Although I have lived all my life in Ireland, I had forgotten that there was any decent amount of water in the Midlands. Indeed, I had been to Athlone before, but only for business meetings and somehow I completely missed the river.....and the lake.
It transpires that Ireland's longest river, the Shannon, winds its way through Athlone town and on to a good sized lake, Lough Ree, just outside the town.
From our hotel room, we watched many types of boats on the river, and I decided that I wanted this experience too.
We then accidentally stumbled on the River Run, which is the most recent of this type of craft on the river and which consists of a converted barge. For just €13 per adult you can wind your way up the Shannon and around Lough Ree for about an hour and a quarter. Inside it was very comfortable and clear;ly recently decorated. There were covered soft benches along the walls and also stools to sit on, all around tables. There was a full bar serving all sorts of drinks. A talented local musician provided entertainment by singing and also on the fiddle and the guitar. A young woman with a somewhat caustic personality provided very poor face painting for the kids and this was the only downside of the package. It didn't really help that the face painting was free.....
I spent most of my time up on deck taking pics of the stunning riverside settings as we moved upriver to the lake. We were lucky with the weather as the sun came out as we travelled along.
I would highly recommend this trip to anyone. Children travel free with a full fare paying adult - one child per adult.
The present Church, a particularly stunning building, was built in the 1930's and is well worth a visit. It's a Roman Catholic Church and is situated in St. Peter's Square right in the town centre. It is architecturally beautiful both inside and out.
Daily Catholic religious services are held here.
It has a particularly lovely vista from several poiints both on the river Shannon itself and from across the river.
The Castle is right in the centre of Athlone town by the old bridge and really shouldn't be missed.
It's an original Norman Castle and was once the gateway to the West of Ireland built, as it is, right on the River Shannon.
Before the current stone castle, which was built in the 1200's, there was a wooden castle which was built in the 1100's.
The castle is open to the public from May to October and there are many different kinds of audio visual presentations of historical and architectural interest.
photos from our trip
At the shop, the owner tells us to come back at 3:00 PM, and he will take us on the Viking cruise at no charge. At 3:00, we climb up into the bright green Viking ship replica, complete with front dragon head. Then the gang from the local group home with their aides arrived, and the fun begins. We are all given plastic Viking helmets with two horns to wear on the cruise. The cruise with narration goes up the River Shannon into Lough Ree, the first of the three large lakes. We only go about 1/3 of the lake for it takes over four hours to traverse the whole first lake. As we pass the Lough Ree Yacht Club, about 10 three-person sailboats come all around our Viking ship weaving in and out for our entertainment. These are handcrafted varnished special class boats starting at 30,000 Euros each. Along the way we are served hot tea and biscuits. What a fun and educational day this turned out to be for us and the boys from the home.
photos from our trip.
Athlone is full of very colorful buildings from the 1600-1700s. Joan ran each morning along the paths of the Shannon while I walked, watching fisherman and crew boats in the fog. Just beautiful!
“The Taco Shop”
We stopped at a trendy, chrome and glass upscale bistro overlooking the Shannon. While we were having wine and mussels, we notice that the menu has a page of Polish food items such as pierogi and golabki, and learn that the waiter and all the staff are from Poland. They come here for a “better life.” The mussels in a wine broth were the best (and largest) we have ever eaten, including those in Brussels.
I ask the Polish waitress where in town we can find out about going on a river cruise, which we read about. She tells me we have to go to the Taco Shop, where they know all about that stuff. I repeated it back to her, “we go to the taco shop, right?” The next day we are strolling along the river and come upon a Bait & Tackle Shop and it dawns on us, Taco = Tackle. We found the river cruise.
Just before we reached Athlone, we had to make a stop for petrol. My husband will never admit to this but, this was probably the highlight to this visit. Sorry but, I had to include this picture.
I stopped to chat with this man and his dog swimming in the River. Again the friendlynes of the Irish shines through. He mentioned that just up the road from where we parked was the oldest pub in Ireland. Sean's Bar! The oldest public house in Ireland! It claims to be on the site of a tavern first built in 900 AD and here we all were. Though they served lunch after 12.00pm we just had a quick drink as we were planing to continued journey to Galway.
Athlon Castle being a focal point for tourist was originally built of wood, later built of stone by order of King John of England in 1210.
There is an exhibition with an audio visual presentation lasting about 45 minutes. It is both educational and entertaining. Musn't forget the coffee shop which has an adequate sitting area.