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The name Athlone comes from the Irish Gaelic word 'Ath Luan', which means 'The Ford of Luan'. From the annals of folklore, the story goes that a man called Luan kept a hostelry in the area and also acted as a guide to travellers who wanted to cross the wild currents of the river Shannon which flows through the town.

Athlone Town on the River Shannon in Westmeath

A strategic location

The town of Athlone has always been of great strategic importance probably primarily due to its location in what is seen to be the centre of Ireland. In 1210, the original wooden fort at Athlone was replaced by what is today the site of Athlone Castle by the Normans, and the town walls were put in place in 1257.

Throughout history, the town has always housed a garrison of some sort. The current garrison is known as Custume Barracks (built in the 1690s). Athlone has been witness to many fierce battles, and the walls and castle have been damaged, destroyed and rebuilt numerous times over the years. Athlone Castle has been beautifully restored and now houses an interpretive centre, tourist office, gallery, museum and tea rooms.

Lakeland charm

With its convenient location in the heart of Ireland, Athlone is a highly attractive location for visitors engaging in both business and leisure. It is one of the biggest towns on the River Shannon (it being the longest river in all of the British Isles) and with its narrow streets and wide variety of shopping and dining outlets, it is no wonder that many tourists speak so highly of their visits there.

For water sport enthusiasts too, Athlone is an all-encompassing destination due to its location at the foot of one of the River’s largest lakes, Lough Ree.

This proves hugely popular for all types of water sport fans as well as being a major angling destination.

Follow the river's story

This interactive StoryMap below, created by the Sheraton Athlone Hotel, takes you on the meandering path of the Shannon River which is so synonymous with Ireland. The StoryMap details various interesting points on the river’s journey which emphasizes the importance of the river in terms of it being a hugely valuable tourist asset for the Midlands and beyond.

Check it out here!

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