The Town of the Ford of Luain
Athlone is actually split in two by the river Shannon. One side of it is in County Roscommon and the other is in County Westmeath. The right bank of the river is the province of Leinster. The left bank of the river is in the province of Connacht. The Shannon is the biggest and longest river in Ireland.
Athlone is the nearest urban centre to the geographical centre of Ireland. It is no more than five hours drive from any point on the island. This being so makes Athlone a popular venue for conferences.
Image: Athlone Castle, Church of Saints Peter and Paul and the River Shannon
Tourism and amenities
The promenade on the River Shannon is popular among anglers, birdwatchers and swimmers. The lake shore is accessed from Coosan Point and Hodson Bay. The town is also home to Lough Ree Yacht Club.
Owing to its easy accessibility and large choice of shops, Athlone is the main retail destination for residents in the Midlands region of Ireland. The vibrant town centre extends from Church Street in the west to Sean Costello Street in the east.
Sean's Bar, located on the west bank of the river, is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest pub in Europe.
Athlone Castle reopened in 2012 following a multi-million euro renovation to transform the castle into a state-of-the-art, multi-sensory visitor experience. It features eight newly designed exhibition spaces containing both a chronological and thematic sequence, including 3D maps, audio-visual installations, and illustrations by renowned illustrator Victor Ambrus.
In 2012, the Luan Gallery, a new multi-million euro contemporary art gallery opened in the town. The gallery is the first purpose-built, modern visual art gallery located in the Midlands. It was designed by Keith Williams, who also designed the Athlone Town Civic Centre. The gallery was opened by Jimmy Deenihan, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The Luan opened with a prestigious exhibition from the Irish Museum of Modern Art, featuring the work of accomplished national and international artists.
Other popular attractions for visitors are the Glendeer Open Farm and the Viking Cruise of the Shannon.