After months of waiting to travel, it’s time to get out there and make a splash, and Athlone in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is an awesome destination for those looking for a wet and wild time. It is a popular destination with water-enthusiasts but perfect for landlubbers too as there is so much to do both on and off the water. It’s also a great family destination, as there are plenty of kid-friendly activities.
All packed and ready to go?
Here are some of the best things to do whether you have 24 hours, a weekend or a week to make a break for it in adventurous Athlone.
Prepare yourself for a whole lot of slippy-slidey fun at Baysports, which is basically an adventure playground on the water! If you are brave enough, you can have a go on the world’s highest inflatable slide! This place is perfect for youngsters and the young at heart.
Climb aboard and step back in time some 1,200 years ago as you sail with Viking Mike in on a Viking ship and explore the Midlands from the mighty River Shannon. You can sail to the monastic settlement of Clonmacnois - but remember, while this is a real Viking cruise, no pillaging is permitted - or set a course for Lough Ree where a lake monster has been spotted. Keep your eyes peeled.
Athlone is located at an important and ancient crossing point on the River Shannon and has a fascinating history. A great place to learn a bit more is at Athlone Castle. The castle dates back to 1210 and the keep is a national monument but inside is a thoroughly modern exhibition and visitors centre that brings the town’s history to life in an absorbing and interactive way. Kids will love it and it is a wonderful rainy day activity too.
Dead Centre Brewing
When you’ve worked up an appetite and thirst, make your way to Dead Centre Brewing. Order a handmade pizza and wash it down with a handcrafted beer while taking in the views of the River Shannon and Athlone Castle. Grab an outside table if you can and chill out in the sunshine or, if you are keen to know more about what you are imbibing, take a tour of the brewery.
Celtic Roots Studio
Get crafty at the Celtic Roots Studio which is a beautiful living museum where you can learn all about making things from bog oak. Not only that, but you can also watch the artists at work and give it a go yourself on the museum tour or book a class and spend the morning making a piece to take home. It’s a fascination process and a truly unique Irish craft. The pieces make lovely gifts. Hint Hint!
Cloughan Farm (Fiona Egan cookery school)
Fawn over the adorable animals and say hello to Jemima, the orphan lamb who just happens to be best friends with the farm’s sheepdog. No, you can’t take her home with you. We’ve already asked. Apart from talking to the animals, you can also roll up your sleeves and take part in a cookery class. Whatever you decide to do, Fiona Egan and her husband Michael will be waiting for you with a warm welcome and a plate of warm scones. It is a terrific day out for all the family. Yes, even the little ones can join in with the cookery lessons.
Athlone Whiskey Tours
Sip your way through the history of distilling in Athlone, which dates as far back as 1740. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around Athlone and marvel at the old historical sites associated with distilling and brewing. Walking sure is thirsty work, but you’ll be rewarded with a delicious local chocolate pairing with a sample of handcrafted whiskey made by a local producer. Sláinte.
An unmissable destination for food lovers, Thyme Restaurant highlights the wonderful produce available in the Midlands region and does so through skilful cooking of creative dishes. Thyme Restaurant is a brilliant example of what modern Irish food looks, and tastes, like. With its central location, warm welcome and reasonable prices, Thyme is a real hit with locals and tourists alike. Book a table ASAP.
Dun Na Sí
Dun Na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park has so much to see and do that you could spend the whole day here learning, playing, eating and drinking. Admire the amazing sculptures throughout the park, discover how the people of Ireland lived in the past and meet all the animals in the pet farm. There is also a cool exhibition where you can learn all about the story of traditional Irish music, song and dance - it is impossible not to do a little jig as you walk by. As you can imagine, this place is a paradise for children. When you all need a break, there is a lovely cafe on site too.
Glendeer Pet Farm
No need to go to South America to see llamas or Africa to see meerkats, they are right here in Glendeer Pet Farm in Athlone. With over 50 species of animals and birds, it is fun for all the family trying to spot them all. When done, you can tackle the nature trail or swing, slide and climb your way around the playground - this is probably best left to the kids though - and you can then recover with lunch in the picnic area. And don’t worry, rain won’t spoil play as there are plenty of facilities undercover too. Hurrah!
Athlone is the perfect taste of how exhilarating Ireland's Hidden Heartlands can be.
2020 is the year for discovering the best hidden gems and attractions on our island, so why not make a break for it in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands? Whether you're a foodie, history buff, adventure-lover or all of the above, you'll find magical experiences in this part of the country.
Limited capacity and procedures may be in place at visitor attractions, sites, and restaurants so you are encouraged to book ahead to avoid disappointment!