Athlone Tourist Attractions
Athlone (Ath Luain, "Ford of Lun"), situated almost in the exact geographical center of Ireland, lies on the Shannon, which flows through Lough Ree, to the north of the town, here forming the boundary between the provinces of Leinster and Connacht.The crossing of the Shannon at this point has been important from time immemorial. By the end of the first millennium A.D. there was already a wooden bridge over the river here, and in the 13th century a bridgehead was formed, with a castle and riverbank defenses, which in later centuries was repeatedly fought over, destroyed and rebuilt.The town is a busy rail and road junction and a harbor on the Shannon and Lough Ree. In addition it has developed a number of light industries and become the main marketing and distribution center for the surrounding area. To the east of the town is the powerful Athlone long-wave transmitter.
Athlone Castle (King John's Castle)
On the west bank of the Shannon, above the town of Athlone and the bridge, is the 15th C. King John's Castle (National Monument), which now houses a Visitor Center with exhibition rooms devoted to civic history and the flora and fauna of the Shannon region. Near the bridge stands the Church of SS Peter and Paul, a fine modern building (1937) with stained glass depicting well-known people, among them the tenor John McCormack (1884-1945), a native of the town. The station, in Galway Road, is a good example of early railroad architecture.The castle features exhibitions and audio-visual presentations.
From Athlone the N55 runs northeast through the Poet's Country of Oliver Goldsmith and John Keegan Casey. Goldsmith went to school in Lissoy, which he describes in his "Deserted Village."
4.5mi/7km east of Athlone, on a by-road near the Athlone transmitter, is Bealin. On a hill near the village, in the grounds of Twyford House, can be seen a ninth century high cross (National Monument) carved with hunting scenes, intertwined animal figures and other ornamental patterns.
The Ballykeeran Viewpoint offers a spectacular look-out over the southern end of Lough Ree. Killinure Lough lies in the foreground of this panorama, with the Coosan Point marina to the left on the northern outskirts of Athlone.