Visitor numbers on the rise as Athlone’s attractions continue to develop

Visitor numbers are continuing to increase to Athlone’s main tourist attractions - Athlone Castle and Luan Gallery.

In a presentation to councillors at Monday’s Westmeath County Council meeting, secretary of the board of Athlone Arts and Tourism, Pat Keating, outlined developments at these two facilities, as well as the Abbey Road Artist Studios.

Athlone Castle has seen a steady growth in visitors since it reopened in 2013 following a major revamp. That year saw 18,755 people visit the newly renovated castle, with a leap to 22,533 in 2014, and 24,136 last year. Up until the end of March this year, 2,723 had visited, with numbers expected to peak during the busy summer months of July and August.

Income has increased in line with visitors, with figures jumping from €91,133 in 2013 to €100,333 in 2014, and €108,655 last year.

The castle is continually adding to its visitor experience, with recent developments including investment in period costumes, the provision of multilingual audio guides, the development of a revamped John McCormack walk, and the installation of interpretative signs on site.

Mr Keating also outlined developments at Luan Gallery, which has hosted 32 exhibitions since November 2012 - 14 of which featured national artists and 11 featuring international artists. The gallery has collaborated with a wide spectrum of agencies and institutions including IMMA, Trinity College, National Gallery of Ireland, and University of Ulster.

While visitor numbers peaked in 2013 at 16,046 - which Mr Keating attributed to a particularly controversial exhibition that year - they have remained steady at just over 13,000 during 2014 and 2015.

The Abbey Road Artist Studios have hosted 18 resident artists to date, and provide facilities for several local community groups and outreach events.

Commending Mr Keating on the work of Athlone Arts and Tourism, Cllr Michael O’Brien (Ind ) said the quality of these attractions was “outstanding”.

“I brought a visiting friend around the castle recently, who was totally blown away by it. I would encourage people living in the area and the county to visit these fine facilities,” he said.

Cllr John Dolan (FG ) added: “We can’t underestimate the tourism potential. Tourism is going well in Athlone - we are not the complete package yet but it is coming together.”

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