racehorses, explore the beautiful Japanese Gardens, or wander the enchanting Fairy Trail.
Hidden Gems in Athlone
The Lough Ree Yacht Club
The Lough Ree Yacht Club, one of the oldest in Ireland, is a picturesque spot often overlooked by tourists. It’s a fantastic location to watch sailboats or enjoy a serene sunset over the lough.
The Custume Pier offers a unique vantage point for the River Shannon. It’s a peaceful, secluded spot that’s perfect for a picnic, some bird-watching, or simply a quiet moment.
Athlone Arts and Tourism’s Residency Programme
Discover Athlone’s thriving arts scene through Athlone Arts and Tourism’s Residency Programme. It supports artists by providing studio space, and you can view their creations at regular exhibitions.
Take a boat ride to the serene Saints Island, located in Lough Ree. The island’s ancient church ruins and secluded ambiance make it a peaceful and intriguing getaway.
Off-The-Beaten-Path Places in Athlone
Portlick Millennium Forest
Get lost in the Portlick Millennium Forest, a magical woodland filled with trails perfect for hiking or cycling. The forest overlooks Lough Ree, providing stunning views of the water.
Ballinahown Craft Village
Visit the Ballinahown Craft Village, a small hamlet known for its artisan crafts and local products. The village is a hidden gem showcasing the traditional skills of the region.
Explore the ruins of Moydrum Castle, a hauntingly beautiful spot just outside of Athlone. The castle was featured on the cover of U2’s album ‘The Unforgettable Fire,’ and it’s easy to see why.
Baysports – Hodson Bay Boat Training and Watersports Centre
Baysports is an off-the-beaten-path water park located on Hodson Bay. It offers an adrenaline-filled day out with its unique inflatable water park, guaranteed to get your heart racing.
Best Places to Eat in Athlone
For a culinary treat, book a table at Thyme Restaurant. Their modern Irish cuisine, crafted with locally sourced ingredients, offers a true taste of Athlone.
The Fatted Calf
The Fatted Calf is a gastropub with an emphasis on fresh, local, artisanal produce. Its innovative menu and cozy atmosphere make it a must-visit eatery in Athlone.
Kin Khao Thai Restaurant
If you’re craving international flavors, Kin Khao Thai Restaurant serves authentic Thai cuisine. Their flavorful dishes are a delightful surprise in the heart of Ireland.
The Left Bank Bistro
For a more casual meal, head to The Left Bank Bistro. Its friendly ambiance and excellent menu of contemporary dishes ensure a memorable dining experience.
Must-See Sporting Teams in Athlone
Athlone Town AFC
Experience the local passion for soccer at an Athlone Town AFC match. As the oldest active football club in the League of Ireland, they offer a thrilling game for sports enthusiasts.
Buccaneers Rugby Football Club
Rugby is big in Athlone, and the Buccaneers Rugby Football Club games are a testament to that. Feel the adrenaline and camaraderie of a local rugby match.
For a true Irish sports experience, catch a Gaelic football or hurling match at the Athlone GAA. The games offer an exciting spectacle and an insight into the sporting culture of Ireland.
Night-Life in Athlone
The Piano Bar
The Piano Bar is a stylish venue offering expertly mixed cocktails, live music, and a buzzing atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to start your night in Athlone.
The Snug Bar
Step into the warm, inviting environment of The Snug Bar, a traditional Irish pub. With its selection of local brews and live music, it’s an excellent spot to while away an evening.
Prince of Wales Nightclub
For those looking to dance the night away, the Prince of Wales Nightclub is the go-to venue. With its lively music and energetic crowd, it ensures a fun-filled night out.
Radisson Blu Hotel Athlone
Finally, for a more relaxed evening, the Radisson Blu Hotel in Athlone offers stunning views of the town and river from their Quayside Bar & Lounge. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a nightcap.
In conclusion, Athlone, with its harmonious blend of history, culture, nature, and modern vibrancy, promises an unforgettable journey for all kinds of travelers. Each corner of this charming town tells a story, a beautiful narrative of a community shaped by the waters of the Shannon and the resilient spirit of Ireland. So why wait? Start planning your adventure and discover all the unique things to do in Athlone, Ireland.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Time to Visit Athlone?
The best time to visit Athlone is during the summer months (June – August) when the weather is warmest, and the days are longest. However, the spring and autumn seasons are also great times to visit as the town is less crowded, and you can enjoy the beautiful changing landscapes.
How Can I Reach Athlone?
Athlone is centrally located in Ireland, making it accessible from various parts of the country. It is approximately 1.5 hours drive from Dublin and 1 hour from Galway. The town is also well-served by public transport, including buses and trains, with regular services from major Irish cities.
Is Athlone a Good Place for Families?
Yes, Athlone is an excellent destination for families. The town offers a wide variety of activities suitable for all ages, from outdoor adventures to educational attractions such as the Athlone Castle. There are also several family-friendly restaurants and accommodations in the area.
Are There Good Dining Options in Athlone?
Athlone boasts a vibrant food scene with an excellent selection of restaurants, cafes, and pubs. Whether you’re craving traditional Irish fare, gourmet meals, or international cuisine, there’s something for everyone in Athlone.
How Many Days Do I Need to Visit Athlone?
While you can explore the main attractions of Athlone in a day, it’s recommended to spend at least two to three days in the town to fully enjoy all it has to offer. This will give you enough time to visit the key sites, take a leisurely walk along the River Shannon, and also enjoy some local food and drink.
Is Athlone Safe for Tourists?
Yes, Athlone is generally safe for tourists. As with any travel destination, it’s always advisable to take basic precautions to secure your personal belongings and avoid deserted areas late at night. The locals are friendly and welcoming, contributing to the town’s overall safe environment.
Can I Take Day Trips from Athlone?
Absolutely! Athlone’s central location makes it a great base for day trips. There are many interesting sites within a short drive, including the ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise, the beautiful Birr Castle Gardens & Science Centre, and the intriguing Lough Boora Discovery Park.