Straddling the Shannon at its midpoint, ATHLONE is the bustling capital of the Midlands and an important road and rail junction. It probably derives its name from the Táin Bó Cúailnge, in which the remains of the white bull of Connacht, the Findbennach, after its defeat by Ulster’s brown bull, are scattered throughout Ireland; its loins came to rest here at Áth Luain, the “Ford of the Loins”. A bridge was first built over this ford in 1120 by Turlough O’Connor, king of Connacht, which was replaced by a stone bridge by the Anglo-Normans in 1210, who were also responsible for the mighty castle. The latter still casts a formidable shadow over Athlone, having weathered some bloody fighting during the Cromwellian Wars and the War of the Kings of the seventeenth century. Today, the town supports an important college, the Athlone Institute of Technology, as well as various civil-service offices and high-tech firms, but its main function for tourists is as a jumping-off point for the monastic site of Clonmacnois. Fewer visitors know about the Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, but the evocative, 2000-year-old wooden road preserved here is also well worth a visit.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Ireland features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

8 great alternative UK city breaks

8 great alternative UK city breaks

London, Edinburgh, Cardiff… These are the usual suspects when visitors are thinking about UK city breaks. But there are actually 66 other cities to be explore…

23 Apr 2018 • Greg Dickinson insert_drive_file Article
9 quirky British islands to explore

9 quirky British islands to explore

Just a fraction of Britain’s more than 6000 islands are accessible – and even fewer are inhabited. If you’re dreaming of life, or just a holiday, on a rem…

04 Apr 2018 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
6 of the best road trips in the UK

6 of the best road trips in the UK

There is something about a road trip that creates an endless state of heightened excitement. It comes with a heart-in-mouth, funfair-like thrill. And no matter …

21 Feb 2018 • Mike MacEacheran insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right