Image: The Times

Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands

Athlone and its hinterland adjacent to the River Shannon and Lough Ree are part of Ireland’s Hidden
Heartlands, the newest experience brand from Fáilte Ireland. Visitors to Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands
are promised a slow-paced experience, immersed in the natural environment and culture of the region.
Activities such as walking, cycling, boat tours, bird-watching, fishing and watersports are central to this
theme, along with the chance for visitors to engage with local communities, their culture, crafts and
local food. The town itself is known for a strong arts and culture scene and signature waterside attractions such as Athlone Castle and the Luan Gallery provide strong visitor experiences. High-quality local food is also renowned in this area, with a concentration of award-winning restaurants.

Image: Boyd Challenger

A crossing point on the River Shannon, Athlone is a base for cruising, boat tours, angling and other water-based activities. Nearby villages, tourism assets and attractions include Ballinahown Craft Village, Dún na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park in Moate, Portlick Millennium Forest Walks and the picturesque village of Glasson. Significant improvements have been made to the streetscape of Athlone in recent years and further public realm enhancements are underway, along with a comprehensive new signage and wayfinding scheme. In addition, the Dublin to Galway Cycleway is being developed through the town on its way westwards, with a new River Shannon crossing point being created in the coming year.

Image: Discover Ireland

Pedal your way through the heart of Ireland on the delightful Old Rail Trail Greenway from Athlone to Mullingar in Westmeath. Alive with wildlife, the gentle whirring of your bike is accompanied by gentle birdsong all along the way. The entire 42km of the Old Rail Trail Greenway is an off-road, flat pathway that’s ideal for a leisurely cycle or stroll with the whole family.

The trail works its way along the historic Midlands Great Western Railway track past restored station houses and under stone arched bridges. Make your way through the of unique biodiversity and history of Westmeath as your journey from the River Shannon in Athlone to the Royal Canal in Mullingar. Stop off along the way for refreshments in the welcoming cafes and fantastic restaurants in Moate, Castletown, and Ballinea. Pick up your bike rental from one of the providers in Athlone, Moate, and Mullingar and start your cycle.

Ireland’s Ancient East

Most of County Westmeath, including Mullingar is included in Ireland’s Ancient East, a brand which promises visitors ‘a journey through thousands of years of immersive history, in lush green landscapes and stories told by the best storytellers in the world’. In line with this brand, Westmeath offers a rich heritage, with local storytellers, tours and attractions including the Hill of Uisneach, Dún na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park, Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, Kilbeggan Distillery, Tullynally Castle Gardens and Fore Abbey.

Image: Ireland.com

The lakes and waterways of Westmeath are also connected with a rich heritage, including the famous legend of the Children of Lir associated with Lough Derravarragh. The Royal Canal Greenway traverses the county, with many preserved original bridges and locks visible to those who travel this route by boat, bike or foot and the Old Rail Trail Greenway brings visitors along the historic Great Western Railway line through the scenic Midlands landscape. Castlepollard and the north of the county displays a distinctive cultural landscape with a cluster of visitor attractions and points of interest. Details on Ireland’s Ancient East, marketing plans and target market segments can be found on www.failteireland.ie/irelandsancienteast

Source: Westmeath County Council

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