Falconry, Fore, and fiddles - some of Westmeath’s heritage highlights for next week

National Heritage Week returns again next Saturday August 17, to celebrate all facets of our rich history, and Westmeath plays no small part in this, hosting a total of 24 events from Fore to Athlone.

History buffs, along with the merely curious, will be splendidly provided for over the week with tours of Fore, Tullynally Castle, Belvedere House, Mullingar and its cathedral, Athlone Castle, and the town’s walls.

Alongside all this, there will be excursions on Lough Ree to its Viking and early Christian sites, as well as a display of its heritage boats along the Luan Gallery boardwalk, and an almost personal ‘Heritage on your Doorstep’ feature from Athlone Community Radio.

There is even a day with birds of prey in Castlepollard, as well as all manner of céilithe and seisiúns across the county.

A travelling exhibition called ‘Spark of Genius’ will tour all the six libraries in the county, and will celebrate Westmeath artists, writers, and musicians who have made their mark on national and international stages.

Heritage Week takes place nationwide from August 17-25, and looks set to reach a record total of 1,700 events this year, the majority of which will be free to attend. Last year over half a million people attended Heritage Week events.

“In recent years we have seen a significant increase in the understanding and awareness among the general public of the importance and impact heritage can have, both economically and socially. Heritage is not about nostalgia, or some misplaced aim to live in the past, but an opportunity to engage with our own story and in particular the natural and cultural heritage of where we live,” said Michael Starrett, CEO of the Heritage Council at its launch this week.

“With limited support, communities and organisations across Ireland have come together to animate the heritage resources on our doorsteps, often unnoticed and underappreciated. The value of the week is the sheer number of stakeholders from State agencies, local authorities, community groups, and volunteers, that come together to host a public education programme that is open and accessible to all ages, and our hope is that through National Heritage Week, we can increase people’s understanding of how important our heritage is, to our understanding of who we are and to our economic wellbeing.”

New events are being registered every day and online event registration will remain open until August 17.

The National Heritage Week event guide is available free in: tourist offices; libraries; OPW sites; heritage centres; historical societies; CNCI members; NPWS sites; heritage officers and county councils; An Óige hostels; museums; Bus Eireann stations and www.heritageweek.ie

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