Sean's Bar, located on the west bank of the river, is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as Ireland's oldest pub. Other popular attractions for visitors are the award winning Glendeer Open Farm and the Viking Cruise of the Shannon. The town's tourist office is located at Athlone Castle, in the town centre.
- County: Westmeath
- Town: Athlone
- Scene: River Shannon
- Date:1910 (estimate)
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Read about Athlone below
Athlone (from the Irish: Baile Átha Luain meaning 'town of the ford of Luan' - according to Irish scholar P.W. Joyce - or, according to local historians, 'The Ford of the Moon') lies on the River Shannon near the southern extremity of Lough Ree, Republic of Ireland.
Athlone is close to the geographical centre of Ireland, upon the borders of two counties, Roscommon and Westmeath, which are in the provinces of Connaught and Leinster respectively. It is governed by a town council with an elected Mayor. It has the largest urban population in Co. Westmeath (ref: CENSUS 2006) and is the primary commercial and industrial town of the midlands.
Although the River Shannon which runs through the town forms the historic border between County Roscommon and County Westmeath, the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 included much of the town entirely in Westmeath, including areas west of the river. Much recent growth has been outside the official town boundaries. Monksland, a suburb on the west side of the town is not within the town boundaries, yet is the most populous area of County Roscommon.
At the heart of Athlone, both geographically and historically, is the castle. The ford of Athlone was strategically important, as south of Athlone the Shannon is impassable until Clonmacnoise (where the Esker Riada meets the Shannon), and north is Lough Ree. In 1001 Brian Bóru led his army from Kincora into the town, his fleet sailing up the river via Lough Derg to attend a gathering.
A bridge was built across the river in the 12th century, approximately 100 metres south of the current bridge. To protect this a fort was constructed on the west bank in the town by Turloch Mór Ó Conor. On a number of occasions both the fort and bridge were subject to attacks, and towards the end of the 12th century the Anglo-Normans constructed a motte-and-bailey fortification here. This was superseded by a stone structure built in 1210 by Justiciar John Gray. The 12-sided donjon dates from this time. The rest of the castle was largely destroyed during the Siege of Athlone and subsequently rebuilt and enlarged.
During the wars that racked Ireland in the seventeenth century, Athlone held a vital position, holding the main bridge over the River Shannon into Connacht. In the Irish Confederate Wars (1641-1653), the town was held by Irish Confederate troops until it was taken late in 1650 byCharles Coote, who attacked the town from the west, having crossed into Connacht at Sligo.
Forty years later, during the Williamite war in Ireland, the town was again of central strategic importance, being one of the Jacobite strongholds on the defending their position after they had retreated west after the battle of the Boyne. At the first battle of Athlone in 1690 the Jacobite forces of Colonel Richard Grace repelled an attack by 10,000 men lead by Commander Douglas. The following year the Siege of Athlone saw a further assault in which the troops of King William III eventually prevailed against the outnumbered defenders.
The noted tenor John McCormack was born in Athlone in 1884 at the Bawn.
There are two theatres in Athlone, The Dean Crowe Theatre and Arts Centre and The Little Theatre, and planning permission has been granted to the Passionfruit Theatre Company for a third theatre, on Northgate Street, which is due to be completed sometime in 2007.
The RTÉ All-Ireland Drama Festival takes place annually in Athlone, and brings together 9 amateur drama groups from across Ireland. The festival is supported by an active fringe which involves street theatre, art exhibitions, workshops and events for young people.
Count John McCormack was born in Athlone and an annual festival celebrates this world-renowned tenor.
The Athlone School of Music opened in October 2005, and is a grant aided project aimed at developing music education and services in the Midlands region.
Athlone is situated on the main Galway to Dublin rail line and the Dublin to Westport/Ballina line.
Bus Eireann the national bus opperator opperates from beside the train station and covers most towns and city's in the country including an hourly service to Dublin and Galway. Other private opperators also provide services to some towns city's.
The town is situated on the N6 road connecting Galway to Dublin with various smaller roads connecting from other areas.
St Peter and Paul's Church (Roman Catholic) on the west bank of the River Shannon
The River Shannon runs through Athlone and the town is a popular spot for people passing through on pleasure craft, many of whom stop off at the Marinas. Lough Ree, the largest lake on the Shannon, is a short distance upstream from Athlone to the North of the town, and is popular among anglers, birdwatchers, and swimmers. The lake shore is easily accessed from Coosan Point, and Hodson Bay. The town is also home to Lough Ree Yacht Club, whose clubhouse is located on the promenade. The promenade is also a popular spot for anglers.
Athlone is the main retail centre in the Midlands, and Golden Island Shopping Centre attracts shoppers from a wide radius. There is also the smaller Texas Shopping Centre (formerly known as Athlone Shopping Centre, prior to being acquired by the Texas department store chain), and another, large scale development is currently under construction in the town centre, this is due for completion in late 2007. Athlone Town Centre will comprise two internal streets, with 54 shops and a hotel, and will be the largest shopping and leisure centre in Ireland, outside Dublin.
Athlone Regional Sports Centure is a facility (established May 2002) developed by the Town Council.
Sean's Bar, located on the west bank of the river, is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as Ireland's oldest pub.
Other popular attractions for visitors are the award winning Glendeer Open Farm and the Viking Cruise of the Shannon. The town's tourist office is located at Athlone Castle, in the town centre.
Education & Industry
Athlone's major employers include companies such as Élan (pharmaceuticals), which originated in Athlone, Ericsson (telecommunications), Tyco Healthcare (medical equipment), Alcatel (cables), Utah Medical (medical equipment), Pharmaplaz (pharmaceuticals), ICT Eurotel (contact centre), and Athlone Extrusions (polymers).
Athlone is the regional centre for a large number of state and semi-state organisations. The Department of Education & Science, The State Examinations Commission, Revenue Commissioners, FÁS Midlands Region, Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann, IDA Ireland, and Enterprise Ireland all have bases in the town. Athlone is also a major military centre, Custume Barracks on the West bank of the Shannon is the headquarters of the Western Command of the Irish Army.
Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) is the regional third level college. Athlone forms part of the ill fated Midlands Gateway or triangle as it became known, along with Mullingar and Tullamore. Alongside Waterford's Institute of Technology, AIT's harbours ambitions of attaining university-status, as there is no university in the Irish Midlands.
Between 1931 and 1975 the main radio transmission centre for Irish radio was located at Moydrum, Athlone. The original call-sign was 2RN (a wordplay on the song 'Come back to Erin'). It subsequently became known as 'Radio Athlone' and could clearly be heard throughout Europe, and as far as Moscow. This changed as bandwidth allocations were accorded at theTreaty of Helsinki.
It operated at a power of 60Kw (further increased to 100 Kw in the 1950s). Many old radio sets in Europe had the 'Athlone' dial position marked near the end of their tuning scales.
In the late 1970s the station reopened on a new dial position of 612 kHz for 'Radio 2' (later known as RTÉ 2fm).
Moydrum was also the location of Ireland's short lived Shortwave international radio service that was closed down in 1948 due to lack of money.
Today, RTÉ's Midlands studios are located in Athlone, at St. Mary's Square. The local radio station is Midlands 103.
A new radio station i107fm is scheduled to open in 2007. This station will be geared to the 18-34 age group in the midlands and north-east.
Athlone is twinned with Chateaubriant, France. Student exchanges take place between Athlone and Chateaubriant on a regular basis. Student exchanges also take part between Athlone and the German town of Ludwigshafen-am-Rhein although they are not twinned.