Fodor's Expert Review Athlone Castle

Athlone Castle/Palace Fodor's Choice

Bold and imposing, Athlone Castle stands beside the River Shannon. A raft of dazzling exhibitions are housed inside this 13th-century Norman stronghold. After their defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1691, the Irish retreated to Athlone and made the river their first line of defense. The castle, which is now more than 800 years old, has played a strategic role in Irish history. Eight exhibition spaces—in the main building as well as the keep and the armory—detail this enthralling chronological story and that of the town from the earliest settlement up to modern trading times. Sculptural forms convey human figures that bring the characters of Athlone to life in an engaging way. They sit cheek by jowl with 3-D maps, audiovisuals, and weapons, like a bow and arrow, that allow hands-on experiences for both children and adults. You will feel right at the center of things with the 360-degree view of events of the Siege of Athlone in 1690. It's not your typical Irish fairy-tale castle,... READ MORE

Bold and imposing, Athlone Castle stands beside the River Shannon. A raft of dazzling exhibitions are housed inside this 13th-century Norman stronghold. After their defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1691, the Irish retreated to Athlone and made the river their first line of defense. The castle, which is now more than 800 years old, has played a strategic role in Irish history. Eight exhibition spaces—in the main building as well as the keep and the armory—detail this enthralling chronological story and that of the town from the earliest settlement up to modern trading times. Sculptural forms convey human figures that bring the characters of Athlone to life in an engaging way. They sit cheek by jowl with 3-D maps, audiovisuals, and weapons, like a bow and arrow, that allow hands-on experiences for both children and adults. You will feel right at the center of things with the 360-degree view of events of the Siege of Athlone in 1690. It's not your typical Irish fairy-tale castle, but it is fun, and kids especially love the interactive game "How to Capture a Castle." It's hard to beat on a wet day in the Midlands. A fascinating permanent exhibition focuses on the life of the singer John Count McCormack, who was born in Athlone in 1884. Programs from the Dublin Amateur Operatic Society, his Papal Chain presented to him in 1928, a montage of photographs, and HMV records with his signature song, "I Hear You Calling Me," are on show. Cabinets contain a silver cup from his admirers in Philadelphia and a cup presented by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, New York. McCormack sang in the Metropolitan Opera House in New York opposite Dame Nellie Melba in 1910 and continued to sing at the Met until 1918. During 2019 the first phase of a major €500,000 project to restore the castle walls took place and continuing maintenance work is needed but this will not affect the opening of the attraction. The castle gatehouse serves as the town's tourist office. If you are here in summer the castle hosts a two-day medieval fair in the courtyard and upper battlements held in conjunction with the Athlone River Festival. Dates vary (it has been held in June and in August) so it is best to check the website for exact details.

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Castle/Palace Visitor Center Historical Family Fodor's Choice

Quick Facts

St. Peter's Square
Athlone, Co. Westmeath  Ireland

090-644–2130

www.athlonecastle.ie

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: €9, Closed Mon, and Tues. Nov.–Feb.; closed Mon. Mar.–May and Sept.–Oct.

What’s Nearby