Heritage Hot Spots What is it?First built in the 13th century as a timber fort, Athlone Castle is an Anglo-Norman stone stronghold on the banks of the River Shannon in the Athlone.
Its striking presence in the heart of the Co Westmeath town resonates with the 800 years of history it encompasses. Owned at times either by the Dillons or by the O’Kellys, two local rival families, it was also the residence of the lord presidents of Connacht in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Jacobite central defence during the sieges of Athlone, in the1690s, and a military barracks for almost 300 years. In 1967, Old Athlone Society set up a museum in the castle; two years later it became a public monument.
The castle has been completely refurbished and recently reopened with eight galleries chronicling the history of the town. Exhibits let visitors build a castle, try out medieval weapons, see what generals would have worn (left) and experience a 360-degree projection of the Siege of Athlone.
How do I get there?
Athlone is about 125km from Dublin. Take the M4 and then the M6, leaving at junction 12. Athlone is also served by train, on the Dublin-Galway and Dublin-Ballina/ Westport lines. The castle is on St Peter’s Square, in the centre of the town. It is currently open from Tuesday to Saturday between 11am and 5pm and on Sunday from noon until 5pm. From March 17th to October 31st its hours are 10am-6pm Tuesday to Saturday and noon-6pm Sunday. Admission is €8 for adults, €6 for students/senior citizens and €4 for under-15s; athloneartandheritage.ie, 090-6442130.