County Westmeath Information
Westmeath, known as the ‘Lake County’, is located in Leinster, in the heart of Ireland. The River Shannon and the Royal Canal flow through the county on their journeys through Ireland, and its lakes include Ennell, Owel, Lene, Iron, Derravaragh and Ree which makes ‘getting out on the water’ one of Westmeath’s greatest draws.
Bordered by Cavan, in Ulster, Longford, Meath and Offaly in Leinster, and Roscommon in Connacht, Westmeath is one of the country’s most accessible places, situated along the main Dublin-Galway motorway. The county’s largest towns are Athlone, on the banks of the Shannon, and Mullingar, close to the great lakes Owel and Ennell.
Athlone is a large, vibrant place with plenty of accommodation options, great shopping, and a wealth of pub, dining and nightlife choices. Visitors to the town can choose to enjoy a cruise along the River Shannon, or perhaps charter their own cruiser and take a self-guided trip along Ireland’s longest river. It has a large castle and visitor centre (which is currently being restored, and due to reopen in 2012) and hosts a number of festivals during the year, including the All-Ireland Drama Festival and the Oliver Goldsmith Literary festival.
Belvedere House, a beautiful Georgian-style stately home, on the shores of Lough Ennell, makes a lovely daytrip from nearby Mullingar. It hosts a number of musical concerts, festivals & another events during the year so it is worth checking if a visit might coincide with one of these. Built in the 1700s as a hunting lodge it was home to the Earls of Belvedere. It has wonderful views over the lake, and the Earl’s Trail is a walkway around the lakeshore and woodlands of the extensive 160-acre estate. The estate has several picnic areas, a falconry centre and a little tram to take visitors around its grounds.
In the northern reaches of the county, close to Castlepollard, is the historic Tullynally Castle. While the original house dates to the 1600s, it was restored by Francis Johnston, in a Gothic style in the 1800s, resulting in an impressively large castle with wonderful parklands, a walled garden (which contains Chinese and Tibetan influences) and lovely wooded walks. The castle is privately owned and opens only occasionally (sometimes hosting concerts), but the gardens and the tea-rooms are opened to the public in the summer months. Tullynally Castle is located close to Lake Derravaragh, the setting of the famous legend of the ‘Children of Lir’.
The Kilbeggan Distillery, known locally as Locke's Distillery Museum, was licensedin Kilbeggan in 1757, and is one of the oldest distilleries in the world. It continued as a working distillery until closure in 1957, but was renovated in the 1980s to reopen as a museum. In 2007, on the 250th anniversary of it's opening, on site production began once again, and the locally produced whiskey will be available to buy from 2014.
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"People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home" - Dagobert D. Runes