If you think tourism has looked a bit frantic over the summer, a slow break in Athlone could be just the ticket for your autumn break away. Inspired by the River Shannon, lazily meandering south from Lough Ree, Athlone is embracing slow tourism with enthusiasm. River cruises, walking tours, gentle cycling routes, and relaxing spa treatments all play their part in creating the ultimate laid-back holiday experience in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
Athlone town straddles the Shannon, and a peaceful trip on Ireland’s longest river is the ideal way to orientate yourself while someone else does the navigating. The River Run pleasure cruise is 75 minutes of entertainment and engaging history, best enjoyed with a glass in hand from the onboard bar. Viking Tours takes you on a replica Viking vessel, either upstream to Lough Ree or down to the remarkable monastic site of Clonmacnoise. Tour guide Viking Mike is a bottomless well of fascinating information and local lore.
Sit back and enjoy the panoramic views during these watery adventures, both starting from Athlone Castle. For 900 years Athlone Castle has guarded a strategic crossing of the mighty River Shannon and today the magnificent 12-sided stone structure still dominates the town centre.
Historic Athlone hides many secrets within its ancient streets, and Vincent of Athlone Guided Tours knows every single one. The leisurely walking tour is a fascinating insight into the town's history, folklore, industrial heritage, and more. The castle is open to the public and offers an excellent experiential tour. Next door, the Luan Gallery showcases national and international artists in an incomparable riverside setting.
Another enthralling tour is the Athlone Whiskey Walking Tour, led by Deirdre who has forgotten more about the amber nectar than most of us will ever know. Two hundred and seventy years of history are distilled into an afternoon of stories, yarns, and tastings – with locally handcrafted chocolate to complement the tipple. On the wonderfully named Custume Quay lies Athlone’s only brewery. Dead Centre Brewing offers an experience including brewery tour, beer tasting, and pizza, a combination that is hard to resist.
Award winning restaurants abound in Athlone and the surrounding area. The choice is very broad, from fine dining to a more casual experience. Check out Thyme with its coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand, The Fatted Calf, The Left Bank Bistro, and Savoury Fare or Wineport Lodge in lovely Glasson village, the ‘village of the roses’, where time seems to stand still.
If a little gentle exercise seems like a good idea, try hiring a bike and cycling the old rail trail, a safe 40km greenway stretching all the way to Mullingar. Or take out your golf clubs and play a round or two at Athlone Golf Club on Hodson Bay or Glasson Golf Club, designed by Christy O’Connor junior. That should work up an appetite for your next gastronomic treat. If you would like to explore more of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, take a trip out of town with Heart of Ireland Tours which offers bespoke, ready to go, and customisable tours.
In Athlone everything is just a stroll away, and if you are staying in the historic town core you can walk everywhere at your leisure. There is no need for cars or taxis.
Given its central location, getting to Athlone is straightforward either by car or train, it is pretty much in the middle of the country and very accessible. It has an excellent choice of accommodation to suit all pockets, both in the town and at Glasson and Hodson Bay. The tourist sector in Athlone has been particularly responsive to Covid-19 requirements, making it a very safe choice for your autumn staycation.
Visit www.athlone.ie for more information and to plan your autumn break.